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Northern Somali regions lost 80 per cent of vegetation in 30 years, say local researchers

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Sawir/kaydka/Ergo

An environmental study carried out by Somali researchers has found that vegetation in parts of the arid northern regions have shrunk by 80 per cent in the last 30 years, contributing greatly to the ongoing cycle of drought in Somalia.

Saed Shidad, lead researcher from Puntland State University, visited the regions of Mudug, Nugal, Bari, Sanag, Sool and Awdal, conducting interviews with local people and surveying sites. The survey, carried out from April to November, found that trees in highland areas have declined by a third.

According to the researchers, a population surge, lack of investment in rural areas, over grazing, deforestation, soil erosion, and changes in climatic patterns have all contributed to the devastating droughts experienced in recent years.

These regions have always received low rainfall but rain that used to was now proving to be totally inadequate given the other factors.

“When it rained for a short while 30 years ago people used to see the benefits and there were no large displacements of people. But now the same little amount of rain attracts scores of people migrating to wherever it falls,” Saed said.

Increasing deforestation has led to higher levels of soil erosion and the drying up of what were once grazing lands.

The researchers recommended that local authorities took part in widespread awareness campaigns to make pastoralist communities and urban residents understand the consequences of what is happening and how to plan to mitigate the damage. They advocated a mass tree planting campaign.

Saed identified the resettlement of displaced families as a priority in the long term solution to the ongoing environmental degradation.

Somali herders pay off drought debts after venture into farming

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Abdirahman Jama Farah, 45, was pleased to pocket $100 from the sale of his first ever harvest of tomatoes and chillies in the northern Somali village of Oog.

After losing 350 goats and 25 camels in the drought, Abdirahman had been anxious about his ability to support his eight children with just their eight surviving goats.

But after seeing other pastoralists turning to farming in the area, he joined with four others to plant a 30 acre farm, 15 km from Ainabo in Sool region.

Their farm produced 800 kilos of tomato and 200 kilos of chilli, earning $460 for the new business partners. They expect they can triple their profits in the next harvest in January, by planting a variety of other crops including maize, millet, guavas, lemons and watermelons.

This farm is one of 10 in the area owned by previously nomadic pastoralist families. The first was started in August by the water well.

Awil Yassin Baruud, another farming convert, told Radio Ergo he was harvesting 140 kilos of vegetables every two days and earning $70 in profit.  He and 10 co-owners have managed to settle the debts they incurred during the drought.

They set up the farm using money from the sale of nine goats. Their first purchases were an old generator for $250, irrigation pipes costing $80, and tools and implements for $70. Fortunately one of the partners involved had previous farming experience from southern Somalia from decades before.

The area has wells and seasonal water catchments available during the dry season. This is a considerable attraction for those willing to venture into farming as a new way of life.

Among the challenges, however, are porcupines and birds that destroy maize and millet plants. Awil said they are considering stopping cultivating these two grains to deter pests and parasites.

Child deaths from malnutrition in IDP camps 70 km from Hargeisa

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Photo | Sawir/Maxamed Siciid/Ilmo nafaqo darro hayso/Ergo

Samira Dirir Adan, aged 16 months, died from malnutrition earlier this month in in the squalid camps in Balli-Mataan village, 70 km from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.

According to Dr Khalid Abdi Yusuf, who runs a local health centre in the area, Samira’s death brings the number of children who have died from malnutrition to 24 in the past two months.

Dr Khalid estimates that one in 10 children in the area is acutely malnourished. The dire situation, he said, has arisen as a result of food scarcity at the height of the drought.

He has diagnosed 254 severely malnourished children since November.

“These children develop enlarged heads and their skin starts peeling,” Dr Khalid said. “We sometimes find two year olds weighing four to six kilos, and we don’t have the capacity to treat them when they reach such advanced levels of malnutrition.”

The health centre cannot admit children for treatment as it has no ward facilities. It offers high calorie biscuits and milk for parents to take home for their children. The doctor advises parents to take their very sick children to hospitals in Hargeisa.

Dr Khalid said he knew of 11 malnourished children, including seven from Balli-Mataan, who had been taken to Hargeisa for treatment.

