* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In Somalia, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have pooled their skills and expertise to enhance efforts to build resilience among local communities through a Joint Resilience Strategy. WFP contributes to this initiative through its livelihood activities, such as water catchment rehabilitation and canal irrigation.
DOLOW - Ali Sharif beams with pride as he works on his farm in Surguduud, along the river Dawo on the outskirts of Dolow town in the Gedo region of southwestern Somalia. Ali is chairman of a cooperative that worked with WFP to train 200 people to rehabilitate the canals and irrigate farmland, changing years of tradition in this drought-prone region.
Irrigation had until now been practised on a small scale along the banks of the Dawo and had not been taken seriously.
"The Dawo river runs next to our village and has always been a source of water for our animals and for domestic consumption, but now because of the frequent droughts, we have seen the river in a different light, as a source of [alternative] livelihoods. That is the reason that we have started farming," said the village chief, Barre Hassan Arab.
WFP supported the project under its Food-for-Work initiative, which sees community members work on an assigned project in exchange for food rations for them and their families.
The community in Surguduud identified the irrigation project during consultations that took place early this year as the Joint Resilience Strategy got underway in Dolow district.
Water brings hope
A diverse group of community members participated in the consultations and helped to identify projects that could help build resilience in Surguduud. The irrigation project was seen as a priority given the opportunity it presented to diversify livelihoods for a large number of households.
Members of the community and displaced people living around Dolow are now pumping water from the river to irrigate their fields. Farmers are able to plant crops such as cowpeas, tomatoes, onions, bananas and sesame. They then sell their harvests at the market in Dolow town.
According to the village chairman, the community is very hopeful about the future. However, water levels in the river do fall during the dry season. To counter this, villagers plan to build wells to supply water during those months.
For the next two years, WFP's livelihoods activities will support the implementation of the Joint Resilience Strategy as it is expanded to other parts of Somalia, including Somaliland (Burao and Odweine) and Puntland (Bossaso and Iskushuban).
Story by Yusuf Artan, Engineer, WFP Somalia