Aerial view showing the destruction of Cyclone Gati caused in Hafun town, Somalia. ©FAO

Fishing town restored after Somalia’s most ‘fearsome’ storm

19/05/2021

Coastal communities in Hafun recover from the aftermath of Cyclone Gati  

In November 2020, Cyclone Gati – the strongest storm in recorded history – hit Somalia. With winds measured up to 115 miles per hour, the cyclone caused extensive destruction in places such as Hafun town. Sparing only 20 homes, Cyclone Gati destroyed nearly 500 houses in the community, displaced thousands and killed eight people. The storm completely disrupted livelihoods, destroying fishing equipment, killing livestock and ruining crops. In an effort to restore people’s livelihoods, an emergency fishing distribution took place with generous funding from the United States Agency for International Development. Many people, like Said Awale Yusuf, a fisherman from the town, did not anticipate such an enormous storm would wipe out everything including his home, boat, and fishing equipment.  

“As a routine, I set up everything and stored my boat for the next day’s fishing trip. But it started raining and in two hours, it changed into a fearsome storm. Everything was so intense that we thought we would not make it. The rain was something we never witnessed before and it was a relief when my family made it, despite losing our home,” describes Awale.

Fixing the fishing town is vital for food sources

Hafun town is a coastal community where most of the population depends on fishing for their livelihoods, food security and income. Fisherfolk are the backbone of this town’s economy and when the storm hit, everything came to a standstill. 

Hashim Yousef Ahmed, a businessman in Hafun who buys and sells fish also lost everything. 

“I gave money in advance for fish, but the storm came before the fisherman could set sea and then we both lost everything,” Hashim says, “I have to forget about the money he owes me because he can’t even provide for his family after the storm.” 

 

In February 2021, boats still scattered the beaches from the destruction of Cyclone Gati. ©FAO.

 

To restore the once vibrant fishing community, FAO distributed fishing kits and boat equipment to reach 780 households in Hafun following the storm’s aftermath in February 2021. FAO’s project Coastal Communities Against Piracy (CCAP), generously funded by the European Union, also distributed 15 boat engines to get fisherfolk back into the sea to restart their livelihoods. 

With support from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Puntland, FAO was able to identify the most vulnerable households to receive the 15 boat engines, which are shared between small groups helping some 60 fisherfolk, including fisherman Awale.

 

In February 2021, FAO distributed fishing supplies including engines to get boats running again. ©FAO.

Recovery after the shock of the storm

“As these communities rely on fishing activities, protecting and restoring their livelihoods through input distribution and cash assistance remains a major step towards achieving their food security directly and indirectly,” says Misael Osano, Fisheries Assistant, FAO in Somalia.

Through FAO’s cash+ integrated programme, beneficiaries also received immediate financial relief through ‘mobile money’ in addition to fishing equipment and training. An estimated 800 beneficiaries in Bossaso and Iskushban districts in Bari region are to receive three monthly installments of cash assistance with the first cash disbursement already made to 783 beneficiaries. 

Due to FAO’s emergency intervention, Awale and fisherfolk in Hafun are slowly recovering from the shock of the storm. “For now, the goal is to work on a step-by-step recovery, rebuild my house and eventually have my own boat with its own onboard engine,” he says.

In addition to providing emergency support, FAO is working to rebuild and rehabilitate the once thriving fishing sector in Puntland for the long term. Plans are targeted to reach fishing households with additional equipment, cash and training to strengthen their livelihoods after surviving the strongest storm in Somalia’s history.