Mohamed Ali Hudow, 43 years old farmer, and father of eight children (3 girls & 5 boys). Mohamed and his family live in Ismodnoy village in the outskirts of Baidoa town in Bay Region.

Mohamed Ali Hudow is one of the displacement and disaster-affected communities in Ismodnoy village. He farms a plot of land in a seasonal rainfed area at this village in the outskirts of Baidoa town in the Bay Region. Farming was his most significant income source, and during the good times, he could provide for his family, but this was affected by the recent drought in Somalia. The drought severely devastated all his crops, causing a considerable loss and decrease to expected yields, which eventually decreased his income. It became difficult for him to continue his farming activities without any support.

“I tried everything possible to re-establish myself and continue my farming activities, but it was no easy task. Attaining all the necessary farming inputs was my biggest challenge,” says Mohamed, standing next to the tractor that prepared his farming land. “Everything was perfect before the drought. I was able to maintain my family’s basic needs. Suddenly, everything changed. The drought came and destroyed all my crops.” he adds.

Mohamed is one of the beneficiaries of the SHF-funded livelihoods project, of which NRC is providing life-saving assistance to the disaster-affected communities in Baidoa, including three rounds of Multipurpose cash transfers to the most vulnerable communities, land preparation, cereal crops and vegetable seeds to displacement affected communities living in the off-camp areas.

Mohamed says, “I needed my land to be prepared, but I couldn’t able to hire a tractor for such hours required to prepare my land. I was not even able to provide for my family of eight. This was the kind of support I wanted to re-start my farming activities. Now my farm is ploughed and cleared. I can plant the seeds and continue my farming activities.”

In this project, NRC is not only supporting farmers but also providing opportunities to the many tractor drivers to also contribute to their families.


Photo: Abdulkadir/NRC.
Somalia

How an agro-cooperative of Somali farmers became climate-ready

In Somalia, drought is an all too frequent occurrence. As a result, nearly 6.3 million people are acutely “food insecure” – meaning they are at risk of extreme hunger.

Drought and other extreme weather events are killing off crops and livestock – and threatening the lives of the people who depend on them. Drought also diminishes people’s incomes, making it harder for them to find ways to support themselves and their families.


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Bonkai village in the Bay region of Somalia is one of the areas facing these challenges.

“The severity of the droughts present challenges beyond our traditional coping capacity,” says area chief, Osman Hassan Jibril.

“Women and children suffer the most as they travel great distances to fetch water and carry it on their heads. Season after season we cultivate farms but come back home empty handed due to failed rains. Our [goats and sheep] also die. The few that remain lack food and become weak and unproductive.”

Farmers get organised

But the local farmers had a plan.

In 2013, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), through the Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS) Consortium, helped farmers to set up an agro-cooperative across four villages – Bonkai, Ismodnoy, Lambule, and Waranle. This gave them more purchasing power, peer support, and access to in-house loans, meaning that the farmers had more control over their futures.

In 2020, the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) generously supported BRCiS and the local cooperative of farmers, enabling them to reach their goal.

Together they designed an integrated agricultural and water project. Through farming technique training and NRC’s help in constructing an earthfill dam that provides easy access to water, the Bonkai community and nearby villages are becoming climate-ready.  

Learning sustainable farming techniques

Through a series of “Good Agricultural Practices” trainings held by BRCiS, farmers learned sustainable and climate-smart methods: a welcome addition to their traditional farming techniques. They also received certified drought-resistant seeds for crops like legumes and sorghum. These provide essential nutrients for the local population.

Now, trained farmers are using homemade pesticides and manure, which conserve the environment and are available anywhere at low cost
Osman Hassan Jibril

Jibril says: “Before the training, farmers used pesticides to control pests and inorganic fertilisers to stock up soil nutrients. But now trained farmers are using homemade pesticides and manure, which conserve the environment and are available anywhere at low cost.”

Despite improved agricultural practices, however, water access remained an issue.

With the funding support from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), NRC through BRCiS constructed an earth dam for the local community in Bonkai village, Bay region. When BRCiS first started working in Bonkai, this is what Osman Hassan Jibril, the area chief said about drought, the most significant challenge that his community was facing.

