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The project aims to build six sand dams in the Upper East region of Ghana to capture and store water for domestic and agricultural purposes.



The project seeks to build six sand dams in the Upper East Region of Ghana. 80% of the population in this region are into agriculture, however the low rainfall in the region due to climate change, the natural vegetation, topography of the land and also the soil type have together currently made agriculture a very difficult occupation in the region. Hence the youth are abandoning farming and migrating into cities to seek for greener pastures (Ministry of Food & Agriculture, 2010).

The project seeks to build sand dams which are reinforced concrete wall built in a seasonal riverbed to capture and store water beneath sand, both filtering and protecting it. Feasibility studies and technical consultation will be carried out to locate six potential sand dam site in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Upon approval by the project technical team these dams will be constructed with the involvement of the local communities, to create a sense of ownership among the communities involved in the construction of the dams.

The sand dams will capture about 2-10 million liters of water from rain water and other existing water bodies so that when the rain stops falling or the surface water of the water body dries, the sand dam will still hold water in the depths of the sand behind the concrete walls.

The water will help farmers grow crops all year round and have more litters of water available for domestic use. The project will also start a tree nursery and planting project to plant trees in the communities. Sand dams have also been known to gradually and naturally transform the ecology of the areas where they are constructed, this with the farming and tree planting will help the citizens in the region adapt to the current impacts of climate change that they face.


What actions do you propose?

Actions to be taken by the project team includes;


Feasibility studies will be carried out by the project technical team to select six catchments within the Upper East region of Ghana that are best suited for building the sand dams. Feasibility studies will gather information such as general characteristics of the catchment area, information on the morphology of the area, the geology of the catchment area, as well as information on the precipitation and evaporation of the catchment area. Accuracy in site selection will determine the success of the sand dam. Feasibility studies will enable the project technical team come out with high potential areas as well as the type of sand dams suitable for the particular site.


The beneficiary communities will be intensively involved in the sand dam projects in order to create a feeling of ownership by the communities. Sensitizing community awareness on the construction of the sand dams in a potentially suitable community is very important in ensuring success of the project. This will be done by regular visits to the communities and carrying out meetings with the representatives and members of community. All communication shall be carried out with respect to the existing protocols, institutions, rules, habits and customs of the community. The purpose of involving beneficiaries is to help sensitize and mobilize the communities to improve the quality of their lives through collective self-help. This will also help to create a feeling of ownership which is necessary for successful construction and maintenance of the sand dams.


The water demand of the local community will be investigated before starting the sand dam project, to understand the most important needs of the community. The water needs or water demand of a community refers to the amount of water currently used by people for domestic purposes as drinking, cooking and cleaning, as well as for irrigation or for rearing livestock. This information gives insight into the water demand, water use, future aspirations and water quality problems. A water committee making up of people from each group of the community (men, women, elder, youth etc.) will be formed to contribute to the water use assessment.


After determining the water demand of the community, the design can be made. The project technical team will carry out the design of the sand dam. The design will capture features of the sand dam such as the height of the dam, the spillway, the wing walls, stilling basin and water extraction points etc. Preferably local materials within the community will be used in the dam construction. However, the types of materials needed to construct a sand dam will depend on the type of dam that is found most suitable at the selected location. This depends on the physical properties of the catchment and on the materials available on the market as well as within the area of the selected sand dam location. If materials like stones and sand are locally available, this will reduce costs of materials and transport. In construction of the sand dam, the contribution of community workers will help reduce costs. The number of labor needed and days required to construct the sand dam will depend largely on the size and location of the dam.


The community members will be trained by the project technical team on how to operate, manage and maintain the sand dam. The training will also involve management of water quality. Upon consultations with the community representatives (i.e. chiefs, elders, and opinion leaders), sand dam management groups will be set up and equipped with the necessary technical and management skills to ensure proper management of the sand dams. The sand dam management groups will also have the over-sight responsibility of managing and maintaining the sand dam to ensure sustainability.


One of the aspects of the sand dam project is to start a tree nursery and planting project in the communities. It is expected that the tree planting project will gradually transform the vegetation of the community, since there will be water available in the soil to sustain the growth of both the naturally existing trees and the trees that will be planted by the project. These trees will attract birds and insects that will help spread more seeds. Growth of trees will help reduce the rate of soil erosion and then help the soil retain more water naturally. The project technical team together with the community members will carry out the tree planting exercise. The importance of the tree planting exercise to the survival of the community and the natural vegetation (which provide for their livelihoods) will be communicated clearly to the community. In adapting to the negative impacts of climate change, trees planting is a major step to help build resilience of vulnerable communities as well as offering some mitigation benefits.

