FAO in Somalia

Smallholder farmers represent Somalia's food security and are critical to community development


The ongoing climate crisis exacerbated by economic shocks has shown how indispensable agriculture is to the Somali economy and has also highlighted just how vulnerable smallholder farmers in Somalia are to climate hazards. In the face of recurrent floods and prolonged drought, farmers struggle to produce sufficient crops to meet local production needs or even to feed their own families. 

Farhiya Ali Diriye, 40, resides in Jowhar district, in the region of Middle Shabelle, with her six children and her husband; they have a small farm as their main source of food and income. However, the acute drought season affecting the region did not spare her family. As a vulnerable, low-income agricultural household, Farhiya's family benefitted from unconditional cash transfers, agricultural tools, and input provision, such as cereals, pulses, assorted vegetable seeds, as well as training. 

"Our lives depend on agriculture, we are farmers, we spend days working on our farm and cultivating the little piece of land we have. Sometimes we get to harvest vegetables and crops from it and other times we don't get anything," said Farhiya. 

With financial support from the Government of Sweden, FAO and WFP are working with federal and state authorities to implement the "Supporting Resilient Smallholder Farming systems in Somalia" project to improve food security and nutrition for over 7 500 smallholder farmers and their families. The project seeks to strengthen the resilience of communities to shocks and crises in Hirshabelle and South West states. 

"FAO has given us a lot of training; we have benefited greatly. In the past, we used to grow crops, but now there is a lot that we have learned from the training, like how to treat corn from pests and how to grow it," said Farhiya. "It has been a great help to the community, as people have been able to use the skills they have gained". 

The project supported 30 farmer cooperatives in Hirshabelle and South West states with inputs and training to increase the capacity of smallholder farmers to produce crops. 

"The objective of the project is to build the capacity of smallholder farmers across the entire value chain, focusing on production, post-harvest loss reduction and market linkages, to improve food security and nutrition at the household level" said Julius Mburu, FAO Project Manager. "Smallholder farmers' capacity is strengthened through collective action, aggregation and the strengthening of cooperatives" he said. 

Thanks to this intervention, people have learn to organize themselves to get better results. They have been trained and supported with the formation of the village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) or community support plans, known to Somalis as Ayuuto, where people save together and loan money to each other. Through this Swedish-funded project, FAO has contributed to addressing vulnerable communities' access to basic needs such as education, health, irrigation infrastructure and farming by developing a culture of saving, building up financial resources and establishing trust networks.  

Ibrahim Mudey Osman, 50, is a member of Adolow Cooperatives in Labiley village, in Hirshabelle, and, like many Somali farmers, does not stop working his land even in times of crisis. 

"Our morale is strong, there is a Somali proverb that says, you eat what you get" Ibrahim said. "In the past, we used to question if the food would be enough for the entire year, but now we can be sure that food would be enough for this and next year", he added. 

This project started in 2020 and since then smallholder farmers, especially the marginalized ones, have benefited by harvesting good yields and selling their crops at a good price. In Somalia, substantial investment in agricultural production through cooperatives will improve food security of rural households and increase resilience to climatic shocks and stresses. 

"Those involved in this programme, have helped us to make great progress. The cash support and training have opened our eyes, we have made great strides" finalized Ibrahim.