FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO cash transfers a lifeline for rural Somali families during extreme drought


Garabis, Somaliland - At her family farm on the outskirts of Garabis, Deka Osman keeps a careful watch over one of her malnourished animals. She feeds it the few stalks that remain from previous season’s failed harvest to coax it back to health from drought related diseases.

The rains have largely failed in this area since as early as mid-2020. Deka’s family have been reduced to relying solely on savings and their animals for food, money and milk after the failed cropping seasons left farming fields dusty and bare. But the livestock are also now suffering from lack of pasture and water and also drought related diseases and putting more pressure on the whole family as they struggle to cope with the drought.

Deka says she is uncertain about whether their limited resources can continue to support their family through a drought that climate scientists say is the worst in 70 years. “The drought really hit us hard. It affected 90 percent of our livelihood and we do not know what will happen from here onwards,” she said.

The region has been hard hit by consecutive multiple disasters. Locust infestations, a global COVID19 pandemic and rising food, water and fuel prices have left Deka’s community disadvantaged when it comes to coping with such a historic climatic event.

However, with the support of FAO and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 210 vulnerable agro-pastoralist families in Garabis have been receiving direct and unconditional cash transfers to help cushion them against the impact of the drought as well as agricultural seeds and tools so that they can go back to planting as soon as the conditions improve.

“Thankfully, FAO’s cash support helped us get some of our immediate basic needs,” said Deka.

Cash transfers a lifeline for rural communities

As a part of FAO’s drought response, the Cash+ programme is helping to keep families and communities together during the drought emergency, reducing psychosocial and physical risks to the vulnerable, and paving the way for a faster, future recovery when conditions improve.

The funds are transferred via a secure mobile money system, with verification and accountability mechanisms and it gives vulnerable families immediate options to take care of their most urgent needs in the middle of the crisis.

In FAO’s approach, recipients are also provided with agricultural or livestock inputs such as seeds, tools and animal feed to bolster livelihoods as well as livelihood and nutrition training to enhance the food security, nutrition and income generation potential of vulnerable households.

“The cash transfers and agricultural inputs give families a chance, as they face crisis,” said Elizabeth Karung’o, FAO’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Officer.

“The cash assistance is efficient and immediate, and households that are struggling know they best way they can use it, either to purchase food, water or medicine, pay off a debt or to help a neighbour. It really goes a long way and has become a lifeline for drought affected communities,” she said.

Urgent action needed as drought emergency spirals

FAO is scaling up its emergency activities to respond to the drought emergency in Somaliland, yet the needs are fast outpacing the response. According to FAO’s Food Security and Analysis Unit, the number of people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance across Somaliland increased to 284,390 people between June and September 2022.

Since January, over 800,000 people have been displaced from their homes across Somalia in search of water, food, and pasture.

“We are ready to respond, and all the mechanisms are in place for rapid interventions at scale. We simply require the funding to assist more rural families with lifesaving and livelihood saving support,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO’s Representative in Somalia.

FAO Somalia requires USD 131.4 million to assist 882,000 people across 52 districts with immediate lifesaving and livelihood safeguarding support.

However, the funding required for the response has not yet materialized and FAO’s Drought Response Plan is just 30 percent funded as of June 2022.

Urgent action is needed to help more rural families like Dekas’, who are experiencing unprecedented challenges as the drought grips more and more vulnerable families, and famine looms on the horizon.