Agriculture: Building Resilience
Agriculture is an important economic activity in Somalia not only in terms of meeting the food needs of the population but also in terms of generating income through crop sales and agricultural labor opportunities. With roughly 50% of population’s cereal requirements are met through domestic production, Agriculture is a major component particularly for two of the main rural livelihood systems in the Horn of Africa country: Agro-pastoralist, mix of agriculture and livestock production based livelihood and Agriculturalist, agriculture based livelihood.
Crop production performance and its potential is determined by the bi-modal rainfall. The two main agricultural seasons are: Gucrop production, from April to June and Deyr crop production is from October to December.
Two areas are considered high potential for crop production with rainfall ranging from 400mm to 600mm: a small area in the Northwest (west of Hargeisa) and a much larger inter-riverine area between the Shabelle and Juba river valleys.
There are four primary agricultural zones in Somalia:
- Northwest in parts of Awdal and W. Galbeed - rainfed maize and sorghum with some livestock herdings
- Coastal Cowpea Belt Zone in Central and Southern Somalia
- Shabelle and Juba Riverine Valleys - rainfed and irrigated maize, with sesame cash crops
- Sorghum Belt in Bay and Bakool Region - rainfed sorghum with livestock production.
Somalia’s Protracted Crisis
Two decades of conflict have created a situation of protracted and complex emergency, which has eroded livelihoods and led to increased vulnerability to food insecurity. In the midst of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, hunger and malnutrition are some of the major causes of suffering for significant sections of the population.
Due to on and off armed conflict, natural disasters, such as floods and drought, disease outbreaks and very limited access to basic services and humanitarian space, some Somali households increasingly face challenges to maintain a food secure and well-nourished household. As a result agriculture has suffered most. Poor rains in this semi-arid nation have also often contributed to poor harvests and significant cereal shortfalls.
Reduced access to quality health care, education services and poor childcare practices are direct results of the conflict. As a result, Somalia also has some of the world’s highest levels of malnutrition according to World Health Organization standards.
“Building Back Better”
FAO is a specialized technical agency that leads international efforts to defeat hunger by working towards the alleviation of poverty and strengthening of livelihoods and food security in Somalia.
FAO leads the emergency-oriented Agriculture and Livelihoods Cluster for Somalia. Currently, FAO is implementing 7 projects focusing on agricultural inputs distribution (include seeds/seedlings/planting materials, fertilizers, farm tools, metal silos), infrastructure rehabilitation (include irrigation schemes, water catchments and feeder roads) using cash for work and machinery approach and improved access to good quality seeds and planting materials.
FAO’s emergency interventions in Somalia aim at addressing immediate life saving measures and restoring productive capacities and assets in shortest timeframe possible. Also, in order to simultaneously bridge the gap between short-term responses and long-term needs, the interventions proposed by FAO are designed on specific livelihoods requirements and composed of providing immediate relief through social safety nets and restoring/improving productive capacities/assets through improved agric inputs and rehabilitation of agric productive infrastructure.
Specifically, FAO’s activities include mechanizing Somalia’s agriculture, rehabilitation of irrigation schemes, water catchments, feeder roads, promote seed production systems through enabling access to improved germplasm of commercial oriented crops to private seeds producers and through operationalization of a private sector owned and managed system of seed multiplication processing and marketing, farmer training in good agronomic practices among several other activities. Improved agricultural inputs including seeds, fertilizers and farm tools and metal silos are also distributed to Somali farmers.
FAO focuses on saving lives and assets in all its intervention is Somalia. FAO recovery and rehabilitation interventions, post- disaster or crisis, are based on the building back better principle. Building back better is to focus on ways to increase resilience to future hazards through longer-term interventions that facilitate the transition from relief to development.