The desert locust invasion in Somalia has affected the country’s food security, with successive generations of swarms destroying vital crops and pastures
Compounding the situation are floods, cyclones, droughts and the emerging socio-economic impact of coronavirus disease.
To provide the affected households immediate relief, as well as sustained access to nutritious food sources, and help them recover from economic shocks and withstand future crises, the FAO office in Somalia, under its “Desert locust crisis – Somalia Action Plan”, has implemented a project titled “Protecting lives and livelihoods impacted by Desert Locusts in rural Somalia”.
Funded by the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the project combines short-term cash transfer with livelihood inputs. The pastoral and agricultural households have received cash contribution to meet their most immediate needs, and get back into production.
In pastoral communities, the project primarily targeted women, youth, the elderly and others, who stay behind during migration and other socio-economic shifts, when men and boys move with most of the family’s herd for pasture, water or trade. Often, those who remain, are left with a few lactating goats as their main source of food. FAO provided each household with unconditional cash transfers for six months, to cover immediate household food needs, alongside two animal supplementary feed blocks, one milk container and dewormed the remaining lactating goats. Similarly, vulnerable agricultural households received seeds, fertilisers, three irrigation cycles and three months’ cash payment.
People living with disabilities and the elderly are often particularly vulnerable to disasters due to their reduced coping mechanisms in a crisis.
“We have no major income as a family, and I am disabled man who cannot provide for his family,” said Abdullahi Ali Abdirahman, a 56-year-old disabled man, who was among the cash and livestock beneficiaries in Galdogob district. “I usually receive US$50 from a well-wisher, but it was not sufficient since I have many children in school and no income,” he said.
Abdullahi reveals that the project allowed him to pay for the childrens’ education and provide them proper nutrition during the desert locust crisis and other economic shocks. “The six-month payment FAO gave us has had a huge impact on my family. The payment made it easy for me to pay their fees and even buy basic needs like food/medicines,” he added.
The ECHO-funded project enabled rural farmers and pastoralists to use the cash while waiting for their animal feed supplements and crop seeds to yield results.
Deeqa Diriye from Bul-Salah in Galdogob, a 75-year-old pastoralist, was one of the oldest beneficiaries of the project. She relies on her small herd of goats for income and milk. The desert locust invasion rendered their rangelands bare, leaving the goats weak and sick from ailments. “I rely on my livestock and so does my family. The cash payment FAO gave us allowed us to have a proper sustenance during the drought. The supplements we were given also improved our animals’ strength, enabling us to use their product like milk, which, as an old person, I rely on,” said Diriye.
The ECHO-funded project in Awudwaq, Galdogob, and Galkayo districts supported around 2 408 households like Abdullahi and Diriye. “These interventions were implemented with the recognition that some pastoral households were coming to the end of their own abilities to cope with droughts and floods, and now an invasion of swarms of locusts.” said Khalid Saeed, FAO livestock coordinator in Somalia.