Project information

One sand dam, endless possibilities: North Kenya

Chronic water scarcity is causing drought, conflict and displacement for vulnerable elephant populations, pastoralists and their livestock in the Northern Rangelands, Kenya.

We will support the community to build a new sand dam in the region, providing a lifelong, reliable source of clean water.

January 2016 - September 2016

Charity information: Excellent Development

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  • Need


    Dwindling water resources and degrading grasslands are threatening people’s lives, livelihoods and the conservation of vulnerable elephant populations. The Northern Rangelands are located in a harsh, arid and semi-arid region of Kenya, with a history of drought and land degradation. Fatal conflict can occur as people and animals are forced to migrate ever further to find water. Limited livelihood options and conflict has caused much of the local wildlife, especially elephants, to be wiped out.


    Building a new sand dam will help transform sustainable water solutions for people, livestock and wildlife in the Northern Rangelands, adding to our previous work in Lekurruki. Sand dams are the most cost-effective method of rainwater harvesting in drylands. They provide up to 40 million litres of clean water for rural communities for generations, whilst needing almost no maintenance. Their low cost and maintenance make them ideal for rural drylands like the Northern Rangelands.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To protect wildlife and people from the effects of prolonged droughts.


    » Construction of three sand dams to provide new sustainable water sources for wildlife, and people and their livestock.
    » We will create a scalable, replicable governance and management model of water resource management for the Northern Rangelands Trust.

    What success will look like

    When the existing water supplies dry out during hot months, the sand dams will be a continual water supply for people and wildlife.

    Aim 2

    To prevent conflict between pastoral communities, and pastoral and wildlife communities over water.


    » Sand dams will be sited to strategically to ensure fair and widespread access to the water.
    » Construction of an animal trough and domestic water point at each sand dam to separate the use of water for people and animals.
    » We will design and plan a custom water resource management programme for the conservancy.

    What success will look like

    Success will be the provision of sufficient clean water for both people and wildlife.

    Aim 3

    To enable sustainable livelihoods for 10,000 people through tourism, trade and food production.


    » We will train and build the capacity of the Northern Rangeland Trust and Community Conservancies to manage and implement water resource management.
    » Training will include scenario planning to support strategic thinking and policy decisions, and allocating resources to trading, tourism and wildlife.
    » Climate Smart Agriculture workshops, training and support will be provided for agro-pastoralists to improve food production.

    What success will look like

    A constant water supply supports wildlife & creates a lush environment keeping the area attractive for tourism. Increased water table allows more diverse crops for food and market.

  • Impact


    Wildlife and people alike will benefit. Communities will have access to local, reliable water, providing time and opportunity to invest in livestock management, and for children to go to school. Wildlife, people and livestock won’t have to compete for access to clean water. Sand dams will recharge the groundwater, helping restore grasslands, which are vital to people’s livelihoods. This will make the region greener and more attractive for tourism, diversifying long term livelihood opportunities.


    The transformation of access to water and pasture might create a ‘honeypot’ - attracting people and wildlife from neighboring conservancies, exacerbating existing conflict. This will be mitigated by careful planning of activities and dam sites with the resident community and the conservancies’ governing bodies and Northern Rangelands Trust, which oversees the management of all conservancies in the Northern Rangelands. We have experience managing similar risks from our work in Lekurruki.


    We will provide a report once the sand dams, and learning visits are complete. Any significant alterations to the project will be reported. We will provide quarterly reports on the progress we have made in achieving our aims. We will report to individual donors via newsletters, and updates online.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £40,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £3,073 Programme planning and M&E Identifying dam location, ensuring project delivered to time and budget
      £3,171 Conservancy Project Management Project management by Biliqo-Bulesa conservancy
      £18,013 Sand Dams Constructing sand dams
      £4,814 Sand Dam Capacity Building Water resource management training
      £3,069 Evaluation and governance Monitoring and evaluation of project; Activities required to maintain our statutory obligations.
      £7,860 Fundraising and Communications Fundraising and commmunications

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Rotary International District 1145 £10,000 Guaranteed
    The Reed Foundation £10,000 Conditional
  • Background


    The Northern Rangelands consists of 27 community-managed conservancies, spanning 31,000km2. There is limited government infrastructure, so the population of 212,000 have to rely on natural water sources. Nomadic pastoralists travel within the vast rangelands in search of the best grazing. Its wildlife species include elephant, giraffe, lion and the endangered Grevys zebra. The area has seen high levels of conflict between communities and people and wildlife with access to water a key issue.


    Vulnerable elephant populations and communities in the Northern Rangelands will benefit from the new sand dams, which will provide access to a clean and safe source of water for both. Protecting the flagship wildlife species there will not only protect elephants and people from conflict at water sources, it will also act to diversify income generation for these communities and act as a means of overcoming poverty.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We are experts in sand dams, soil, and water conservation in rural drylands. Since 2002 we have enabled construction of 838 sand dams in 8 countries, bringing clean water to 830,637 rural people in otherwise chronically water scarce environments. We have developed a partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust, which governs all conservancies in the Northern Rangelands. We have successfully implemented sand dams in the conservancy of Lekurruki, in the Northern Rangelands.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Simon Maddrell

    Simon is Executive Director and Founder of Excellent Development. Simon has 30 years experience implementing sand dams in rural drylands.

    Musila Silu

    Musila is Development Director of Africa Sand Dam Foundation, our strategic partners in Kenya. Musila’s expert knowledge is key in delivering our aims

    Mike Harrison

    After four years as Deputy Director of DfID Kenya, Mike is CEO of Northern Rangelands Trust. He will establish relations with key stakeholders