Revitalizing Somalia’s food markets
Farmers brace for bigger markets in EU funded initiative
Mogadishu, Somalia - With Somalia’s cooperatives farming, food marketing and distribution networks disrupted over the last 22 years, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has partnered with the World Food Program (WFP) to reactivate the local food economy dominated by imports.
Agricultural communities especially in southern-central Somalia – the country’s grain basket – have, over the years, been severely affected by the recurrent drought, which has resulted in widespread failure of crops and poor yields. On-and-off conflict has also made matters worse.
However, according to FAO data, the number of people in crisis in Somalia is at its lowest since famine was declared in Somalia in 2011, thanks to successive seasons of average to above average rainfall, low food prices and sustained agricultural assistance to Somali farmers. Somali producers meet an average of 40 percent of domestic food demands.
“For the last few years, FAO has dedicated massive resources towards helping farmers access water, improved seeds and tools. In addition, we are now preparing farmers to increase the quality of their products, while helping them to access markets for their produce,” said Jose Lopez, FAO’s head of the Agriculture sector.
Post harvest management and grading
One of the key practices Somali farmers are being trained in, under the European Union funded initiative, is post harvest management and grading. It is an important practice for Somali producers in preparing the crop for the market. FAO experts are training farmers in how to handle harvests in order to limit losses by keeping the grain free of contamination and pests. Farmers also learned how to grade their grain all aimed at increasing the quality of their produce.
“It is quite a good practice for producers to understand the quality of production through testing and grading before selling as it gives the producer an indication of the worth of crop projected income,” said Eng. Mohamed Ahmed Nur, the Secretary General of Somalia’s National Agriculture Association of Cooperatives (NAAC).
FAO also distributed testing and grading equipment for the technical staff from farmer cooperatives to ensure that farmers meet the East African cereal standards, now well understood by the members of the cooperatives.
Local markets and beyond
A series of meetings between cooperatives and trader association representatives, under the auspices of the Somali Federal government in Mogadishu and Dolow, facilitated by FAO have, for the first time, culminated into formation of the National Technical Committee of Somali Farmer Cooperatives and Traders. This group is comprised of representatives from both parties, trusted to negotiate on production and trade related issues. In the northeastern agricultural regions of Borama and Gabiley, farmer-buyer meetings have facilitated by FAO and Farmer Concern International.
This technical committee is acting as a platform to pilot the production of 200 metric tons of maize with the aim that WFP, one of the world’s biggest food purchasers, will buy some of the produce for its food aid needs in Somalia. This initiative also serves as an attempt to re-build beneficial collaborations between producers and Somali buyers, who are both essential for the development of a strong crop sector in Somalia.