(ERGO) – Nur Magan Mahdi, once a self-sufficient farmer, is now displaced and working as a porter in Bulobarde market, using a wheelbarrow rented at four dollars a month to ferry food to people’s houses, making about a dollar a day.
“I am not happy with this work!” he told Radio Ergo. “I am just doing it because I don’t have another source of income. If I could find someone to support me, I would like to go back to farming.”
Nur fled with his family of 11 to an internal displacement camp on 10 June, after his six hectare farm in Marayley village, three kilometres from Bulobarde in central Somalia’s Hiran region, failed due to lack of water.
Ironically, the full river Shabelle burst its banks, breaking the irrigation canal shored up with sandbags that led to his farm four kilometres from the river. The tomatoes, maize and beans he planted in January all shrivelled up.
“I was just a poor man providing for his family by farming. I had a generator that pumped water from the irrigation canal to my farm, but it was washed away by the floods. The canal was also destroyed by the floods so I decided to stop farming and move with my family to the town,” he said.
The large irrigation canal feeding Nur’s farm served many other farms as well, and had been in use since the time of Somalia’s central government. It had been repaired six times over the past few years by local farmers using their own funds.
However, the farmers were unable to repair the canal after the last flood damage because they had all been set back financially by losing their harvests to invasions of desert locusts and drought.
Nur used to make $1,000 from his harvests. He has a debt of $160 from the last planting season, which his pitiful earnings in town will hardly cover.
The deputy chairman of Bulobarde district farmers’ association, Nur Mohamed Kuuli, told Radio Ergo that 68 irrigation canals were damaged by floods in 2020. The association was able to repair only six of these canals on their own without any assistance.
The farmers’ association reports that nearly 700 farming families were forced to flee to Bulobarde town for survival because failed rains and the broken irrigation canals meant that they were not able to plant anything.
“The rain we received was little and those who planted crops were very few. So there won’t be much harvest this year,” he said.
Among the more fortunate farmers was Adan Abdulle Jimale, living in Mareegley, seven km from Bulobarde. He planted on a portion of land near the river owned by a farming relative, who repaired the irrigation canal and also assisted Adan with seeds to plant.
Adan is hoping to harvest beans and hay to repay the $950 debt he has incurred over the past three months. His family of 12 have been surviving on food taken on credit from a local shop.