Who will take these actions?

This will be done by the project technical team which will mainly be made up of climate change researchers from the Ghana for Climate Change (G4CC) team, hydrologists, geographers, geologists, sociologists and sand dam experts.

The G4CC team is based in Ghana. The team is made up of a group of young climate change advocates and researches who have passion for creating climate change awareness and building the necessary capacity to protect the economies and livelihoods of African citizens. Team members also include geologists, hydrologists, sociologists and geographers together with implementing partners. The G4CC team is funded by its members and has potential to carry out projects to build adaptation against the negative impacts of climate change. The team is made up of 11 members.

Technical consultation will also be done by either going to Kenya or inviting Kenyan sand dam experts/researchers to help the project technical team carry out feasibility studies to locate six potential sand dam site in the Upper East Region of Ghana (experts from Kenya are preferred since Kenya currently has the highest number of successful sand dam projects). The team have also secured partnership with sand dam experts such as Acacia Water based in the Netherlands who are ready to help us with the sand dam project.

Also these dams will be constructed with the involvement of the local communities, to create a sense of ownership among the communities involved in the construction of the dams. The team will engage the local communities through the representatives of the communities (i.e. the chiefs, the opinion leaders, the local government authorities etc.). All communications and correspondence shall be carried out with respect to the existing protocols, institutions, rules and customs of the communities.



Where will these actions be taken?

The project seeks to build the six sand dams in the Upper East Region of Ghana.

What are other key benefits?

Apart from drinking water security, the sand  dams will also provide water for;

  1. Development of rural commercial activities such as small scale irrigation (cash crops and tree nurseries), piped water supply to nearby villages and industrial activities (brick making).
  2. Furthermore, since less time is needed to fetch water school attendance increases significantly and more time can be spent on other income generating activities such as household industries (basket weaving, sewing), this will reduce the water stress on women and children.
  3. Sand dams reduce flood risks and increase down stream flow during dry seasons, increasing added benefits for downstream users.
  4. Sand dams raise the water table in areas above and below the dam.
  5. Improve food supply side of food security challenges the region and the nation faces since there will be water to produce food all year round.
  6. Biodiversity improves as trees and indigenous species are able to thrive.
  7. Tress will sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.




What are the proposal’s costs?

Meetings with stakeholders: = $2,900.

Experts: The services of the experts apart from the climate change researchers (G4CC Team) will be on the field for two months. G4CC Team will stay till dams are completed. = $20,000

Travel Cost: Flight, car rental etc. = $13,000

Accommodation: Two months for other experts apart from the climate change researchers (G4CC Team). = $20,000

Dam Construction: The construction of a sand dam was estimated at $ 7,500 in 2007 (RAIN, 2007) we currently estimate it around $8,000. Hence 6 dams = $48,000, nevertheless part of the overall construction cost will be provided by the community. They are involved in the construction of sand storage dams by provision of labor and raw materials through sand dam management groups . After construction, these groups ensure maintenance of dams and protection of the water quality as well as promoting ownership and thus sustainability.

Miscellaneous: Calls, internet, etc. = $10,000

Total estimated cost = $113,900

Time line

Short Term:

The first month will have two members of the project team go to Kenya and learn from first hand the interaction of communities and sand dams with the help of partner experts in Kenya. The second month will have meetings with officials and stakeholders on the project. The various surveys will will also be conducted in order to help with site selection. The third month will see the initiation of the construction of the sand dams. By the end of the first year the six sand dams will be constructed. By the third year the six sand dams would have been filled and yield full benefits. Base on the lessons learnt from the pilot six sand dams, an estimate of 10 more sand dams will be constructed by the fifth year. The 10th year will see the project expand to the Upper West Region and the Northern Region of the country (Ghana) since these regions share similar physical and natural environment.

Medium Term: The number of sand dams in the three regions will be explored to the maximum.

Long Term: The project will seek to expand its activities to other West African countries.

Related proposals


Excellent Development. (2011). Pioneers of sand dams. Retrieved April 2, 2015, from

Ghana Statistical, (2010). 2010 Population and Housing Census, Retrieved  March 30, 2015, from

Ministry of Food and Agriculture, (2010). Upper East Region, Physical and Natural Environment, Retrieved  March 30, 2015, from

Powlson, D. S., Whitmore, A. P., & Goulding, K. W. T. (2011). Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change: a critical re‐examination to identify the true and the false. European Journal of Soil Science, 62(1), 42-55.

Rainwater Harvesting Implementation Network (RAIN), (2007). A practical guide to sand dam implementation, Retrieved  March 15, 2015, from