SOS Sahel International UK

Sand and Sub-Surface Dams: transferring water technologies from Kenya to Sudan

SOS Sahel UK requests a £44,000 contribution towards a one year training and exchange programme that will result in the construction of three sand or subsurface dams in Kordofan, Sudan. This grant will help fund an exchange visit to Kenya for community representatives to see the technology in action, training workshops in Sudan using skills and expertise from Kenya and all the materials needed for the construction of the dams. The purpose of this new water project is to transfer a proven effective water technology from Kenya to Sudan to increase the amount of water available and lengthen the time it is accessible in the dry season, thereby improving the livelihoods of nomadic and settled communities in Kordofan.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (296311)




  • Education/Training/EmploymentEducation/Training/Employment
  • Environment/ConservationEnvironment/Conservation
  • Human Rights/AdvocacyHuman Rights/Advocacy
  • Poverty Alleviation/ReliefPoverty Alleviation/Relief


  • Children (3-18)Children (3-18)
  • Older PeopleOlder People
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



Access to water is a top priority in the Kordofan area of central Sudan, as it determines the survival and existence of rural communities in this dry and challenging environment. With rainfall as low as 100-350mm per year a lack of water is common, therefore many people practice pastoralism (seasonal herding of livestock over great distances) as well as cultivation. Pressure on limited natural resources is increasing as more erratic rainfall and the expansion of mechanised farming and oil exploration forces herders to travel further and earlier in search of water and pasture. This creates tension with settled farmers and, sadly, traditional systems of cooperation are giving way to conflict. About 80% of Sudan’s population is directly dependent on the natural environment for their survival; it is no wonder that competition for scarce natural resources is a key driver of conflict here. The time to act in Kordofan is now. The thousands of people inhabiting this critical area of Sudan (bordering Darfur and South Sudan) feel the effects of climate change most acutely, yet they are well placed to adapt to it and use their dry environment in the most productive way. SOS Sahel UK will work to address the poverty and needs of these communities on the margins, for without such action the Millennium Development Goals, set by the United Nations, to halve global poverty by 2015 will never be reached. Project Objectives: - To raise the water table in selected sections of the seasonal river beds. - To increase water availability for domestic use - To reduce incidences of violent conflict over access to water. - To reduce the burden of water collection on women, allowing them more available time for other activities, such as vegetable gardening and handicrafts. - To increase the opportunities for income generation in the area via crops and vegetables. - To halt and reverse the number of able-bodied men (including de-mobbed soldiers) migrating to cities for work by training them as skilled masons in rural water supply. Activities: 1) An assessment visit to Kordofan to select the areas of greatest water need most suited to this technology, including consultation with other water agents and knowledgeable local leaders. 2) A ten-day exchange visit for five key Sudanese people (community leaders, local NGO & government representatives) to Kenya to see the potential for this technology in action and the impact it is having on Kenyan communities (hosted by a Kenyan water technician). 3) Four months of apprenticeship training for communities & key development agents in the area, using skilled expertise from Kenya, so that local people (including de-mobbed soldiers) gain the skills to build their own dams in the future 4) The construction of three sand/sub-surface dams using practical skills gained through the apprenticeship training above and maximum input from the community, both in labour and other in-kind contributions, to ensure local ownership while transferring to them valuable skills in dam construction and management. Sand dams and sub-surface dams were pioneered in Northern Kenya in the 1980s. These technologies are proven to be very effective in increasing the amount of water available and lengthening the period it is accessible in the dry season by as much as eight months as sand reduces evaporation. Unlike other water structures that require de-silting every few years, these dams allow overflow of water and silt making them a more sustainable and cost effective solution due to lower maintenance costs. Sand dams also provide particularly clean water due to natural sand filtration. Sand dams are particularly environmentally friendly as they control erosion, increase moisture infiltration within the soil, and heighten the water table. With increased groundwater, crops and other useful vegetation can be grown, and trees often establish themselves along the riverbanks; attracting wildlife. The breeding of insects and parasites, such as mosquitoes and bilharzia, is prevented thanks to the continuous flow of water. We welcome the opportunity to discuss our work and this project in greater depth, so please do get in touch if there is any further information you need.