File photo/Ergo

(ERGO) – Farmers in Qansadhere in southern Somalia’s Bay region are demanding their land back from an Ethiopian contingent of African Union peacekeepers, AMISOM, who have occupied the farmland for several years.

Hawo Ibrahim Ishaq, a displaced farmer, told Radio Ergo that she came home to Qansadhere mid-last year, after hearing that talks were going on again between elders and AMISOM to return the large number of small farms like hers to their owners.

She had been living with her eight children in an IDP in Dollow, Gedo region, because Qansadhere had been hit hard by drought.  But on her return she was still not able to plant her farm as the troops were still occupying it.

Qansadhere received a decent amount of rainfall during the ‘deyr’ rainy season and Hawo feels frustrated that she is still struggling to find food for her family. She earns a few shillings washing clothes and sometimes gets help from relatives but they are not always in a position themselves to help.

Hassan Abdinur Abdiyow, a member of the federal parliament of Somalia, said more than 180 farms occupied by the soldiers have not been able to benefit from the recent rainfall.

The MP said he and local elders had asked AMISOM to move their base near to the airport but AMISOM had refused, justifying that the current site was strategic.

The current administration, as well as the two previous administrations, have each tried to press AMISOM to shift their base but to no avail.

Abdi Kuus Haji Ibrahim, a farmer, told Radio Ergo that the people could not support themselves without their farms because the area is under Al-Shabab siege and there are no alternative means of livelihood. Business and trade is extremely restricted due to insecurity. He added that eight water reservoirs had been turned into waste dumps due to the presence of the troops.

Abdi is demanding compensation for the time he was forced to live in squalid IDP camp without being able to reap the benefit from his farm.  The land lies in ruin, he complained, and farms would need a great deal of work to be restored to productivity again.

The director of the ministry of agriculture in South-West regional administration, Abdi Siraji, confirmed that they had received complaints several times about the occupation of the farmland. He said he had shared the case with the federal interior ministry and hoped for a resolution.  However, when Radio Ergo contacted the interior ministry we were told that the regional administration should address the issue.

Radio Ergo has made several attempts to get a comment from AMISOM about the matter but received no response.

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