Herders in Somaliland’s Hawd turn to farming with good results

Around 1,250 pastoralists in Somaliland’s Hawd region have reaped farm produce for the first time, after struggling to navigate through prolonged drought that took a heavy toll on their livestock.

Abdirahman Yusuf Adan,36, has been a pastoralist for most of his life. He recently sold his first crops of maize, sorghum, tomatoes, and watermelons to businesses in Hargeisa and Balligubadle, making $560 profit.

This income from his new five-hectare farm has enabled his family of 10 children to be certain of getting adequate food and other basics. Their livestock had produced little income due to recurrent drought cycles.

“We were nomadic families and we kept livestock, we were suffering, but now we are living in one area and we get our food from our farms,” Abdirahman said.

He used half the profit from his farm sales in January to buy 10 goats that he plans to feed up and resell for a profit.

“I once owned 400 goats. When the drought hit us, we were moving to new areas each time, then they started getting sick and dying. We now have about 50 goats remaining and I decided to settle in one area and start farming,” he said.

Abdirahman started farming last September, after selling off some of his goats for $56 to buy seeds to plant ahead of the rainfall in October. The farm also provides fodder for his goats.

As Abdirahman reaped his first produce, another pastoralist Khalid Haybe Hussein reaped his second harvest from a four-hectare farm in Gumburaha village. He also turned to farming because drought had made living from livestock alone too hard.

He reaped his first harvest in July 2023, consisting of sorghum, maize, watermelons, tomatoes, and peppers and sold the produce to businesses in Hargeisa, Balligubadle, Salahley, Gumburaha and Qool-Aday earning $4,000 profit.

He used $2,500 to buy five camels, and with the remaining money he bought two plots of land.

“We were pastoralists but now we are farmers and pastoralists. There is a huge difference between then and now. We have got increased income and we get everything from our farms now. We are now buying more animals let alone selling them,” Khalid said.

He also ventured into a small roadside table where he sells part of his harvest, making about $10-12 a day. Despite his good fortune so far in farming, however, his output has been greatly reduced by farm pests. He said he needs training and support to improve his farm.

“I got into farming following droughts that killed our livestock. We didn’t do much during the day. We then decided to get a living from the ground so that I can take care of my family’s needs,” he said.

The coordinator of the agriculture ministry in Hawd region, Aidarus Farhan Muhumed, said there were 4,500 farms in the region, including the 1,250 owned by pastoralists. Hawd is generally dry land and farmers depend on rainwater. With no access to ground water, people store rainwater in catchment areas to use during the dry season.

He said the ministry had built a water catchment in May 2023 that was accessible to all farmers.

“The ministry works to improve the welfare of the farmers, we help the farmers in cultivating the land, and providing seeds. There are 425 families who received seeds and whose land was cultivated. We have also offered trainings to the farmers to improve their knowledge on farming, we have given them pesticides, and we have also set up an association,” he said.

He didn’t specify the criteria used to select those who received seeds and other assistance, although Abdirahman and Khalid interviewed by Radio Ergo said they had not received anything.

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