Abdikhayr Mohamed Hussein, Bertha Fellow 2022

Somalia is facing the worst drought in decades following the failure of three consecutive rainy seasons since October 2020. The worsening drought has exacerbated water shortage, particularly for the rural communities that make up 60% of the country’s 15.8 million people.

The persistent reduction of fresh water and repeated droughts – mainly attributed to climate change, have resulted in fierce competition for water resources and increased water prices.

The Pastoralists who mainly keep cattle, camels, goats, and sheep have now resorted to accumulating huge debts and/or selling livestock to meet the cost of water. With the prolonged droughts, pastoralists are now running out of saleable livestock due to a lack of water and pasture. The animal conditions have deteriorated, leading to increased livestock deaths, while the surviving ones are weak and in poor condition due to starvation and water shortage.

Drought-devastated poor nomadic people fetching water from a temporary plastic water storage in Xingood rural areas in the Galmudug state of Somali. Photo by Abdikhayr Mohamed Hussein

Declining Water Resources in Somalia

Somalia is a water-stressed country with approximately 411 cubic meters of renewable freshwater per capita as of 2017, according to a World Bank report of 2020. This is a staggering decline over time from 2,087 cubic meters in 1962 (ibid). The current amount of freshwater is far below the UN recommended threshold of 1000 cubic meters per capita per year.

Pastoralists in the Jariiban district under the Mudug region of Puntland, one of the hardest water-stressed regions, say water scarcity and associated debts make lives harder.

“In this area, we are suffering from water scarcity. We buy water for human and animal consumption from water truckers since there is now no free stream or surface water sources in our region. The livestock condition is poor and not fit for sale. No one can afford to pay for water in this condition,” says Said Mohamed, a traditional elder in the Jariiban district.

Water trucking and the escalating water prices

Consultation and mediation meeting conducted for two clan groups that fought over water at Buq Oomane rural areas in the Galmudug state of Somalia. Photo by Abdikhayr Mohamed Hussein

Somali Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) indicates that water trucking is rising, with some boreholes pumping for more than 12 hours a day and serving more than 15 trucks per day.

According to Nor Madina, a female pastoralist in Jariiban, they are now facing a combination of water scarcity, poverty, lack of saleable livestock, and food shortage.

Most boreholes use fuel-powered generators to pump water, but this is becoming expensive due to the recent increase in fuel prices. Today, a 200-liter barrel of water costs more than 7 USD, which is the highest price ever recorded in the area. Experts warn that the increasing water and food prices will send poor pastoralists into a deep crisis and unpayable debts while they are still owed debts incurred in previous years.

 “We have to pay back the heavy water debts incurred during the drought in the time of prosperity (rain season). I still pay back the water debts incurred during the previous droughts, and I am adding more,” says Haji Farah, a pastoralist in Jariiban.

Said Karshe, a member of the Jariiban local council, says that the current situation is pushing the already vulnerable population to poverty. He says that the pastoral communities need assistance from different stakeholders, including donors and government, to avert the worsening situation, as people continue to pray to Allah for the blessing of rain.

In March 2022, IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Center (ICPAC) stated that water scarcity and drought conditions would worsen if the rain season that was expected to start in April fell below average.

Water Journalists Africa

Water Journalists Africa (WJA) is the largest network of journalists reporting on water in the African continent. It brings together some 700 journalists from 50 African countries. It was established in...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *