Our Impact on Health

Water Availability Changes Everything

  • Families report being able to wash more frequently, remaining cleaner and thus reducing the frequency of illness
  • Having a wider variety of nutritional foods to harvest and eat
  • Sand dams decrease the number of water bourne illnesses such as Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) as the water is protected beneath the sand from snails, mosquitoes, and other disease carrying animals.

Our Impact on Education

For Children

An external review by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank found that communities with a sand dam had “increased and steady school attendance for both boys and girls” (2010, p. 19).  This was not only because they had more time, but also because their income had increased enough to afford the school fees.

Some community self help groups choose to build water structures for the schools in their community, channeling rain water runoff into storage tanks.

For Self Help Groups

One activity that consumes much of UDO’s time is the training of communities.  These adult education training focus on the following for each self-help group:

  • Identity and vision
  • Governance and leadership
  • Strategic planning
  • Performance and results
  • Relationships and communication
  • Resource development.

Our Impact on Income

The example of Josephine below is drawn from the 2010 External Review Final Report by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB).

Josephine has been a member of the original Utooni self help group since 1978. She has invested sweat equity in many dams since then.  She is making a very good living for a rural Kenyan where the average per capita income is around $100 a month or $1,200 a year.  Her immediate income (income minus timber income which will take 15 yrs or so to realize) moved from about $5,500 in 2006 to $7,500 in 2010.  While her “retirement” portfolio grew from about $2,000 to $5,000,  that is something very, very few Kenyans have any hope of – a retirement income.  This income is earned on 2.5 acres of land, off about 2km from the river, watering her vegetables and trees using her donkey to carry water. Granted she is the exception but she is proof that hard work and sand dams and terraces can make a big difference and in her case it has been doing so for 30 years!  That speaks to sustainability. (p. 26)

Less distance to fetch water, and less time queuing to draw it, means time saved and money earned.  As a result of having water during the dry season, self help group farmers can fetch higher prices for their fruits, vegetables, and firewood.

Our Impact on the Environment

Sand Dams Benefit the Environment

• Store water underground to create or replenish aquifer
• Raise water table in surrounding area both up and down stream
• Renew natural vegetation including indigenous trees and riparian plants
• Protect river banks from caving in, reducing erosion
• Reduce evaporation of water
• Reduce the speed of the water flowing downstream

As the aquifer increases in size, wells have more water and previously dried up springs may return to the area, more natural vegetation increases bio-diversity, and wildlife returns to the area.

Additionally, community Self Help Groups receive training from UDO on how to plant trees, establish seed banks, start tree nurseries, and medicinal forests.  Tree and plant diversity is encouraged to protect from disease among any given species.

Other soil and water related interventions mentioned and often observed during visits are:

  • Composting & compost pits
  • Collection/use of animal manure as fertilizer
  • Crop rotation
  • Planting of grasses or shrubs/trees
  • Planting drought tolerant crops