(ERGO) – Farah Haji Ali, a father of seven, was glad to reopen his business in Hobyo on 9 December after nine months closure due to the buildup of sand dunes on the road and piling up against the wall of his shop.
He had been considering moving away with his family from the coastal town in central Somalia’s Mudug region, until the sand was cleared by a local volunteer youth group, bring the town back to life.
“I was planning to relocate with my business and children to a different town. But when these youth stood up to clear the sand dunes, they restored our hopes. This is the main road that connects us to the port and also to Adado,” he said.
During the period of closure, Farah had to rely on money sent to him by relatives in Nairobi and Mogadishu and earnings from casual labour jobs he took at the port. A relative in Mogadishu had to help him out with the $35 monthly fees for his five children at Hobyo primary school.
Now he is back making a healthy profit of around $20 a day from the shop.
“There is a huge difference now. Before, even wheelbarrows couldn’t access the market, but now the vehicle brings the goods right to the shop doorstep. They charge a fair price now. Before the road was cleared of the sand, I had to carry the goods on my back from the bus stage to the shop,” he said.
Seventy businesses in Hobyo that had shut down because of the sand blockades have now reopened. Trucks transporting goods from Hobyo port as well as from Galkayo and Adado are now using the road.
Hassan Ali Mohamed, a father of five, who works for a local NGO in Hobyo, was full of praise for the efforts of the voluntary youth group in opening up the town once more.
“The problem the sand dunes created was that it forced us to use a longer route going to work or coming home from work,” he said.
The youth group leader, Muktar Abdullahi Ahmed, said they raised money from contributions by the locals and the group members to carry out the work. Lack of access to the town had made supplies expensive, with people paying $3.5 for a 200-litre barrel of water. Since the road was reopened, water has fallen to two dollars.
“The vehicles transporting water were having to sed a longer route four kilometres away, even though the water is sourced from a well just one kilometres from here. This caused water prices to increase but they are now a bit cheaper,” he said.
Accumulating sand dunes have been causing a major problem for the residents of Hobyo for some time, with sand blown in from the coast blocking or burying homes, schools, businesses, and roads. Some families have been forced to flee as the walls of their houses were buried in sand.