Hundreds of Somali women milk sellers put out of work by the drought

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Farxiyo Cali oo iibineysa macmacaan, kaddib uu ciriiri galay ganacsigeedii caanaha/Faarax Dubbad/Ergo Photo | Farhia Ali Diriy, from selling milk to selling sweets and snacks/Faarax Dubbad/Ergo

Radio Ergo 14 February, 2017 LAASCAANOOD


(ERGO) - 55-year-old Fatma Yassin Ali, a single mother looking after her 12 children alone in Lasanood in drought-stricken northern Somalia, has been unable to pay the house rent for the last two months because her milk-selling business has collapsed.

In this part of Sool region, the drought has killed off many of the dairy animals and left the surviving animals still in the area too weak to produce any milk. Other livestock have been taken on long journeys eastwards in search of pasture in regions such as Bari where some rain fell.

Fatma is now worried she might be evicted from her house after failing to pay the rent for the past two months.  Four of her children were expelled from school in January as she defaulted on the school fees.

Fatma told Radio Ergo she used to sell 50 litres of milk a day, and she now finds it hard to find even two litres. Her average daily income has fallen dramatically from 150,000 Shillings ($6.5) that used to allow her to feed the family, pay school fees of $60 and rent of $80 a month. She had no savings.

“Now I am living on food I borrow from the stores. I am more worried about not being able to repay my debts than being refused credit,” said Fadumo, who has run up a debt of $84 at a local shop for flour, rice and sugar she has “borrowed” since January.

Due to scarcity, milk has doubled in price from one to two dollars a litre. Three months ago, some 15 vehicles loaded with milk containers with a capacity of 12,000 litres used to make it to the markets every day in the rural outskirts of Sool and the Ethiopian border.  Now, a single vehicle comes occasionally carrying a small quantity of milk.

Radio Ergo’s reporter estimates around 200 women whose livelihoods depended on selling milk have been affected by the drought.

Farhia Ali Diriye, 42, a widowed mother of six, has moved from selling milk to selling snacks.  She said she borrowed money to start the new small business but it is barely bringing in enough to feed her family.  She makes 30,000 shillings on a good day as compared to over 100,000 shillings from the milk business.  Farhia’s three children have been sent home from school for non-payment of fees and she has not paid the house rent for three months.  She is living on food taken on credit from the shops.

None of these women has any alternative but to earn what they can in whatever way they can, and to continue taking food on credit. They hope the spring rains due in April might enable milk production to begin again, although the prospects of that happening are not strong.   

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