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Supporting rural communities in Somaliland with diversified livelihoods and peace-building to fight food insecurity

Photo: FAO Somalia
Photo: FAO Somalia

The livestock sector in Somaliland, while a major contributor to food security and the economy, is particularly vulnerable to the challenges brought about by climate change. Rural agropastoralists like Asha from Waadaamago in Sool Region still rely heavily on traditional methods of food production that have been unable to cope with changing weather patterns and increasingly erratic rainfall. “The droughts have had a huge impact on our lives, as my main sources of income are easily affected by drought. The livestock are easily affected by drought, and the farms are easily affected by the drought,” said Asha. “My whole life is often disrupted by these disasters, and it’s been hard to get ahead,” she said.

These local effects of global change have resulted in excess migration, child malnutrition and conflict over scarce water resources in semi-arid regions like Sool. Inter-communal violence is an increasingly common occurrence as rural communities have been forced to compete over dwindling resources.

Through the Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Programme Building Food System Resilience in Protracted Crises (FNS-REPRO) Project funded by the Dutch Government, FAO has supported rural communities with new approaches that strengthen traditional livelihoods. The project employed simple technologies, innovation and peace-building elements to help communities adapt to climate disasters, working together to improve their resilience against future shocks and enhancing social cohesion.

In Sool Region, the project focused on improving fodder production through integrated community-based natural resource management and improved livelihood and income opportunities along the fodder value chain. The main outcome was to increase the resilience of livestock owners to threats and crises, enabling rural communities like Asha’s to maintain healthy herds and adequate food security, even during drought. “With this unique project, our main aim is to make sure that rural communities in these regions are able to withstand shocks, promote peace, and make ends meet even in the midst of climate change effects,” said Abdideeq Yusuf, the National Project Focal point of the FNS-REPRO.

It is also part of a wider effort across the Horn of Africa, aiming to strengthen food security, nutrition, livelihoods and resilience in conflict-affected regions of Sudan, South Sudan and Somaliland. In Somaliland, the project targeted around 13,000 families in Sool and Sanaag regions with special attention to gender, youth and specific groups, such as internally displaced people, returnees and destitute pastoralists.

Diversifying and strengthening livelihoods for the future

Aisha says their goal in mind now is to make use of the training they were given so that they don’t suffer during the dry seasons. “We want to take advantage of the different techniques we were taught because, before this training, we only knew how to rely on the rains and our animals used to suffer when the pastures dried up,” said Aisha.

Aisha and her fodder producer group, which consists of 40 farmers were trained on how to produce crops, group dynamics, financial literacy and record keeping, given tractors, fodder processing machines and tools as well as good storage facilities. The training promoted good agriculture practices to maximize crop yields and improve the nutrition quality of crop residues while diversifying food availability for the people.

The project also helped local farmers increase fodder productivity and reduce production and harvesting costs, through capacity building, provision of locally adaptable tools, increasing storage and processing capacity, and increased overall production.

“We help each other do many things together unlike before when we were scattered. We even have a savings account. We also have daily meetings; we do self-awareness among us and how to move forward to improve ourselves and our community,” she said.

Learning in real-time as communities rise above disaster

The FNS-REPRO project invests in the Food and Nutrition Safety (FNS) framework in line with the Netherlands Government’s own Results and Indicator Framework for resilience and food systems strengthening in conflict-affected areas. An important enabler for future success is knowledge and innovation, and FNS-REPRO has a strong learning component along the policy-practice chain, focusing on the humanitarian-development-conflict nexus. In partnership with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, learning from the project is being documented and shared to inform current and future interventions.

“With the different projects across the Horn of Africa, we’ve been able to share and learn from each of the different regions, creating a community of practice,” said Jane Ndungu, the FNS-REPRO project manager in Somaliland. She added that the Somaliland project also had to adapt to the ongoing drought situation, responding to the challenges that the communities faced. “Seeing the negative impact in real-time as the communities endure these shocks has been a challenge but also rewarding to see them rise above disaster while the project is still underway,” she said. Early end-line evaluations of the project show that communities that participated in the FNS REPRO Project had better food security compared to the situation before the project interventions.

The Sool and Sanaag regions of Somaliland still face extraordinary challenges. Shocks and stressors often overlap and persist over time as protracted and complex crises, but with programmes like the FNS-REPRO, these shocks can be better managed and families like Aisha’s are now able to improve their food security.

“We would love to see the project activities increased, to improve our lives through learning to better manage our farms and livestock,” said Asha. “We would love to have the project extended so that we learn more of these skills that can help us.”

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