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GCSE Geography | Case Study: Makueni Food and Water Security Programme (Resource Management - Food 10)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 14 May 2024

Makueni County is around 200 km south-east if Nairobi in eastern Kenya (an LIC). It is a rural area with a population of roughly 885,000, who are spread out across lots of isolated villages. People in Makueni grow a variety of crops, including sweet potatoes, cassava (see image below), beans, millet and maize, which is helped by the nutrient-rich volcanic soils. However, the population lives in poverty and faces food insecurity as the climate makes it difficult to grow crops. The region is semi-arid with low and unreliable rainfall (an average of 500 mm per year) which affects food production and means that crops fail regularly.

Makueni Food and Water Security Programme

The Makueni Food and Water Security Programme is an example of a sustainable small-scale project. This programme was set up by the local community with the support of two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - 'Just a Drop' and the 'African Sand Dam Foundation', with the aim of improving food and water security in the villages of Musunguu and Muuo Wa Methovini (with a combined population of 800) and increasing food and safe water to the 463 pupils of Kanyenyoni Primary School. The unreliable rainfall used to mean there were times in the year when food supplies ran low because there wasn’t enough water to grow crops.

The programme has many different aspects...

The construction of a sand dams in each village - these small dams are an example of appropriate technology as they were set up with the local community and are very cheap to operate and maintain. A simple dam is built across a river, trapping rain when it falls. In around four years, sand carried by the water fills up the area behind the dam, forming a sand dam. Sand dams store water in the ground, filtering and cleaning the rainwater as it soaks into the soil. When rain falls it still flows down the river channel, but is trapped in the sand behind the dam. People can easily dig down to get to the water, which is protected from evaporation by the sand, which also filters the water, enabling them to access a clean and safe water supply, for drinking, but also for watering crops and for livestock.

The programme also includes a rainwater harvesting system on the roof of the school (another example of appropriate technology), a training programme to educate local farmers on sustainable agricultural techniques, and an afforestation project to reduce the risk of desertification. The trees will provide shade to stop the soil drying out, roots to bind the soil together, and leaf litter to add nutrients back to the soil. The trees will also increase biodiversity in the area and provide medicinal products that can be used by the local population.

Has the project been successful?

The sand dams have given people access to a more reliable and safer source of water, reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases, and therefore the health of local people. As a result, crop yields have increased and food security has improved, which again means better health for the population. Time has been saved as women and children don’t have to spend so much time fetching water, which means they can spend more time doing paid work or going to school. The trees planted around the dams have reduced soil erosion and improved soil quality, and improved the habitat for other plants and animals. Fruit trees have also provided food and a source of medicine.

Sand dams are very useful in some areas, however, they only work in places with suitable geology and must be carefully planned. It is important to involve local people in decision making so that disagreements are reduced.

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