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Utooni Development Organization (UDO) , Kenya_Equator Initiative Case Study

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Utooni Development Organization works with government- recognized self-help groups in Machakos, Makueni and Kajiado counties in south-central Kenya. In recent years the area has experienced chronic drought. Residents of the three counties are dependent upon agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. Drought, exacerbated by poor land management practices and climate change, has produced a domino effect of problems from food insecurity to chronic poverty and associated environmental and social problems.

Utooni has been instrumental in improving the lives of subsistence farmers living in environmentally degraded, drought-prone, arid and semi-arid lands. The organization takes a holistic approach to development that promotes water and food security and environmental restoration through the construction of sand dams, introduction of drought resistant crops, terracing (1,874,680 terraces), soil conservation strategies and tree planting (1,058, 117 trees) transforming arid and semi-arid landscapes into highly productive farmland. Utooni uses simple technology based on traditional knowledge to provide critical services that are widely applicable to water conservation throughout an entire region. Sand dams provide ample, clean water to communities for decades, resulting in increased agricultural yields, environmental restoration, improvements in community health and the creation of income opportunities. 1573 sand dams have been constructed in south central Kenya, each of which can hold as much as 10 million liters of water and support a community of 1,000 through an entire dry season.

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