Mahamud Ismail Jama used to be able to support his family of 10 children from the income from his farm in Somaliland’s most northwesterly region of Awdal – but that was before the plagues of desert locusts wreaked havoc.
His four-hectares in Tuurka, 70 km north of Lughaya town, have not yielded any harvest for almost a year. Locusts, the current scourge of thousands of Somali farmers and pastoralists, devoured all the tomatoes, peppers, capsicum and other vegetables he painstakingly planted over three consecutive seasons.
“We were meeting all our costs, including our children’s education, from farm income, but the locusts have left us with nothing. We’ve never seen anything like this! We’ve been reduced to being idlers,” Mahamud told Radio Ergo.
Local NGO, Taakulo, came to Mahamud’s rescue with a monthly cash grant of $75. The money, given to 1,409 families worst hit by the locusts in Lughaya district, is enough at least to buy basic food items like flour, rice, sugar and cooking oil.
Mahamud spends 15 days a month like the other cash recipients digging and maintaining trenches around his own farm to prevent the newly hatched locusts from crawling onto the land and eating the remaining vegetation.
He had to release the three farm workers he used to hire. The entire farming sector has been set back by the devastating locust invasions.
“A lot of people who depended on farm production have lost out, including the farmers, those transporting the crops to Hargeisa, those selling them, and even those consuming the food. Their income and my income have all been affected,” he rued.
Taakulo’s food security programme manager, Abdiaziz Abdirahman Bakaal, said the cash payments are targeting families in 10 villages, hoping to help them to stay in the district instead of migrating and becoming IDPs elsewhere.
The recipients, both farmers and pastoralist, were selected based on the number of children they have, the age of the parents, and whether it is a single parent or female-led household.
“When the locusts destroyed grazing lands, many pastoralist families were displaced to the town area. The money assists the displaced pastoralist families to survive in the short term. Similarly, the locusts destroyed many farms in the area and have made life difficult for many farming families,” he explained.
Ahmed Yusuf Bulaale, a pastoralist with six children living in Kalowle area, told Radio Ergo that he had sent his livestock towards Borama town due to lack of grazing in Lughaya. None of his animals was in good enough condition to sell. After a month depending on people in town, he
started receiving the $75 monthly cash support in June. But he is worried about how his family will manage when the cash stops in November.
“When disaster hits, you wonder how you will manage to feed the family and the animals at the same time. We hope Allah will bestow his mercy on us,” Ahmed said.
The cash programme is delivered under the Somaliland Development Fund, which supports the government by funding projects to fill critical gaps.