Halimo Aden Hussein has been keeping back a portion of the supper she cooks in the evening to feed something for breakfast to her three children and her husband. Since the river Shabelle in their village of Balbaley dried up, Halimo has not managed to find any work on local farms as the land is all bone dry.
Halimo, 27, and her husband used to depend on the $3 a day they could earn working in other people’s farms or picking fruit. Now they are reduced to begging for credit from the local shop where they used to buy their goods.
“We sometimes cook rice with oil borrowed from the shop, or maize other times, and we make it something that we can eat twice,” Halimo said.
The river levels in this part of Afgoye district in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region started to look dangerously low last month.
Mayow Omar Ali, a farmer, told Radio Ergo he is worried about this month’s school fees for three of his children. In January, the fees of $4 per child were paid by one of his friends.
Mayow used to be self-sufficient from his five-hectare farm. He normally transported the vegetables he grew to sell in Afgoye and Mogadishu. Now, since his land turned dry, he is relying on odd labour jobs that come up. The family has three sacks of maize and one bag of beans left for cooking.
“I leave home every day looking for a job on other people’s farms. Most of the times I come back empty-handed, but on the days I get a job like lemon picking I make 100,000 Somali shillings ($4.3). I use this to buy other things for the family to eat,” he said.
Mayow estimates that he made an unrecoverable loss of seven million Somali shillings from the investments this season in his farm. He is determined to plant farm again, though, when water becomes available.
Abdullahi Hassan Abdi, deputy head of social affairs for Afgoye administration, told Radio Ergo about 57 hectares of farmland along the side of the river had dried up, affecting a large number of households.
Radio Ergo’s local reporter in Afgoye said people all along the river Shabelle were saying the water had disappeared. Children are to be seen playing football in the dry river bed.
The river is usually at its lowest level in January and February. The next Gu rainy season in April is also predicted to be poor.