For her first few days of farming in Kismayo in the Jubbaland state of Somalia, Raliyo Ibrahim Abdi’s hands kept blistering because she was not used to this type of manual work. She spent her life raising livestock in a rural area but losing all her animals in the drought forced her to take on other jobs.
Raliyo Ibrahim, a divorced mother of eight children from Sakow, Lower Juba, is among 72 displaced pastoralist and agricultural families in New Bulla-guduud camp on the outskirts of Kismayo, who lost all their assets in the drought and are now working on farms 30 kilometres north of the city to make ends meet.
She arrived in the camp last December after losing 30 goats and 20 cows. Interviewed in the third week of her work, she said she was making three dollars a day on the farms which enabled the family to eat three meals a day, whereas previously they were lucky to get just one.
“I looked for laundry work at first but I didn’t find any women needing my services. Then I heard about women working on farms and I followed them despite not having any skills or knowledge about farming. The poor situation we are in now and with the father of my children having abandoned us, made me brave enough to try this hard labour,” Said Raliyo Ibrahim.
Now that she has something to feed her children, what worries her most is the flimsy shelter they live in. She requested the Somali federal government and aid agencies to build them a decent home.
“What we need now is a house since we don’t have one and we also need toilets. My children sleep under this poor structure that I made by myself. It provides us no protection from the sun nor from the cold during the night,” She lamented.
Mohamed Hussein Adow, another IDP in New Bulla-guduud camp, said he was being paid two dollars for each hectare he plants on the local farms. He was used to planting his own farm back where he came from.
“We go to the farms every morning and immediately we arrive at the farms we begin cultivating and planting throughout the day until 4pm when we return. In between we get short breaks for lunch and prayer,” He said.
Mohamed Hussein and his family of six arrived in New Bulla-guduud camp last December from Jamame in Lower Juba, where he owned an eight-hectare rain-fed farm.
Mohamed Hussein Adow abandoned the land after three failed rainy seasons left him unable to plant anything. He tried and failed to get jobs in construction or loading vehicles. He is thankful that labouring on other people’s farms can at least enable him to support his family with two meals a day.
The village commissioner of Bulla-guduud, Mohamud Abdullah, himself a local farmer, said that having access to workers among the IDPs was also a blessing for the farmers, who were finding it hard to find labour. He himself hires some of the displaced on his own farm.
“Most of them are pastoralists, they used to depend on animals which have all perished in the prolonged drought. The circumstances have forced them to turn to the farms for survival. With the first drops of rain, we have already started planting,” The village commissioner said.
The rain started in mid-April in Bulla-guduud and the surrounding area, making it possible for the farmers to start tilling. Their last harvest was in January after which the river dried up. Now the river has water and they are hopeful of another harvest.
BY OSMAN HUSSEIN ALI