Drought Alleviation Project – Phase I

Utooni project, Masaai, Just a Drop, Kenya
In March 2012, work began on a drought alleviation project, in collaboration with the Utooni Development Organisation (UDO).

Utooni project, Masaai, Just a Drop, KenyaThe main goals of the project are to improve the livelihoods of four Masaai communities in the former Rift Valley province of Kenya. The aim is to do this in a sustainable manner, through providing access to safe, clean water sources and increased supply, as well as through the introduction of drought resistant crops. In addition, the project aims to reduce the distances walked for water, improve food security resulting in increased income for these villages and improve the health and well-being of the population – which will help to sustain Masaai culture and practices.

The key activity in the first phase of this project was the construction of four sand dams to help mitigate the effects of severe drought. The dams will provide water for drinking and domestic use, and for livestock and irrigation purposes in the targeted areas. It also supported the four Community Self Help Groups (SHG) to transform their environment in a sustainable manner incorporating environmental restoration as well as food production activities.



Utooni project, Kenya, sand dams, Just a DropChronic drought conditions and environmental degradation resulting from deforestation and soil erosion are causing increased water and food insecurity in the Kenyan arid and semi-arid lands. These areas experience erratic rainfall of between 300 mm to 800 mm. In most cases, water flows along seasonal rivers into the Indian Ocean as there are no structures to harvest the water for future use.

According to research carried out by the Kenyan Metrological Department, in the last fifty years permanent rivers have been drying up and sources of water are becoming scarce. Most farmers in the region do not plant indigenous drought-resistant crops but instead maize, which fails seven out of ten seasons. Crop yields continue to diminish as years go by. As a result, many families barely have enough food to last them throughout the year.

People rely on burning charcoal, firewood sales and casual labour to get money for food and other basic commodities. Occasionally they may get relief food from the government or relief agencies, but none of this is dependable, regular or sufficient to cover their needs.

Utooni project, Masaai, Just a Drop, KenyaAs one farmer said, “We do not want relief food. We need water. If you give us water, then we can grow our own food.”

The area of the project is arid and suffers from chronic drought. This affects the Masaai community both because they have no water for themselves but also none for their livestock. In addition the community were spending up to six hours walking up to 9 km for water.



Utooni project, Kenya, sand dams, Just a DropThere are 1,800 people directly benefiting from this project and 4,800 in total. Most of the beneficiaries are Masaai families who have traditionally relied on livestock for their livelihood but have also in recent years turned to subsistence farming.

Four local Self Help Groups have been pivotal throughout the project’s life. Members of the Self Help Groups are all subsistence farmers. They formed the groups with the aim of working together to improve their livelihoods and they requested support to find a long term solution to their problems. The needs of the groups, their plans and the number of beneficiaries who will benefit from the project were all identified through community meetings and the four groups were actively involved from project inception to completion. The groups requested support to promote water and food security in their areas through the sand dam technology.

Utooni project, Masaai, Just a Drop, KenyaEach group was supported by UDO during the project implementation process. In addition, training was given which was geared towards improving the skills of members as they engaged in income generation and financial management activities. All four groups contributed to the projects through free labour and locally available materials (water, stones and sand). They were committed to seeing their sand dams filled with water and as a result worked hard to ensure their projects were completed within the set period of one year.

The four constructed sand dams, now filled with water, will greatly help these families cope in times of drought by providing water for domestic use, irrigation and livestock purposes. A further dam is planned for the second phase of the project.



Ikangaani Self Help Group_Utooni project, Masaai, Just a Drop, KenyaThe local groups helped in all project activities including siting process, dam design, terrace laying and actual sand dam construction. In addition, the groups were provided with technical support on tree planting and food production.

The groups were given full autonomy to choose their own timelines, agree and commit to them. The tree planting activity also saw the groups reach out to the schools in their neighbourhoods. From this, four schools were supported with trees for planting and each planted 100 trees. The rest of the trees were planted around the dam site as witnessed by the Mike Reynolds and John Mitchell, Just a Drop engineers who visited the sites in January 2013.



  • Utooni project, Kenya, sand dams, Just a DropIncreased water supplies in the targeted areas
  • Increased food production
  • Promoted and restored the environment in the targeted areas
  • Increased income of the targeted families/beneficiaries

TUI logoProject Sponsor: TUI Travel PLC

Date of Project: May 2013

Beneficiaries: 4,800