(ERGO) – Dozens of men whose families fear losing their livestock to drought in southern Somalia have been moving to find work in salt mines in Gedo region, in a bid to keep their families and livelihoods going.
Hassan Ali Sheikh, 27, came to Usbo, 40 km north of Luq town, in July after losing 144 goats and 12 camels in Washaqo in neighbouring Bakool region.
“I came to Usbo looking for a job to save my remaining livestock and the family. I got a job mining salt and I live off some of the little I make here and send the rest to the family to buy water and food,” he said.
His family of 13 moved with their remaining 134 goats and 29 camels to a rural part of Hudur district, where a little rainfall fell in October.
“We used to sell the camels and goats to buy food and other items we needed. But now, no one is buying the animals, and to make it worse we still have to feed them,” he said.
Hassan is among 50 young men aged between 17 and 35, who have recently moved to find work in Usbo’s salt mines because their pastoralist families in Bakool and other parts of Gedo are struggling due the drought.
He earns a daily wage of between two to four dollars, working across 69 salt pools, depending on the sales his employer makes that day from salt. The market has not been good as the drought has affected everyone’s purchasing power and sales of salt are also down.
“Because of the drought the market is slowing, and people are not buying salt as they used to anymore,” Hassan complained.
Abdi Jama Dalab, 31, came to work in the salt mines in August. His family used to sell two or three goats every month from their herd of 200 to buy food and other necessities. But now the goats are all thin and sick and have no market value at all. His family of nine living in Warmo-Liibaan village, 18 km north of Luq, were struggling to eat even one meal a day until Abdi started this job.
“I took up this job to save the livestock and the family. I get in touch with a man in Luq town and send him money to buy food for the family and take it there by motorbike,” said Abdi.
Most of the 1,200 families who are resident in Usbo live off salt mining. There are no pastoralists left in the village.
Ahmed Ali, 63, was able to expand with the welcome influx of labour. His employee dug 19 extra pools for him in October, making 61 salt pools that Ahmed can now mine. The local residents usually work on their own salt production and do not work for other people.
Ahmed’s production has increased from one to four sacks of salt a day with the help of his pastoralist worker.
“I give him one bag of salt so he can sell it to traders coming here to buy salt, and then he sends the money to his family. The young boy works hard separating the clean salt from the dirt,” Ahmed said.