(ERGO) – Ahmed Abdi Idris is glad to be providing for his family on an $80 monthly salary from a job nurturing tree seedlings at a centre established in Jigjiga by the Somali regional government of Ethiopia.
“Before I landed this job, I was homeless and slept on the streets. But now I’ve brought my family here and rented them a house. I can afford to feed and clothe my family now,” he said.
After losing his 30 goats and four cows to drought in a rural part of Fafan zone, Ahmed left his family with his brother, who also lost 20 of his 60 goats to drought, and went to Jigjiga to look for work. He spent many months of despair on the streets of the city before being hired in May.
Now renting a two-roomed house for $25 a month and with five of his nine children enrolled at a public primary school, Ahmed feels satisfied.
He is among 272 drought-affected farmers and pastoralists hired at the centre after training by the Office of Environmental Protection and Climate Change.
Ali Hassan Bade, who was displaced with his family of 11 by conflict between Oromo and Somali communities in Fafan in 2017, lost his four cows and one hectare farm. He is the centre’s watchman, keeping animals away from the tree seedlings.
His monthly salary of $80 is far better than the $5 a day casual work he used to get mixing cement for construction. He built the family a hut on land given to him by his uncle and is now self-sufficient.
“With my earlier job, I used to return home empty handed some days. But today, I count on a monthly salary and I can afford to pay my family’s bills without any problem,” he said.
The tree nursery initiative is part of plans to prevent disasters caused by climate change such as drought, soil erosion and poor rains.
Mohamed Bule Samatar, head of indigenous trees protection at the Office of Environmental Protection and Climate Change, said the centre has prepared 500,000 seedlings for distribution and planting across the Somali region. More will be grown later this year.
“In our country and the region, climate change has resulted in poor rains, soil erosion and changes in quality of organic foods. One way of averting this is planting trees to return vegetation to the land,” he said.
The office collaborates with regional administrations, local governments and the community.
“We use three different types of soil which are black soil, farm soil and cow dung in packaging the seedlings,” he said.“ Our aim is to produce as many seedlings as possible so that even those in villages can get them. We want our people to understand the importance of planting trees.”
They are supplied with seeds and fertilizer by the Ethiopian government’s forest and climate change committee. This project is part of a mass tree planting initiative aiming to plant five billion trees in Ethiopia by the end of 2021, with the Somali Region planning to plant 10 million trees.