But the vast majority of IDP families can not afford transport.

Amino Ibrahim Hogos returned from the health centre in despair after being told they could not help her three children. Amino’s youngest two-year-old son is the worst affected. She said the child had lost weight and his body was swollen and he could not eat.

“I don’t know if my children will survive in this camp. We moved here this month. I don’t have enough money to take them to the capital,” Amino said.

The family, with eight children, often goes without food. They depend on what residents and neighbours can offer them. Amino’s husband is old and sick and earns no income.

People in the camp said they had not received any aid in the last two months. They had previously received some help from a Saudi organization, Al-Kheyr.

Herders descend on northern town of Kalabaydh following recent rain

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Photo file/Ergo

Scores of trucks have been whipping up the dust in the northern Somali town of Kalabaydh, (meaning ‘crossroads’), as the blessing of rain has attracted an influx of pastoralists and their animals from drought-stricken areas.

Mahad Ali Samatar, the chief of Kalabaydh, told Radio Ergo that people have been arriving from Sanag, Bari, Nugal and other parts of Sool region since early November.

“We have advised our people here to maintain peace and harmony and to share the limited resources equitably,” the chief said.

“Between 12 and 15 trucks are arriving daily carrying families. One truck carries five to seven families, so there have been maybe 50 families arriving in Kalabaydh each day. They are settling down right in the places where the trucks dropped them.”

Kalabayd lies around 32 km south of Lasanod in Sool region, which is territory disputed by Somaliland and Puntland. The current rain is the first it has had in two years.

Orshe Osman Farah was displaced from Qardho, in Bari region, with his last 100 goats. He came to Kalabaydh 10 days ago.

“Lack of fodder as a result of recurring droughts has hard the nomadic families hard,” Orshe said. “The land is parched and the grazing grounds have disappeared. We have water but nothing else. The drought has brought us to the edge, and we could not resist any more and so we decided to migrate.”

He and four other families boarded a truck, promising to pay back the $300 transport fare after reaching their destination.

Orshe said the vehicles only have room for the people and their livestock so they had to leave their traditional shelter materials behind. They are sleeping in the open, burned by the sun in the day and shivering at night.

The situation is similar across a roughly 100 square km area, where rainfall has brought migrating herders, including Karin-dabayl wayn, Karin Garfoog, Saaxdheer, Dabataag, and a stretch of the Somali-Ethiopian border.

Omar Hassan Ahmed came to Kalabaydh from Kulaal, some 240 km away in Sanag region. He left behind most of his family, including 15 children and grandchildren and two wives, in an IDP camp, where they could access some food and water.

He and five of his children trekked for 10 days with their remaining 40 goats.  Over the recent droughty, they already lost 750 goats and 15 camels.  They undertook the arduous journey on foot as Omar had no money for transport. As soon as they arrived in Kalabayd, Omar loaded some plastic containers onto his two donkeys and set off in search of water for the thirsty goats.

“We came along with about 20 families from Kulaal. We walked our livestock all this way through the parched lands,” he said. “It is much better here and more people are on their way. We did not receive enough rain in the Gu season and we have suffered drought during the past two years.”

Farah Dubad

Lasanod

Family in remote northern Somali village sell last camel in lost bid to save daughter sick with measles

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Sawir/Kadyka/Ergo

Saleban Mohamed Mire lost two of his daughters, aged six and two, from measles in the space of a week in the remote and forgotten northern Somali village of Fardhin.

After one daughter died, he sold his last remaining camel to get the money to transport the other sick child to the nearest hospital, some 45 km away on poor roads in the dusty town of Boame.

But they arrived there too late to save her.

“After my first daughter died at home we decided to rush the other one to hospital. We organised some money but it took us four days to travel to the hospital. She was in a critical state when we got there and the doctors couldn’t do much to save her,” Saleban told Radio Ergo.

“I blame the lack of health care [in our area] for their deaths from this disease,” he added.

The family, with eight children, ended up using the $350 they got from the sale of their camel to pay the medical fees for their dead daughter, who spent two days in hospital.

Saleeban said there were other families in his village with patients affected by measles and with no means of accessing hospitals.