“The severity of the droughts present challenges beyond our traditional coping capacity. Our women and children suffer the most as they have to travel over 12 kilometres, to fetch water and carry it on their heads. Our crop fields are not spared. Season after season we cultivate farms but come back home empty handed due to failed rains. Our animals also die and the few that remain lack feeding and become weak and unproductive”. Bonkai village is situated, 12 kilometers North East of Baidoa town and is home to over 1,200 people. It has other satellite villages: Lanbule, Salbuuy and Ismodnow which collectively have over 1,500 inhabitants. It is part of the agro-pastoral livelihood zone. It has been supported by BRCiS since 2013.

The community designed an integrated agriculture and water project that would help them become more resilient to drought, by improving their farming techniques and inputs as well as enhancing their access to water.
Farmers organized themselves in agro cooperatives which benefited from training on sustainable and climate smart agriculture practices: crop rotation (alternating cereals with legumes), crop spacing, use of manure and compost, etc. In addition, the farmers received certified drought resistant seeds for crops such as Sorghum and Maize, as well as legumes (green grams and cowpea belt) and groundnut crops.

Osman said “Before the training, farmers used pesticides to control pests and inorganic fertilizers to stock up soil nutrients but now trained farmers are using homemade pesticides and manure which conserve the environment, available anywhere and at low cost”. He then boasted, “In the last Deyr’ season, farmers produced a vast amount of harvest that made them champions in the season since they planted certified seeds and used improved cropping techniques that enhanced their yields through adapting to new practices which they learned in Good Agricultural Practices training”.
Within the agro–cooperatives, small farmers now have purchasing power, peer support and in-house loans. They used to produce less than 80kg of sorghum in a normal season and their yield has now increased up to 150kg per acre.

However, and in spite of improved agricultural practices the water access remained an issue to ensure that local livelihoods were more climate resilient. BRCiS identified the dam as a solution that would enhance both absorptive and adaptive capacities of communities by lessening work load on women and children fetching water, meeting community water need holistically in the face of competing uses (domestic, crop and livestock) and introducing cost effective, climate sensitive and efficient water harvesting and utilization systems. The dam was completed in October 2020. Its full capacity is 25,539.20 m3. It filled in the last season and will benefit 400 households in the Bonkai community just outside Baidoa town. The project also installed solar powered submersible pump and distribution pipelines which pump water into 50m3 tanks.

The completed earth dam was officially handed over to relevant ministries and the local community at a handover ceremony attended by the Southwest State Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mustaf Ahmed Idow, the Minister of Energy and Water Resources, the governor of Bay Region and NRC Somalia’s country director, Mohmed Abdi.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Minister Mustafe thanked NRC for the construction of the earth dam and FCDO for the funding support. He also highlighted the need to maintain the dam. “It is important to take care of this dam and the surrounding environment and to tackle the environmental issues that are frequently recurring” he said.

Text: Abdulkadir & Nhamo/NRC
Photo: Abdulkadir/NRC
Read caption An aerial view of the NRC-constructed earthfill dam in Bonkai village, in the Bay region of Somalia. Photo: Abdulkadir Mohamed/NRC

Earthfill dam brings water closer to home

Local livelihoods in regions fraught with drought are at constant risk, especially as climate shocks become more severe. BRCiS and local communities decided the most durable solution would be an earthfill dam, conveniently situated for easy access to water. NRC teamed up with them to build it.

“Before the construction of the earthfill dam, my family didn’t have access to water,” says Habiba Abdi Issack, who lives with her seven children in Bonkai village.

“We had no other option but to walk long distances every day, sometimes 12 km to collect water. But now everything is good, and our life is getting much better. We have water close to our houses. I can spend the extra time I save with my children to take care of them.”

Habiba and her family are one of 400 households – around 2,400 people in total – who have benefitted from the dam’s installation. Since its completion in October 2020, it has already greatly improved people’s lives.

With the funding support from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), NRC through BRCiS constructed an earth dam for the local community in Bonkai village, Bay region. When BRCiS first started working in Bonkai, this is what Osman Hassan Jibril, the area chief said about drought, the most significant challenge that his community was facing.

