La resiliencia
©FAO/Arete/Abdulkadir Zubeyr

Building a bridge to peace and resilience in Somalia


FAO rehabilitates canals and crossings to help farmers in southern Somalia overcome water shortages and access markets.

Fadumo Bashir is a farmer in Buufow, Marka district in southern Somalia. For the last 12 years that she has been tending to her farm, Fadumo, a mother of six, has been struggling with access to water to irrigate her farm, post-harvest logistics and other challenges that many other farmers in her area have also faced. For a district prone to shocks, among them, insecurity and drought, having a proper harvest has always been a tall order for Fadumo. As a single parent, she must juggle domestic chores and tilling her land, a situation she says “is another obstacle” to harvesting enough food for her family.

Now, thanks to FAO with funding from the European Union, Fadumo and her neighbours have been able to strengthen their household food security through the Pro-resilience Action (ProAct) project. Through local implementing partners, FAO was able to provide agropastoralists in the region with irrigation services, training in good agricultural practices, and better access to markets through the rehabilitation of bridges and walkways across the many waterways in the region. 

“We always used to wait for rains. That was the only way we could water our farms. But now, with the construction of the canals, we have enough water diverted to our farms,” said Fadumo. And of course, if we want to transport our produce, vehicles can now access all our farmlands thanks to the good work FAO and the European Union have done for us,” she added.

Many farmers in Marka district, just like Fadumo, rely on rainwater for farming as they do not have a means to irrigate their crops using water from the nearby Shabelle River. This limited the types and quantities of crops that they could produce. Drought and floods, non functioning irrigation infrastructure, widespread insecurity and access also often created unsurmountable challenges that impeded farmers’ production, crippling supply chains and the area’s overall market potential. With no means to irrigate their farms, they were often forced to abandon farming during dry seasons and return when the rain came. “We had the river, but we had no means and resources to tap its water for irrigation before FAO built the canals for us,” said Fadumo.

To help farmers like Fadumo, FAO, through the ProAct programme, generously funded by the European Union, built canals, footbridges, animal and people crossings, and culverts in Marka town and its outskirts, an area with a sizeable population. The project consolidated FAO and the European Union’s previous projects, which were aimed at enhancing livelihoods, resilience and economic development. ProAct, in particular, addressed crop production, productivity and water issues, primarily water access, management and its productive uses in Lower Shabelle. To reach its goal, the project enhanced the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation’s capacity in playing a strong coordinating and regulatory role as well as strengthening public and private institutions. To manage the canals and promote year-round production, FAO conducted technical training on water management, public asset management and conflict management of water resources for Ministry officials who, in turn, trained five irrigation management committees selected to manage the canals.

Gedow Arabow, a 68-year-old farmer from Shalanbood is among the beneficiaries of the programme. He owns a small farm which was not able to produce more than the family’s basic needs due to a lack of access to water. The fact that he was a seasonal farmer didn’t help the matter, but the rehabilitated irrigation canals have been a game changer. “I expect to have a better harvest next time and continue farming throughout the year without waiting for the rainy season,” he said.

Gedow also hopes to see an improvement in the overall farming sector now that their connection has been improved through the project. “With this project, FAO has really improved our village to village connections by providing safe, year-round access to our farms, markets, schools, health centres and other important amenities,” he said.

“Strong agri-food systems need viable linkages between producers and markets. By improving access to water and reducing the barriers between communities and markets for these farmers, ProAct enhanced food security, improved the local economy and its ability to withstand future shocks,” said Andrew Lanyon, FAO in Somalia Resilience and Social Protection Coordinator.

Implemented in a region that has witnessed conflict as recently as 18 months before the project began, there were no lack of challenges faced by the project to achieve these strengthened agriculture food systems. By rehabilitating and enhancing these linkages between producers, communities and markets, the project also created a peace dividend for the community. 

“By ensuring equitable access to water and transport between the villages we helped to mitigate potential conflict. Farmers now need to work together to maintain this beneficial water and market access or it could fail, so there is a real incentive to work together,” said ProAct Project Manager, Dalmar Keysane. “The project has not just resulted in improved livelihoods and food security, but also a more peaceful community,” he added. 

Somalia has many regions with fertile soil and the building blocks of resilient, food secure, agri-food systems, and Lower Shabelle is an area of great potential to be a prosperous and peaceful food basket in the region. 

With projects like ProAct, local farmers like Fadumo and Gedow can benefit from improved services, helping them produce a better yield to build a more resilient future. “I used to be pessimistic before because of the many obstacles I had been facing as a woman farmer, but with this intervention, I believe I can have a tangible result from my farming,” said Fadumo.

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