“We have seen deaths of children in the area, I took part in the burial of two other children two days ago in Karin-Kafood village, I presume that they died of measles,” he

Dr Mohamed Yasin Warasame, known as Hayte, who works in a private hospital in Boame, told Radio Ergo that three people died whilst being treated in his hospital.

“There are over 50 people who have been hospitalized with the disease. It is causing concern particularly in Karin-karfood village. The people who are sick in the rural areas where there are no medical services are the worst affected,” he said.

The District Commissioner’s office confirmed the deaths of three people including a six- year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy.

Boame lies in the border area between Puntland, Somaliland and Ethiopia.  Its control is disputed by Puntland and Somaliland and as a result it has very poor services and little if any access to aid. The people living there are traditionally nomadic pastoralists.

The commissioner of Boame district, Hayle Hassan Shire, told Radio Ergo’s local reporter that people often contacted his office asking for help but they were not able to do much to stop the spread of measles in the district.

“We tried to ask for aid from Puntland administration two weeks ago but they have not yet responded,” the commissioner said.

He added that vaccination services do not always reach the 15 remote villages in the district, where there are also up to 20 spontaneous camps that have been set up by distressed pastoralists displaced from their normal migration patterns by the terrible drought.

The recent rainfall in some areas has prompted a new movement of large numbers of people in search of water and pasture for their animals. This has led to the spread of diseases such as measles.

Apart from one private hospital, Boame has only two Mother and Child Health centres.

Dr. Hayte said there is a need for health services to be taken out to the people in distant villages.

“We are private hospital and we have medicine, we treat whoever comes here at a fee and we sometimes give them services on credit.  But there are many others who cannot afford to reach the hospital. These people need humanitarian aid,” he said.

Once proud herders give up pastoralism for dismal living in urban parts of central Somalia

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Photo | Sawir/Xabiibo oo Oomo iyo Saabuun ku iibinaysa kaamka dhexdiisa/Haajirow/Ergo

Habibo Hassan Jama, 36, and her nine children feed off the pittance she earns from selling soap on her makeshift stall in a squalid displacement camp in Guriel, central Somalia’s Galgadud region.

She rarely earns more than a dollar a day but she says she still prefers this new life to her old life as a nomadic pastoralist. The drought wiped out all the family’s goats and they moved from Mataban village in the rural areas of Hiran region seven months ago to Guriel.

Habibo’s husband is blind and is not able to earn any income so feeding the family falls on her shoulders. She told Radio Ergo that on some days when she gets no customers at her stall they all sleep hungry unless their relatives can spare them some leftovers.

Habibo told Radio Ergo she is getting used to the city and is planning to find a way to move out of Barakeye camp to find better shelter.

According to Mohamed Maalin Hassan, secretary of the Commission for Displaced Persons in Guriel, 271 pastoralist families including Habibo’s have come to the city to start a new life. They are living in four IDP camps and apparently none of them wants to return to their nomadic way of life even if they were given more livestock.

Despite the ‘deyr’ rains that began in many parts of the country last month, many of the nomadic pastoralists who would finally be able to find water and grazing for their animals have decided to give up on a lifestyle that has simply become too hard to sustain.

It is huge turnaround in fortunes, though, as owning 300 goats in their day once made Habibo’s family one of the wealthiest in their rural area.

The virtual destitution they are living in now belies their once proud cultural heritage.

Mohamed Hassan Diriye, another former pastoralist, is finding it hard to get permanent work in the city because he has no skills.  He gets casual work breaking rocks into gravel for construction but it is not a job he can always count on.

He and his family of nine were displaced from Qeydar district on the Ethiopian side of the border five months ago, after losing their 150 goats to the drought. They now live in the Al-Adaala camp in Guriel. Mohamed said he has no plan of going back to the nomadic life, in spite of the hardship they are currently living in and the lack of any clear future.

Gift of goats from diaspora community gives new hope to Mudug herders

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Pastoralist families left destitute by the prolonged drought in southern parts of Somalia’s Mudug region have been given a gift of new livestock by members of the Galmudug diaspora community living in Norway.

Around 190 families each received 20 goats to help them get back on their feet and recover their livelihood.  The families have been living on hand outs from other local relatives in villages including Haaro, Hero-Dhagaxley, Elgula, Bajaale and Hadiile villages in Mudug.

