FAO in Somalia

Strengthening food security for food producing communities strengthens Somalia’s resilience to climate shocks


FAO rehabilitates canals to help farmers in South Central Somalia overcome water shortages

Idris Omar is a farmer from Banaaney village in Jowhar district, Somalia. For many years the 52-year-old father of six has been irrigating his farm using water pumps, which he says had been expensive to maintain and often doesn’t reach all his crops. Idris and his neighbours had also been facing challenges like accessing markets, insecurity and climate disasters that would leave them with a poor harvest and facing food insecurity. Middle Shabelle, within Somalia’s “breadbasket,” faces recurrent drought, flooding, dilapidated irrigation infrastructure, widespread insecurity, and access challenges that impede farmers’ production and market potential. Most farmers in this area have lacked reliable access to irrigation water for decades as far back as in the civil war of the 1990s, and recurrent flooding has accelerated the decline of old infrastructure. “Floods used to have a huge impact on our lives. Our crops were washed away, and we didn’t produce anything for eight months,” said Idris.

Thanks to FAO and with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Idris and his neighbours have been able to strengthen their household food security through the Building Resilience in Middle Shabelle (BRiMS) project. The project, which is aimed at increasing resilience of livelihoods to threats and crisis, was able to restore a reliable water supply from the Shabelle river to smaller canals where highly vulnerable smallholder farmers like Idris tend to cultivate their crops.

Through local implementing partners, FAO was able to provide agro-pastoralists in the region with the establishment of community groups, irrigation services, training in Good Agricultural Practices, and better access to markets through rehabilitation of bridges and walkways to get their produce to market across the many waterways in the region. “When FAO came, we were made to form groups; a group was formed for each village. And when we were formed into groups, we were taught good agricultural practice, how to take care of our farm and we are grateful,” said Idris. “We used to struggle with irrigation, and we could only water some parts of our crops and it was expensive. But when FAO restored the canals and built bridges, we were able to irrigate our farms adequately,” he said. The project also supported the capacity of the public institutions in liaison with the government to enhance water management and agriculture production.

The project resulted in a substantial increase in irrigation farming by helping rehabilitate 8 primary and 57 secondary canals with a total number of 174 km in Jowhar town covering 14,311 ha of farmlands that serves over 2,000 farming families. This has contributed to significant food security both in terms of quality and quantity as a result of access to water for increased crop production and pasture regeneration.  The rehabilitations have also improved village connections by providing safe, year-round access to farms, markets, schools, and health care through rehabilitating and constructing of over 50 crossing structures in the area. “A lot has changed since the FAO intervention, our old farming method and the modern one is not the same thanks to the Good Farming Practices training we received,” said Idris. Now we have two bridges on both sides of the canal and you can move your harvest each side you want. Anything that you need can cross the bridge,” he said.

FAO and partners have also strengthened river embankments in both Beletweyne and Jowhar districts by rehabilitating 66 river embankments totaling 5.77 km that significantly mitigated the destructive impact of flooding on livelihoods in the region. “The small-scale farmers and pastoralists depend largely on the water from the river, but without these rehabilitations, it is hard for them to get enough water for both their animals and farming. The consultative forums have also helped them work in groups and support each other,” said Ahmed Mohamed, FAO Somalia Senior Project Associate.

Somalia has many regions with fertile soil and the building blocks of resilient, food secure agri-food systems, and Middle Shabelle is an area of great potential to be a prosperous and peaceful food basket in the region. With investments like these, the country is working towards a more food secure population and able to cope with the challenges that the future might bring.

With projects like BRiMS, local small-scale farmers like Idris can benefit from improved basic services, helping them produce a better yield to build a more resilient future.