Sand Dam Construction at Matsanjeni and KaBhudla

Inadequate skills and limited knowledge challenge the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities to the impact of climate change. From the generation of key information to packaging of material for easy use by the affected groups and people, knowledge transfer remains critical for grassroot ownership and action. Water scarcity and limited options for climate change adaptation (CCA) during the dry winter season force women and children to dig river beds and wait for hours to have the holes get filled with water to use for drinking and cooking. This is a norm in South-East Swaziland, in communities such as KaBhudla and Matsanjeni.

Highlights

  • Over 1,564 community members, from vulnerable communities mainly women took part in the construction of six (6) sand dams.
  • Thirty-four (34) participants from the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and communities have been trained using the manual.

A CCA study in 2012 identified several communities with seasonal rivers to benefit from Sand Dams construction an alien technology for rural Swazi population. Sand dams are a low-maintenance technology recommended as a cost-effective method for water conservation in dryland environments. Using the South-South model of knowledge sharing and transfer, a national team from the Department of Water Affairs, Ministries of Agriculture and Public Works and Transport were hosted by the Africa Sand Dams Foundation, an NGO based in Kenya that provided hands-on training at Mtito Andei. This was the beginning of the knowledge building as a total of six (6) sand dams have been constructed in the country in vulnerable communities through the technical support from the government staff who received training in Kenya.

In total over 1,564 community members, from vulnerable communities mainly women took part in the construction of six (6) sand dams. The KaBhudla community in the Manzini region is among the dryland areas that benefitted from the knowledge exchange. Mr Patrick Maphalala, the Community Development member pointed out that his community welcomed the project with ‘open arms’ for availability of water meant development for the area through improved food production. He further acknowledged that the sand dam project ‘opened their eyes’ with the necessary skills and training by the Department of Water Affairs. Acknowledging active participation by the community, he highlighted that, “construction of the dam required a lot of manpower, which was contributed by our community members from the beginning until its completion. About 192 community members took part in the construction of the community Sand Dam,” he said with pride.

As the water rises up the sand, the communities now look beyond the sand dams to improved sanitation, vegetable growing, and others to income generation opportunities. The intervention supported by UNDP through the GEF Special Climate Change Fund also facilitated the production of a Sand Dam Construction and Operation Training Manual which was tailor-made for Swaziland. Thirty-four (34) participants from the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and communities have been trained using the manual.

To further strengthen community ownership of the CCA intervention, another community mobilisation process was facilitated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, Rural Water Division for the establishment of locally-led water cooperatives schemes. These schemes have been established in all six (6) communities and are underway with resource mobilisation through community savings for the income generation interventions. Each family is encouraged to participate and contributes E100 Emalangeni (USD10) to the scheme. The latter is a peer-to-peer local ‘best practice’ transfer from the partner Swaziland Water Agricultural Development Enterprise (SWADE) programme also funded by GEF.