UN World Food Programme

Somalia: Reservoir Puts Nomads On Road To Recovery

Camels drinking at a community reservoir (Copyright: WFP/Susannah Nicol)

Compared to this time last year, things have improved for Somalis who have directly benefited from the creation of community assets which provide a way out of the proverty trap.

SHEERBI (Puntland) -- Ahmed moves nimbly, filling a blue plastic container with water from the reservoir and then emptying it into the makeshift water trough for his camels. He has to be swift as they are sucking up the precious liquid almost as fast as he is delivering it. His three camels are what remain of a herd of 20 that he lost to drought last year. He also lost 300 goats and sheep, more than half his animals.  

But compared to this time last year, things have improved. The seasonal rains have been good so far and are filling the community reservoir which gives nomads like Ahmed access to free water.
 
And that is key. During the dry seasons or when the rains do not come, the pastoralist community - of which the rural population makes up about two thirds - has to resort to buying water. 
 
“We used the water trucks from Gardo, Waiyo, and Dhahar which have bore holes,” says Ahmed.  “We had to pay on average of 150-200 dollars per truck. It was very expensive for me. We don’t keep savings, we sell what we have from our livestock.”
 
To pay for the water, Ahmed had to sell about 100 animals in order to try and keep the rest alive. Despite that, he still lost nearly all his camels and 200 sheep and goats because they became too weak. So it was a double blow that ate even further into the assets he had been able to build up. But water catchments mean that, when there are good rains, water  will last longer into the dry season. 
 
“We benefit from the water in so many ways,” says Ahmed. “We use it for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and all the purposes water can serve.”      
                              
The reservoir is an example of the type of project in which WFP has become a lot more involved during the last year. These projects give a helping hand out of the poverty trap to people like Ahmed when things like the weather fail them. If households do not have to use their ‘savings’ during a crisis, then it will make them more resilient and take them less time to recover from setbacks. 
 
One additional benefit is that people who work on building such community schemes are given food in exchange for labour through WFP’s Food For Assets programme. That means that these projects, agreed with and managed by the local community, can address immediate needs, as well as provide longer-term solutions.
 
And in Somalia, those are what are needed.