Ahmed Mohamud Hashi, the Commissioner of Haaro, assisted in the distribution of the goats. He was one of those involved in negotiating with the Galmudug community members abroad to help the drought-stricken families.

Buying the goats was agreed to be the most sustainable solution to their plight.  The goats were bought for a total of $90,000 from sources in Nugal, Bari and Mudug regions.

“We handpicked the worst hit families who had lost all their livestock and were displaced from their previous locations.  We are now in the rainy season and that is why we brought the livestock at such a crucial moment. The people will benefit as it is the mating season and the goats will multiply.”

Mohamed Ahmed Abdille, 50, a father of nine, came to Haaro six months ago when he could no longer survive in the rural area.  He welcomed the 20 goats and two sacks of rice and flour he was given.

“Before the drought I had 100 goats and two camels.  When we were displaced I arrived in Haaro with only five goats.  We were desperately in need of these new animals and we are in a much better situation now.  I have not taken my livestock back to my place.  I will keep them here as for now I can find water,” he said.

Mohamed’s family has been heavily dependent on others for his basic needs, sharing food, water and shelter with host relatives.  He occupies his time grazing his livestock around Haaro village.

Mohamud Osman Adan, a father of seven, lost his 240 goats and 14 camels in Hadiile, 160 km from Galkayo, in the drought.  He and his family have also been relying on their relatives.

When he received his gift of 20 new goats he trekked off with them some 30 km from Hadiile where it has been raining in order to find them good supplies of water and pasture.

“We received the livestock and food and as I don’t have a means of transport I walked with the animals in search of grazing. I took them to the valley which has plenty of pasture.  I have high hopes in these animals because now that there is rain and we have water they will multiply if the drought does not resume again,” he said

Students escaping dead-end careers in northern Somalia, migration survey reveals

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Photo | Sawir/keyd/Ergo

Around 320 young people have migrated from Buhodle and surrounding districts over the past year, according to a survey conducted by university students in the northern Somali town.

Fifteen students East Africa University’s Buhodle campus interviewed 620 parents, relatives, community leaders and officials in their study.

Abdulahi Ahmed Mohamed, secretary of the university student affairs council, who was one of the researchers, said they found that the majority of those who migrated were young people with high school diplomas.  Among them were 25 university graduates.

Their study concluded that unemployment is the major factor pushing students to contemplate making dangerous journey overseas to developed countries, where they believed living standards were higher.

“It is generally the destruction of social amenities and the rampant unemployment here that discourages them from investing in their studies, so instead they decide to move away to anywhere else,” Abdulahi said.

Ten students, including three women, migrated whilst undergoing courses at the East African University. The senior registrar, Dr Asad Ali Awil, believed they left because they had no hope of finding a job locally.

Large numbers of young people left from districts and villages surround Buhodle, which lies between Puntland and Somaliland and close to the Ethiopian border.  The researchers found that migrants had come from Widhwidh, Horufadi, Egaag, Hamar-Lagu-Hid and villages across the border inside Ethiopia.

Interviewees told the researchers the young people wanted to reach places where other families have relatives sending them foreign currency remittances that they rely on for their living costs.

Sahra Mohamed Karshe said her son, who had just finished high school, was leading a miserable life in a detention centre in Switzerland.  “I have not heard from him lately, but he is always weeping and regretting that he left,” she said.  Her family had to pay $11,000 in May to get her son released from militiamen holding him in Libya.  She borrowed $4,000 and raised the rest from relatives.

Buhodle’s deputy chief of police, Colonel Ibrahim Abdi Balayah, told Radio Ergo they had caught 120 young people embarking on what he called illegal trips. These included residents of the town and others from neighbouring areas.

Twenty young people were held in custody for between three and six months to prevent them from continuing on their journeys, while others were handed over their parents.  Colonel Ibrahim said stronger police action was required to curb the flow of migrants and to prevent them illegally crossing borders.  Parents sometimes request the police to detain their children.

