(ERGO) – When most pastoralists migrated away with their livestock to search for water and pasture, Lul Ahmed Wayrah, a divorced mother of eight, closed her small restaurant in Abaarey village in north-eastern Somalia’s Nugal region and followed her customers.
She left Abaarey on 10 November with five of her young children, following the migrating pastoralists to Booda-dheere in Puntland’s Haylan region. She opened a tea shop there, but after a short time the pastoralists migrated again with their livestock, leaving her stuck in the village without water or business.
“We are stuck in a deserted village which lacks water! I call my relatives in town and tell them about the situation we are in, and they send us small amounts of money – that is how we are surviving. It is tough here!” said Lul, who gets about two dollars from her relatives in Garowe every two days.
She left her three school-going children with a relative in Abaarey. The school warned her they will be sent home if she fails to pay $30 for the past two months’ fees, which she cannot afford.
Lul built a flimsy hut in Booda-dheere, which is terribly cramped for her and the children. She wants to go back home, but the bus fare would cost $150.
“I don’t know what to do now. I want to go back to my village, but at the same time I think of the money I paid to come here,” she said.
Lul is among 16 traders, mostly women, who followed the pastoralists and are now stranded in Booda-dheere. She said they had no option but to follow their only customers.
Another trader, Ureji Abdi Farah, a mother of five who left Hayanle village in Mudug, started a tea shop also selling milk in Booda-dheere. She left her children behind with relatives in Burtinle.
The biggest challenge facing Ureji’s tea shop is the lack of water. Many pastoralists gathering in the area have exhausted the rainwater in the ponds and lakes.
“There are days we get something and other days we leave here empty handed. The challenge we have is lack of shelter and water,” she said. A barrel (200 litres) of water costs six dollars.
She has stopped selling tea as she cannot afford to buy water and the customers are few. She now sells milk and makes three dollars a day that she sends to her children. She sleeps in the tea shop, paying a monthly rent of $20. She is worried she will be evicted as she has not saved money to pay the rent.
“You can understand it yourself, the impact – a mother who has left her children and lives in a rented house. The challenges are way too many,” she cried.
Ureji and the other traders were planning to set up temporary huts on the outskirts of the village, but Haylan regional administration ordered them into the town, where they were forced to rent houses, putting them in a difficult situation.
Haylan regional deputy commissioner, Fuad Mohamoud Muse, told Radio Ergo that they prevented the traders from settling in rural areas because the state law prohibits it.
“This region prioritises environmental protection and that is why we prevented them. We didn’t want them to establish new villages and IDP camps. There are some families we have helped by paying their rent,” he said.
Fuad said hundreds of traders who moved after the pastoralists are now stuck in Haylan region. He noted that the administration is paying the rent for 30 of these families stuck in the area.