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Excellent Development


Water scarcity affects the lives of millions of people every year

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Water is essential for life. Although there is enough fresh water for everyone on Earth, 40% of the global population don’t have an adequate supply of water. As weather patterns change, this figure is expected to rise.

The constant search for water traps millions of people living in drylands in a vicious cycle of subsistence. Women and children bear the heaviest burden, typically spending hours each day collecting water, often from unsafe sources.

Reliable and convenient access to safe drinking water is vital to human health, wellbeing, dignity and safety.

Sand dams transform people’s lives by providing a local and reliable supply of water.

In dryland regions, rainfall is often erratic. When it does rain, downpours can be heavy. Water runs off the dry land and much of it is eventually lost to the oceans, taking valuable fertile soil with it. In many areas, a changing climate is causing desertification, leading to water and food insecurity, conflict, displacement and loss of biodiversity.

Capturing precious water where it falls is essential for improving environments and livelihoods.

Sand dams are an effective and inexpensive way of doing this.

A sand dam is a reinforced concrete wall built across a seasonal riverbed. During the rainy seasons, it captures water and sand behind the sand dam wall. The water trickles through the trapped sand and provides a reservoir from which water can be taken through pipes and pumps.

A sand dam can store up to 40 million litres of water, protecting it from evaporation and contamination by holding it safely within sand, yet each sand dam captures only a small proportion of the overall flow, enabling downstream communities to have their share too.

This reservoir not only provides a vital source of water for drinking and domestic uses - it can also transform local environments. It allows communities to establish more sustainable forms of agriculture, through planting of trees, establishing seed banks, terracing of the land and diversifying crops. This produces better crop yields, improving diets and increasing household incomes.

It helps to improve the prospects for children and their education, by reducing the amount of time they spend collecting water and being away from the classroom. Increased family incomes allow more children to attend secondary schools. In this way, sand dams support several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Being stored within the sand, the water is not a harbour for waterborne diseases, and losses to evaporation are much lower than from open water sources. Through raising the local water table over a period of years, sand dams also support biodiversity and local vegetation growth.

Improved water and soil conservation can also help to avoid the conflicts that can arise between water users and between the needs of people and wildlife where resources are scarce. Sand dams provide a cost-effective means of achieving a sustainable supply of water for all.

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Excellent Development is a not-for-profit organisation that works with local partners to support communities to build sand dams, providing clean water for life and the opportunity to develop their livelihoods.

They have already helped to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by directly funding and supporting the building of sand dams

Since 2002, they have helped nearly 900,000 people to have year-round safe water close to home at an average cost of £13 per person.

The building of sand dams will enable millions of the world’s poorest people to transform their own lives. Excellent Development has already built or enabled nearly 1,000 sand dams in 8 countries.

We want many more communities to benefit from the construction of sand dams. This means that we will need to work differently in the future with more emphasis on influencing other individuals and organisations to invest in sand dams for water and soil conservation.

Extending our impact means that we need to change our ways of working. So far, our main activity has been to enable the funding and building of sand dams by raising funds and working with local partners in target countries. This will continue to be an important part of our work in the future.

Together with Excellent Development, we will also continue and expand our work to pioneer sand dams as a solution to achieving water security in drylands by drawing on the extensive body of existing evidence and knowledge; commissioning new research to provide rigorous, peer-reviewed evidence; piloting of new programmes; and producing practical guidance.

To achieve a step-change in the scale of our impact we will need your help and to place much more emphasis on working to influence organisations that are capable of bringing about wide-scale construction of sand dams, for example, major international development donors, large NGOs, and local and national governments.

How can I make a donation?

There are many more ways you can help towards our goal of providing 10,000 sand dams for 5 million people by 2025. We understand that your giving is important to you and we want you to do it in the way that suits you. If you would like to find out about more ways you can support communities through soil conservation programmes, joining an expedition or even funding an entire sand dam, please contact our Individual Giving Manager at [email protected] and find out how we can make the best of your generous contributions.

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