However, the students who conducted the research advocated stronger awareness-raising about the dangers of migration through seminars and conferences as the best way of deterring migration. They also urged that parents should invest more in job creation strategies for their children, instead of agreeing to find huge ransom amounts, so they do not have to migrate.

Rain in Mudug is good for the pastoralists, bad for the market traders

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The fortunes of traders depending on their living from the livestock markets of southern Galkayo have crashed in recent weeks, just as the rains have been greeted as a blessing by the livestock herders.

The drought-hit pastoralists of Mudug – one of the most drought-stricken regions of Somalia in the last three years – have been holding on to their precious remaining animals in the hope that they will fatten and reproduce now that some pasture has appeared with the ‘deyr’ rains.

Activity at the market has reduced sharply with around 100 animals being sold a day as compared to 600 previously.

Abduqadir Yusuf, a broker in Galkayo livestock market, said he has been forced to ask his relatives to help him out as his earnings have fallen.

He normally goes to the market twice a week. He is lucky these days to take home 40,000 shillings (less than $2), an amount that is not enough to sustain his family of five.

Before the decline, he would earn around 200,000 shillings and would sell at least 80 animals a day.

“There have been times before when the livestock have reduced, but I have never seen anything like this,” said Abduqadir, who has been working in the market for 11 years.

The livestock traders say that only one in 10 camels belonging to the pastoralists survived the drought in Mudug.  Those that have any camels left are reluctant to sell them or quick cash.

The animals that are available for sale in the market are coming from other regions, including Nugal and Hiran. Prices have sky rocketed.

The price of a top grade goat has gone up from a million shillings ($39.2) to 1.9 million ($67.8).

Apart from livestock brokers, there are many small traders especially women whose earnings have dropped.

Abshiro Adan is a meat trader and a single mother raising seven children. She is buying food on credit from the store and cannot pay the $45 fees this month for the four children she has in school. She used to be able to put aside 150, 000 from her meat sales to save for children’s education.

Camel meat has become quite rate in the market. A kilogramme of camel meat has risen from 90,000 shillings ($3.2) to 155, 000 ($5.5).

 

Puntland fishermen reaping few riches from the ocean

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Sawir/Kaydka/Ergo

Fishermen in Puntland are struggling to turn the riches of the sea into a thriving livelihood because of poor infrastructure and skills and other threats.

Jama Mohamud Ali, manager of the local Corno Africa Fishing Company, listed the lack of internationally recognized exportation certificates, the lack of investment in processing plants, and illegal fishing by foreign trawlers as the major challenges.

Somalia has not established a system of trade licensing, inspection and quality control sufficient to allow local fishing firms to trade successfully with international fisheries companies.

“Your business will not grow if you don’t have proper licenses to export fish, as people overseas will not trust you,” Jama said.

The local market for the sale of fish is limited due to the low average income. One of the biggest opportunities is presented by Chinese traders coming to Bosasso to buy dried shark fish, known locally as ‘xaniid’. The shark is cut open, salted and dried in the sun on the beaches ready for sale. The Chinese traders bought seven tons of dried shark this year at $90 per kg.

But this type of fish is available only half the year. The locals do not have skilled divers to continue the fishing year round, and the drying process is unsophisticated.

“Our youth have been inflicted with many problems,” Jama said. “They chew Khat that makes them lose their appetite. If you are a diver you need to be 100% healthy and strong enough to carry breathing apparatus and stay under water for quite some time.”

Abdiqafar Warsame, director of Regional Marine Conservation Company, told Radio Ergo there was a general need to improve skills capacity among local fishermen and to train companies on processing and marketing techniques.

According to Jama, the future depends on partnering with big international companies to conquer new markets in the Far East and Africa. “For everyone to benefit, we have the fish and they have the markets, skills, license and investment that is a problem for us,” he said.

Illegal fishing is another big problem facing local fishermen. Foreign trawlers with advanced equipment have already flooded Somalia’s closest markets in Yemen and United Arab Emirates.

Puntland’s minister of fisheries and marine resources, Abdirashid Mohamed Hersi, told Radio Ergo his government aimed to work with local fishing communities to establish fish processing plants to enable local fishermen to gain from exporting higher value dried fish. He said the ministry was seeking investors from the business community including money transfer firms.