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Irrigation cooperatives empower Ethiopia and Somalia communities to combat climate extremes

Long lasting environmental degradation, scarcity of water and grasslands are causing friction between host and refugee communities in the Dolo Ado woreda of the Somali region in Ethiopia.

 The woreda is among the provinces that hosts refugees from Somalia. This has put additional strain on the area which has already been severely impacted by recurrent climate extremes.

Farm Africa has designed a Livelihood Promotion and Resilience Building project, funded by the Swedish government through WFP, to bring pastoralist communities together to address these challenges.

Irrigation cooperatives have been set up by Farm Africa and Mercy Corps in two kebeles; Buraminow Yehasu and Helewim Godbokol, to bring life back into degraded grasslands and to train farmers on how to manage pastures during hot spells. Farm Africa and Mercy Corps are working with these cooperatives to design and install solar-powered irrigation systems.

The Hormud Cooperative is one of these groups. It embraces host and refugee communities in equal number. Members claim that this has helped them to work together and make themselves self-sufficient. The group has been allocated 500 hectares of common farmland and have worked with the project team to build temporary irrigation canals to grow crops. For the first time in their lives, these pastoralists are able to harvest maize and collect watermelon on their own land.

 “The start is very encouraging. We are excited with the 350 quintals of maize we have produced through irrigation,” said Sheik Abdikadir, a member of the Hormud Cooperative. “The project backed us to build our own temporary irrigation canal and gave us a pump to draw water to our farm from the Genale River.”

In line with providing agricultural inputs and a solar pump, the project equips cooperative members with climate smart agricultural skills. It also links cooperatives with agricultural agro dealers & union cooperatives to access markets to sell their yields.

“The cooperative members shown us their desire for change and have contributed their indigenous knowledge.” Said Abdiwali, Project Coordinator. 

According to Mr. Abdiwali, with all the supports received, the Hormud Cooperative has become so successful that they are seen as a benchmark among other existing livelihood projects in Dolo Ado woreda. “This has its own implications in improving the Pscyho-economic development and livelihood status of both the host and refugee communities.” 

In addition to using the first harvest for household consumption, members of the cooperative earned income secured from the sale of animal feed (maize straw) getting from 5000birr per person (£109).

“This means a lot to cooperative members, it helps us meet our financial needs and household expenses. For instance; I supported my relatives with the money I got, I was able to buy food for my extended family as they couldn’t afford it due to the severe drought we faced this year.” explained Abdi Abdulahi, cooperative member and Chairperson of Helaweyn kebele.

Using the projects links to market to sell their crops, the cooperative expects to earn a good amount of profit from the sale of its next harvest, onions. It also plans to boost its production by growing maize, bananas, rice and other cash crops. To make this practical, they have requested the local administration for additional farmland.

Reflecting on the success of the project over the last year, Mr. Abdi Abdulahi commented,  “Farm Africa is a part of the Godbokol community. We put our trust in the organisation as it has proven its practical commitment. The staff spent their weekends and holidays working with us. That is how we achieved this together.”

Farm Africa is working with Mercy Corps as part of a broader Sida-funded project run by The World Food Programme, which seeks to build vulnerable communities’ resilience to climate, social and economic shocks.

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