Livelihoods at risk as drought worsens in western Somaliland

IJARA, 29 July 2009 (SomalilandPress) – A prolonged drought is causing large-scale livestock deaths, increasing the vulnerability of residents living in the mid-western Gabiley region of Somalia’s self-declared republic of Somaliland, local officials say.

“We have not experienced such drought before,” Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, Gabiley governor, said. “Before, the drought affected either the people on the farms, or the animals, but now it is affecting [both].”

Abdi said agro-pastoralists living south of the main road connecting Gabiley to Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, and neighbouring Kalabait area, may have lost up to 70 percent of their sheep to the drought.

Dahir Abdillahi, a resident of Ijara village in Gabiley, told IRIN: “I had 50 sheep two months ago but they started dying off one by one; when it rained a week ago, another 10 died, leaving me with only 10 sheep.”

Abdi said carcasses of dead cows littered most of Ijara; camels are better adapted to drought.

According to the Food Security and Nutritional Analysis Unit (FSNAU Somalia) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an acute food and livelihood crisis was emerging in parts of Somaliland due to recent rain failure, compounded by three previous seasons of poor rainfall.
In its June quarterly food security and nutrition brief, FNAU said pasture resources in areas that experience moderate rains had been quickly depleted due to large livestock in-migration from neighbouring rain-deficit areas.

“There is a high level of livestock off-take, as well as high abortion rates, culling of kids/lambs, and drought-induced livestock diseases,” FSNAU stated.

Food availability

According to Ijara resident Mohamoud Mousa Warsame, the village has lost some 1,500 sheep and more than 600 cattle.

“I am in my 60s [yet] this is the first time we [have] experienced such drought,” Warsame said. “I had more than 50 sheep, but 20 died in the drought; two of my cows have also died.”

Warsame said sheep were the most affected due to a lack of pasture and the start of the cold weather had escalated the deaths.
The region has suffered two consecutive failed Gu [long] rains seasons.

According to Warsame, about half of Ijara residents have run out of food reserves and were surviving on one meal a day or skipping meals altogether.

Sharing food among neighbours has increased as has the sharing of reserve food with the animals. “Villages such as Taysa, Bodhley and Boqor have also been affected by the drought,” said Mohamed Da’ud Ahmed, chairman of the Ijara village elders, adding that there was a need for food aid to help cope with the drought, which has lasted about 10 months.

According to Amina Mohamoud, a mother of six from Ged-abeera village near the border with Ethiopia, the drought was increasing food hoarding. “I came from Ged-abeera to Ijara looking for food to buy but because of the drought, people who have some sorghum or maize are refusing to sell,” Mohamoud said.

Food prices have soared. “Before, we used to buy 1kg of sorghum and maize for 2,000 Somaliland shillings each [US$0.28] but now this has doubled to 4,000 shillings [$0.57] – if you can find a place to buy it from,” Mohamoud said. “We used to sell our animals to buy food, but nowadays all our animals are dead.”

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Desperate to feed their surviving livestock, residents are collecting grass loosened during ploughing in the fields for their animals.

“I have come to look for food for my animals,” an elderly Indha-Deeq Mohumed Ahmed, told IRIN in the Galolay area, southeast of Gabiley. She has been left with three cows out of a herd of 30. Ahmed, who was collecting grass, said: “My son went to town to work… and you can see me working at this age.”

More people are moving to the towns. “We do not have the exact statistics, but we know that several hundred agro-pastoralists have moved to the urban centres where they are living with relatives,” said Aden Muhumed Badde, mayor of Gabiley.

He said the region’s residents had been living in difficult conditions for almost two years with little support.

“We do not have the facilities to support these people. We are calling on the government and the international community to send food and medicine for the people and the animals affected by the drought,” Badde said.

Source: IRIN, July 29, 2009


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