Sureedo lives on her farm in Qoordumey village, Dolow, Somalia. She grows fruits and vegetables with her family and was among the 2 500 rural farming households affected by the drought and desert locust swarms that have decimated crops and destroyed livelihoods.
The ongoing drought, the invasion of the desert locust, and the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have had a huge impact on the country’s agri-food system, contributing to food insecurity in Somalia. With the majority of the population – especially rural communities – depending on agriculture and livestock as a source of livelihood, these shocks pose a significant threat to people’s lives and subsistence. Both livestock and agriculture play an important role in Somalia’s economy, with the two sectors being the main sources of economic activity, employment and export in the country.
Thanks to generous funding from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund through the project, “Emergency Livelihood Support for drought-affected rural populations in Somalia,” FAO supported 4 350 affected agro/pastoral households in Laasqoray and Dolow Districts. The project aimed to address acute food insecurity in these areas and help affected households re-engage with production activities.
The project’s agriculture component targeted the most vulnerable farming households in Dolow district, Gedo region. Each household received farming tools, irrigation support, storage bags and locally-adapted seed varieties that are drought tolerant. The seed kit (composed of cereal, vegetables, pulses and/or legume seeds) were tailored to farmers’ needs and traditional practices in Somalia’s different agro-ecological zones. The kit enabled households to produce their own food, earn an income and use the crop residues as fodder for livestock.
“FAO supported us with seeds, tools, cash and even irrigation,” said Sureedo at her farm in Dolow. “As you can see now, I am harvesting fruits and vegetables, and when I get home, we will cook this food,” she said. “The three months cash payment I received enabled me to support my family as I waited to harvest my farm,” Sureedo added.
The project also helped reduce displacement among agropastoral communities by supporting them to stay productive within their rural areas. It laid the groundwork for future recovery and more resilient local agri-food systems through training on good agricultural practices among others and the provision of improved crop varieties.
Through the project’s livestock component, FAO reached 1 850 households in Laasqory district, Sanaag region, with 50 percent of these households headed by women.
“Being an anticipatory action project, we targeted the most drought-affected districts so that the communities become productive again after a cruel combination of dry conditions and swarms of desert locusts decimated crops and destroyed the livelihoods of many agropastoral communities,” said Khalid Saeed, FAO Somalia Livestock Coordinator.
Each household received three months of cash payments and livestock livelihood kits that included one mazzican milk container, two pieces of supplementary feed block and deworming of up to ten animals. Cash transfers were provided to help households meet their immediate needs while allowing them to get back into production and continue to feed their families.
“When we received this support from FAO, our animals were weak and emaciated, but through the supplementary feed blocks and deworming our livestock, their situation improved. The supplementary feed blocks increased their stamina and ability to withstand harsh conditions and the result is visible,” said Ali Mohamud Farah, a pastoralist from Badhan village in Laasqoray, Somalia.
For large families like Mohamud’s the cash helped reduce the gaps caused by the inability to sell weak animals due to the drought. “The cash could not have come at any better time because, for me, it helped in buying many basic stuffs, which I was not able to buy before because all my animals were too weak to be sold,” he said.
While the prolonged drought has affected most of these rural communities that rely on livestock and agriculture, the programme allowed people like Mohamud and Sureedo to strengthen their resilience and provide for their families. “I would say this support gave us an edge over a biting drought accompanied by other shocks like the desert locust,” said Mohamud.