Said Adan Ali, 64, grew up herding the family’s livestock and had spent his entire life as a nomadic pastoralist until he took up fishing along the Berbera coast in Somaliland at the end of last year.
Changing circumstances due to prolonged and perennial drought forced him to change from his culturally proud lifestyle and turn to the sea. He is glad he made the move.
“There is nothing now in the rural areas, the livestock are killed by the drought every year,” Said declared.
All of Said’s family livestock died in the drought. By July, he had decided to give up the nomadic way of life and to leave his family in Mandera, 100 km west of Berbera, while he looked for a different way of earning a living.
He worked as a porter at Berbera port for a while, but then joined some relatives who had already been attracted into fishing. They taught him everything he needed to know in just 10 days.
“We earn more than we used to get from livestock,” Said told Radio Ergo. “I would have come to the coast earlier on if I knew fishing was more productive than the pastoralism life. We don’t need big investments to start fishing and it takes no time at all to make a profit.”
When other fishermen finish their day’s work, Said works overtime to cover his family’s needs. He earns around 100 Somaliland shillings a day ($10). He hopes to bring his family to Berbera in the next two months to enroll his children in a local school.
Income from his fishing has already enabled his family to set up a new stall in Mandera, selling small items. Three of his older children now attend school in the village.
Fadhi, another pastoralist for over 30 years, told Radio Ergo he found fishing much easier than livestock keeping.
Some days he sends fish to his family back home. These families never used to eat fish, as the prices are high and it is usually hard to find fish in the rural areas.
All the new fishermen Radio Ergo interviewed said that they are happy to be working in fishing and did not miss their previous way of life.
According to the coordinator of the ministry of fishing in Sahil region (previously North-western region), Ismail Mohamed, 270 men, who lost their livestock in the prolonged drought, have turned to fishing in Berbera in the past two months. They come from Mandera, Lasidle Abdaal, Ma’aneye, Lafarug and Gololey in Togdheer and Sahil regions. Their arrival brings the number of fishermen in Berbera to 2,500.
The Somaliland ministry of fishing donated 50 nets and fishing equipment to the new fishermen, funded by the European Union. The first pastoralists to arrive at the coast last August were given priority. The ministry of fishing does not tax their income and there are no license requirements.
Fadhi Mohamed and his family of eight also suffered the effects of drought in the rural area of Lafarug, 85 km west of Berbera. Only 50 of his herd of 200 goats survived the drought. Fadhi decided to come to the coast to fish, leaving his family to tend for the remaining skinny goats nobody wanted to buy.
A relative working on the Berbera coast for 12 years trained him in fishing skills in October. Fadhi told Radio Ergo he is planning to sell off his goats as soon as he can get a buyer to buy a small boat. He aims to earn enough income to become independent of his relatives.