Somali refugee women in Kenya build livelihoods through traditional food

Ladan Cabdikhaliif

(ERGO) – Somali refugee women in Kenya are putting their traditional cooking skills to good use running local restaurants that earn them a good living and provide a local service.

Ladan Abdi Khalif, a mother of three, is among several women who have started small businesses cooking and selling traditional food known as wadani.

Ladan, 35, has been living in Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, northeastern Kenya for the last 20 years.

She cooks ambulo (Somali common dish) made from well-cooked azuki beans mixed with maize and sometimes wheat.

“I cook several types of Somali traditional foods including maize and beans, wheat and beans, which are served with butter,” said Ladan.

Before her start-up, Ladan used to work at another restaurant where she was cooking anjera[white leavened bread made from teff flour].

“I was earning just 2,000 Kenya shillings ($20) but I saved some of the money to start this business and now I employ one person whom I pay 7,000 shillings ($70) a month,” she told Radio Ergo.

The wadani meals are very popular among the community in the area.

“The business pays us well. I get approximately 40,000 shillings ($400) per month. Our customers are mainly casual workers,” she stated.

Another businesswoman in the same camp, Hakima Ibrahim, switched to the catering business two months ago.

With the help of her husband, Hakima cooks different types of food at her own restaurant. Since she started the restaurant, her family’s fortunes have changed.

The restaurant brings in 45,000 shillings ($450)a month but unlike Ladan, she hires no staff as she gets help from her husband, Hassan Yussuf. He agreed to work with her since the opening of the restaurant and the arrangement works well.

“Per day, I get1,500 shillings ($15), with God’s will, and the situation of my family has changed since I started this business,” Ladan said.

The food businesses also help local construction workers, porters, and other residents by providing them with ready food at affordable prices.

AbdirashidIge, a local resident in the camp, is a frequent customer atLadan’srestaurant.

“These restaurants have not only helped the community but also promoted the traditional foods. The restaurants have built the livelihoods of many families,” he said.

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