“The severity of the droughts present challenges beyond our traditional coping capacity. Our women and children suffer the most as they have to travel over 12 kilometres, to fetch water and carry it on their heads. Our crop fields are not spared. Season after season we cultivate farms but come back home empty handed due to failed rains. Our animals also die and the few that remain lack feeding and become weak and unproductive”. Bonkai village is situated, 12 kilometers North East of Baidoa town and is home to over 1,200 people. It has other satellite villages: Lanbule, Salbuuy and Ismodnow which collectively have over 1,500 inhabitants. It is part of the agro-pastoral livelihood zone. It has been supported by BRCiS since 2013.

The community designed an integrated agriculture and water project that would help them become more resilient to drought, by improving their farming techniques and inputs as well as enhancing their access to water.
Farmers organized themselves in agro cooperatives which benefited from training on sustainable and climate smart agriculture practices: crop rotation (alternating cereals with legumes), crop spacing, use of manure and compost, etc. In addition, the farmers received certified drought resistant seeds for crops such as Sorghum and Maize, as well as legumes (green grams and cowpea belt) and groundnut crops.

Osman said “Before the training, farmers used pesticides to control pests and inorganic fertilizers to stock up soil nutrients but now trained farmers are using homemade pesticides and manure which conserve the environment, available anywhere and at low cost”. He then boasted, “In the last Deyr’ season, farmers produced a vast amount of harvest that made them champions in the season since they planted certified seeds and used improved cropping techniques that enhanced their yields through adapting to new practices which they learned in Good Agricultural Practices training”.
Within the agro–cooperatives, small farmers now have purchasing power, peer support and in-house loans. They used to produce less than 80kg of sorghum in a normal season and their yield has now increased up to 150kg per acre.

However, and in spite of improved agricultural practices the water access remained an issue to ensure that local livelihoods were more climate resilient. BRCiS identified the dam as a solution that would enhance both absorptive and adaptive capacities of communities by lessening work load on women and children fetching water, meeting community water need holistically in the face of competing uses (domestic, crop and livestock) and introducing cost effective, climate sensitive and efficient water harvesting and utilization systems. The dam was completed in October 2020. Its full capacity is 25,539.20 m3. It filled in the last season and will benefit 400 households in the Bonkai community just outside Baidoa town. The project also installed solar powered submersible pump and distribution pipelines which pump water into 50m3 tanks.

The completed earth dam was officially handed over to relevant ministries and the local community at a handover ceremony attended by the Southwest State Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mustaf Ahmed Idow, the Minister of Energy and Water Resources, the governor of Bay Region and NRC Somalia’s country director, Mohmed Abdi.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Minister Mustafe thanked NRC for the construction of the earth dam and FCDO for the funding support. He also highlighted the need to maintain the dam. “It is important to take care of this dam and the surrounding environment and to tackle the environmental issues that are frequently recurring” he said.

Text: Abdulkadir & Nhamo/NRC
Photo: Abdulkadir/NRC
Read caption Kassim Adam, a field office coordinator with NRC, gives a short briefing about the earthfill dam. Photo: Abdulkadir Mohamed/NRC

Boosting productivity

“As agro-cooperatives, we also use the water from the earthfill dam to irrigate our farms,” explains farmer and father of five, Ibrahim Salad. “We can now grow various crops like tomatoes, onions, spices, sorghum, cowpeas, and maize.”

The earthfill dam has boosted our productivity, and we are in a much better position than last season
Ibrahim Salad

“The earthfill dam has boosted our productivity,” continues Salad, “and we are in a much better position than last season. We produced a huge amount of harvest. We are ambitious to increase what we produce so we can sell surplus produce in Baidoa and the surrounding areas. My family’s purchasing power has increased, and now I can meet all the basic needs of my family.”

By meeting its water needs in a holistic way, the community has succeeded in creating a cost-effective and climate-sensitive system, ensuring everyone has what they need. And in the face of competing uses of water – domestic, crops, and livestock – residents now have a reliable source.

With the funding support from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), NRC through BRCiS constructed an earth dam for the local community in Bonkai village, Bay region. When BRCiS first started working in Bonkai, this is what Osman Hassan Jibril, the area chief said about drought, the most significant challenge that his community was facing.

