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Sand dams are the most cost-effective method of capturing rain water in drylands.

Sand dams transform lives. They provide a sustainable, clean, local source of water for rural communities, saving time and creating opportunities for farming, education and poverty alleviation. By breaking the cycle of dependence Sand Dams create choice; freeing people to realise their own potential.

  • A sand dam is a reinforced concrete wall built across a seasonal river.
  • They can store up to 30 million litres of water in sand.
  • By trapping water within sand, it is protected from contamination and disease.

Sand dams are the most cost-effective method of capturing rain water in drylands.

Drylands sustain 44 per cent of global food production and 50 per cent of the world’s livestock.

Why do we focus on helping dryland communities? 

It’s simply because drylands are where sand dams are applicable and that’s where 74% of the world’s poor live. The widespread application of sand dam technology in drylands, together with other sustainable land management initiatives, will make a significant contribution to the alleviation of global poverty. 

What are drylands ? – A few facts

Drylands are defined as regions with arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid climates. They cover 41% of the world’s land surface. Drylands support 50% of the world’s livestock, account for nearly half of all farmland, and are major wildlife habitats. There are significant dryland regions in 110 countries across six continents. So drylands are rather important. 

What does the future look like for drylands? 

The UN predicts that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions. Because they typically carry the prime responsibility for water collection, it is women and children who suffer the most.

As the world’s population swells over 7 billion, so does the pressure on dryland resources. It is thought that land degradation and desertification over the next 25 years could reduce global food production by up to 12%, resulting in a 30% increase in world food prices. We are already experiencing political tensions, migrations and conflicts over limited natural resources, such as water and land, and this will only intensify as our natural capital diminishes.

What can be done? 

Desertification, climate change and biodiversity loss are very closely linked, and with the right interventions can be addressed simultaneously. Our work with rural dryland communities does just that. With cheap, sustainable rainwater harvesting initiatives, like sand dams, we are improving access to water.

With the opportunity this creates, people are investing in sustainable land management and are building their resilience to climate change – addressing local biodiversity loss, desertification, and climate change all at the same time – as well as creating food security and economic growth

If managed well, drylands can be fertile lands - capable of supporting habitats, crops and livestock that sustain nearly one-third of humanity. Investment in drylands agriculture must be a global priority if we are to protect the natural capital upon which sustainable livelihoods will be built for the world’s growing population.  Read "Pioneering sand dams in drylands"