Former livestock keepers get behind the wheel in central Somalia

After living as a pastoralist for 15 years, Osman Mohamed Elmi is now making a living as a driver at the new port in Hobyo, in central Somalia’s Mudug region.

He drives newly imported vehicles from the port to their owners in towns like Adado, Guriel, Galkayo and Dhusamareb.

Osman works 25 days a month and earns between $80-120 for each trip. This income supports his family of 12, who had been grappling with food shortage and hardships living in internal displacement camps.

“There is a big difference between this life and the previous one. I have got benefits from this job, I support my life and my family, and I help my relatives and friends,” he said.

This new job has brought him relief from the uncertainty of pastoralism that he says was constantly threatened by drought and water shortage. All the 200 goats he once owned died.

In the past two months, he has found an increasing number of customers wanting his services. This has allowed him and his family to enjoy three meals, which used to be out of reach to them.

Osman, 35, said he was taught how to drive by one of his relatives about a year ago. He had been trying to rebuild his life after losing his coveted livestock to drought.

He is also happy to have seven of his children enrolled in Hobyo primary and middle school, where he pays $60 a month for their education. He has begun paying off the debts he accumulated in the past two tough years.

“I had $500 in debts when I started working,” he said. “I paid the money back slowly and I have completed the loan repayment.”

Another former pastoralist, Ali Salad, 40, also began a new driving job on 25 March that provides a decent income to support his wife and 10 children.

He makes six trips a month travelling to different towns in Galmudug state delivering vehicles to businesspeople, earning $300-400 depending on the distance.

“No one knew me before, but now I have become famous among the people in Hobyo port. People call me from Abudwak, Guriel and ask me to deliver their cars and send me the money to my phone,” Ali told Radio Ergo.

Ali lost 150 goats and 30 camels to extreme drought in Wisil in 2021 and was forced to seek menial jobs, making $10 working on construction sites and taking food on credit to feed his family.

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