Changing Rangelands in Somalia, One Site at a Time

Published March 9, 2015 by Idil B. Ahmed

Looking into the vast barren lands of Puntland, Northern Somalia, I can’t help but be in awe of the beauty I witness, while at the same time devastated by the state of the environment. As heavy rains create rills and small streams that later develop into gullies, this also causes top soil and vegetation cover to be washed away. In turn, this environmental devastation interferes with the pastoral way of life.

To address some of these issues, Adeso, in coordination with CARE and Puntland’s Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism, established the “Your Environment is Your Life” project. The four-year project funded by the European Union seeks to reduce hunger and food insecurity, by improving rangeland conditions in Puntland.

For the past two years, the project team has been working across more than 100 sites in Puntland. One of these sites is located in Dhalin, Sanaag Region. Here, the team is working with communities to construct stone diversion structures, also known as rock dams, and to divert water using heavy machinery.

Both of these interventions aim to help minimize the creation of more gullies, which eventually destroy the environment. Community members, mostly pastoralists, have been enlisted in Cash for Work activities, that way, not only do they help restore their environment, but they also earn a living wage while doing so.

Abdullahi Ali Afi is a 54-year-old man who supports 15 children. He began working in Dhalin in October 2014, as a Cash for Work recipient.

“A lot has changed since we have started this work,” he says. “It’s unusual for us to see aid organizations around here, so for Adeso to come and want to change the environment has really been wonderful. As a pastoralist, these past few months have been tough because people are not buying livestock as much as they used to. Normally, I rely on the sale of my livestock for my family to live.” he says.

Through the Cash for Work, Abdullahi has been able to provide his family with food, clothes, and pay for his children’s school fees.

“Not only are we benefitting from the cash for work, but we are slowly seeing the change in the environment,” he adds. Abdullahi is happy with the help he has received, and the knowledge he has learned so far, which he can now use to protect the environment. “At this point, even after the project here is over I will continue to do this work because I am now realizing how vital these changes are for the environment,” he adds.

Faduma Guled a single mother, also took the time to discuss the importance of the work she is doing.

“I am so grateful to Adeso for coming here and helping our pastoral community.  Through the cash for work initiative I have been able to pay back loans and now I can send my daughter to school. The environment is slowly changing and I am proud to be part of that change. It is something that I can later tell my daughter about, as I had a hand in it,” she says.

This project will be running for another two years and, judging by the milestones achieved so far, many more people – and their environment – stand to benefit.