Somali farmers win the battle against erosion

Farming communities in Sogsogley and Ashado valleys in Boroma have overcome serious land degradation problems through a UNDP project that provided them with employment opportunities. Under the Employment Generation for Early Recovery (EGER) project, the community members strategically fought the erosion on their land, an action that has had a massive impact on their livelihoods and pulled them out of poverty.

Sogsogley and Ashado, situated in the north-western Awdal Region, were once fertile valleys; cereal crops such as sorghum and maize had been cultivated there throughout the last century and were the staple food for the valleys’ farming communities. Though these communities mainly depended on rain-fed farm produce, they also relied on the pastoral economy. But for the past several decades, increasing environmental hazards resulted in massive loss of rich farmland, low soil fertility, and ultimately low farm productivity − average yields of the staple food withered to less than half a ton per hectare. Much farmland vanished, replaced by gully formations as deep as six meters in some places. At the same time, the productivity of forests and rangeland drastically shrank for livestock, leading to increased poverty for the farmers.

Working with the EGER project, communities built earth bunds, check dams and gabion boxes to reverse the threatening erosion problem. They gradually restored both farmland and pasture land in watershed areas, enhancing the productive capacity.

Eight women from the Sogsogley and Ashado farming communities, all of whom took part in the project, answered questions on how EGER had had an impact on their lives. They talked about the immediate livelihood benefits of the project: they were employed and received an income. More specifically, the women said, every section of the community was able to work, especially the most vulnerable members, such as the internally displaced and socially deprived.

The women also mentioned the long-term impact of the project. The denuded farmland has been rehabilitated, the gully erosion that devastated arable land has been stabilized, and run-off from the mountains has been controlled, improving their livelihoods and food security. Their food consumption is more diverse, as they can now go to the Boroma market and buy nutritious food for their families, which was unaffordable in the past.

Four hundred ninety people from the community were employed by the project for five months. Three hundred fifty of them were among the most disadvantaged individuals in the community – unemployed youth, women, and internally displaced persons. The project ran from 10 June to 31 October 2009.