Hundreds of farmers and pastoralists have been displaced in Odagoye, south of Lasanod in east Somaliland, after a severe water shortage arose due to quarrying activities in the river- bed. Hawa Mohamed, a divorced mother of six children, saw her one and a half hectare farm shriveling up due to lack of water when the well she relied on dried up. “I spent $1,000 that I took in loans to plant my farm in the rainy season. I planted onions and peppers but it has all failed,” said Hawa.
She was unable to pump water or to get a truck to deliver water because of the poor access to her land. Local farmers say the problem started in March last year when several groups began quarrying sand from the dry riverbed and trucking it away for use in construction.
The activity has destroyed the collection of water feeding into 10 wells used by13 farms in this area, including Hawo’s. She fled to town after her farm was ruined. “Now I am a burden on a relative in Lasanod. Two of my children were at school where I was paying the fees. I used to earn $300 or more a month from the sale of my farm produce in the market every morning. I have nothing now,” she complained.
As well as farmers, dozens of pastoralists are also affected by the lack of water. Abdirahman Ali Jama used to water his herd of 130 goats and seven camels from the shallow wells near the river. When these dried up due to the quarrying he had to migrate to Dhuxun 20 km north of Lasanod. “The river water was free – it was there when we wanted it. Where I have moved to now water sells for $2 a barrel,” he said.
The coordinator of Somaliland’s ministry of environment and rural development in Sool region, Jama Mohamud Saji Salah, told Radio Ergo that it is illegal to remove soil from the river. “We issued warnings about 10 times but these people have not stopped. We will arrest and imprison for two years anyone found guilty of doing this from now,” he warned.
The ministry says it is planning to designate another area for quarrying where it will not affect farmers and herders. However, Radio Ergo’s local correspondent who visited the area said the removal of sand from the river was continuing unchecked.
Abdihakim Mohamed, one of those involved in the activity, said he was unaware that he was causing harm to the environment.
“We chose to collect the sand from here because it’s near to the town. Before we used to collect soil from a place eight km away. Now that there has been a complaint, we will leave and move to where we used to get it before,” he promised.