“The severity of the droughts present challenges beyond our traditional coping capacity. Our women and children suffer the most as they have to travel over 12 kilometres, to fetch water and carry it on their heads. Our crop fields are not spared. Season after season we cultivate farms but come back home empty handed due to failed rains. Our animals also die and the few that remain lack feeding and become weak and unproductive”. Bonkai village is situated, 12 kilometers North East of Baidoa town and is home to over 1,200 people. It has other satellite villages: Lanbule, Salbuuy and Ismodnow which collectively have over 1,500 inhabitants. It is part of the agro-pastoral livelihood zone. It has been supported by BRCiS since 2013.

The community designed an integrated agriculture and water project that would help them become more resilient to drought, by improving their farming techniques and inputs as well as enhancing their access to water.
Farmers organized themselves in agro cooperatives which benefited from training on sustainable and climate smart agriculture practices: crop rotation (alternating cereals with legumes), crop spacing, use of manure and compost, etc. In addition, the farmers received certified drought resistant seeds for crops such as Sorghum and Maize, as well as legumes (green grams and cowpea belt) and groundnut crops.

Osman said “Before the training, farmers used pesticides to control pests and inorganic fertilizers to stock up soil nutrients but now trained farmers are using homemade pesticides and manure which conserve the environment, available anywhere and at low cost”. He then boasted, “In the last Deyr’ season, farmers produced a vast amount of harvest that made them champions in the season since they planted certified seeds and used improved cropping techniques that enhanced their yields through adapting to new practices which they learned in Good Agricultural Practices training”.
Within the agro–cooperatives, small farmers now have purchasing power, peer support and in-house loans. They used to produce less than 80kg of sorghum in a normal season and their yield has now increased up to 150kg per acre.

However, and in spite of improved agricultural practices the water access remained an issue to ensure that local livelihoods were more climate resilient. BRCiS identified the dam as a solution that would enhance both absorptive and adaptive capacities of communities by lessening work load on women and children fetching water, meeting community water need holistically in the face of competing uses (domestic, crop and livestock) and introducing cost effective, climate sensitive and efficient water harvesting and utilization systems. The dam was completed in October 2020. Its full capacity is 25,539.20 m3. It filled in the last season and will benefit 400 households in the Bonkai community just outside Baidoa town. The project also installed solar powered submersible pump and distribution pipelines which pump water into 50m3 tanks.

The completed earth dam was officially handed over to relevant ministries and the local community at a handover ceremony attended by the Southwest State Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mustaf Ahmed Idow, the Minister of Energy and Water Resources, the governor of Bay Region and NRC Somalia’s country director, Mohmed Abdi.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Minister Mustafe thanked NRC for the construction of the earth dam and FCDO for the funding support. He also highlighted the need to maintain the dam. “It is important to take care of this dam and the surrounding environment and to tackle the environmental issues that are frequently recurring” he said.

Text: Abdulkadir & Nhamo/NRC
Photo: Abdulkadir/NRC
Read caption Handover ceremony of the NRC-constructed earthfill dam in Bonkai village. Photo: Abdulkadir Mohamed/NRC

Into the hands of the community

When the earthfill dam was completed, it was officially handed over to ministries and local community members.

Minister Idow, the South-West State Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, attended the handover ceremony and highlighted the need to maintain the dam.

“It is important to take care of this dam and the surrounding environment and to tackle the environmental issues that are frequently recurring,” he said. Minister Idow thanked the FCDO for their continued support of these important efforts, and NRC for their valuable contribution in building the dam.

About the BRCiS Consortium

The Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS) Consortium was created in late 2013. It was founded by a small group of people who had been working in Somalia in 2011 and had seen the famine unfolding before their eyes. The famine took a huge number of lives and pushed Somalis to the limit in their struggle for survival amid one of the world’s longest and deepest crises.

Somalia and the international community had clearly been caught off-guard. As a result, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, one of the country’s main humanitarian donors, decided that they would change the way they funded aid in Somalia. They committed to multi-year, flexible interventions, supporting the capacity to adapt to change and reduce risks. Thus, the BRCiS story began.

Eight years of resilience building in Somalia has taken the BRCiS Consortium on a rich learning journey. The BRCiS approach is based on the principle that resilience programmes must be informed by the people they are designed to serve. We aim to stand by communities during periods of hardship and offer a certain degree of protection, while promoting self-reliance and dignity.

This inclusive approach has led to impactful and sustainable programmes with a high level of community acceptance, that address local challenges and deep-rooted vulnerabilities.

Read more about our work in Somalia