Restoring farmers' hope through soil conservation
Somaliland has 10 agro-ecological zones, and most of them are arid or desert with limited potential for agricultural production. Nonetheless an estimated 350,000 hectares of land is still considered to be suitable for cropping. This land is mostly located in the northwestern plateau areas of Awdal, Gabiley, and Maroodijeh. Jaarahorato village in the northern Awdal region, is in area suitable for cropping but has suffered unprecedented soil and water degradation, badly affecting livelihoods and increasing the risk to food security.
To improve agricultural production and thus the livelihoods of communities in the Awdal region, the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) is implementing the Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP) with funds from the Somaliland Development Fund. Dilla and Jaarahorato are villages in the Durdur Ad Catchment area that have benefitted from soil and water conservation measures. Specificallyconstructing 1,004,060 metres of large soil bunds in farmable areas to arrest soil erosion. Additionally, the project has introduced new farming techniques, high-quality seeds, and provided extension services.
Abdinasir Mohamed, 38, who follows in his father's footsteps is one of hundreds whose farms have benefited from soil bunds. He believes his land is now productive and worth investing in. He is currently in the farming season and anticipates harvesting cereals in September 2023. His farm also grows tomatoes, onions, salad greens, and other crops.
"In our village, soil erosion has been a major issue. Over time, deep gullies formed around my farm, which took away most of the soil resulting in frustrations during farming seasons. We have been planting the same seeds with the same techniques over and over again, which has affected our yields. Some of the residents gave up farming and relocated" says Abdinasir Mohamed.
Abdinasir has also established two vegetable kiosks in Dila and Jaarahorato, from which he sells cash crops and cereals as they become available. He also intends to open another one in Borama.
Abdinasir has already begun to diversify his income sources and buy and sell livestock to nearby villages with the profit he makes from his farm products. He also has a storage facility on his farm to store surplus corn and maize for use during droughts and to mitigate the impact of climate change on his household income.
"Our land was less productive and barren; we only survived on corn because it produced the highest yields. However, because of MoAD's soil bunds, we have significant water retention in our farms. In addition, new farming techniques and seeds were introduced. We also received support with tractor ploughing which enabled us to immediately plant new crops such as beans, sesame, maize, corn, and cash crop."
Ibrahim Qasim, 45, is another farmer whose farm benefited from soil bunds constructed in Dilla. "The rains came a bit earlier this season, but I am prepared as the farm is already ploughed, the soil bunds are in place, and I expect them to retain water. I have planted more land this time," says Ibrahim on his farm during a rainy day.
Farmers in Dilla and Jaarahorato are well prepared for the rainy season, despite the fact that it arrived earlier than expected. They have maximized SDF support through the MoAD project, including the provision of quality seeds and tractor hour assistance, and most importantly, they are optimistic that the soil bunds will retain water for their farms and help prevent soil erosion.