Monday July 2, 2018
Photo| Cabdi Xaashi Keynaan oo abaarta ku ceyroobay, haddana kaba-tole ku ah Cadaado/Xasan Maxamed/Ergo
Former pastoralist Ibrahim Ismail Ige, 39, lives in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa, and earns a living as a grave digger.
It is a far cry from the life he used to lead, when he had a large
herd of 60 camels and 200 goats in the rural areas. His whole family
depended on livestock for a living.
But the harsh drought that hit Somalia in 2016 turned his village,
Dobo-bariyale, on the southern border with Ethiopia, into a desert. All
the animals died and the family moved to Nasa-Hablood 1 IDP camp, east
of Hargeisa, where they live now.
“I never thought my income would be tied to the death of people,” Ibrahim told Radio Ergo.
Ibrahim learnt all about grave digging in the early part of 2017. Now
it takes him three days to complete a grave and he sells the space for
$40. It is a decent amount to support his 12-member family. Still,
Ibrahim is sad that he has not been able to continue the proud
pastoralist tradition that he inherited along with his livestock from
“If I got my camels back I would not choose the city over the rural
lifestyle. Keeping livestock is prestigious and a respectable man’s
job. I would go back to the previous life any day, I was leading a very
good life,” Ibrahim said.
Drought has brought to huge numbers of Somali pastoralists
unemployment, food scarcity, displacement, and the stress of getting
accustomed to a new life in the urban areas. Many have had to accept
that they can no longer build their lives around livestock.
Abdi Haashi Keynaan, 65, a former pastoralist and father of 20
children from his four wives, owned 700 goats in Galgadud region of
central Somalia. His entire herd was wiped out in the drought.
Abdi’s family migrated to Adado town in 2016, and settled in Karama
IDP camp. He started repairing shoes, earning $2-3 a day, which provided
an important lifeline for his large family. They cook one meal to share
together when they all come back home in the evening.
Despite working every hour he can, Abdi cannot make enough from shoe
repairs to support his family. Sixteen of his children are of school age
but do not go to school as he cannot pay the fees.
Abdi said he was able to provide enough for his children before and
that he would love to go back to the rural lifestyle if he could get
some more livestock. He enjoyed his life much better then.
Across Somalia, from north to south, destitute former herders have
been displaced from the rural areas and turned to new trades or casual
jobs. Abdi Deero Muhumed, 58, is working as a watchman at Al-Shifa
Hospital in Bardera, Gedo region. He earns $100 a month that takes care
of his family living in Habaal-Cadey camp. He lost his 200 goats and 50
camels in Daar village, 30 km north of Bardera, after five years of
The odd jobs that pastoralists have picked up have been a relief for
their families. But many are a burden to relatives, who have let them
move in to share their homes.
Abdisamad Mohamed Abdullahi, a professor of social sciences at the
University of Hargeisa, sees the exodus of former herders to the urban
areas as very damaging to the country’s economically important livestock
He said it is vital that governmental authorities take strong
measures to mitigate against future droughts, by planning for
alternative water supplies including constructing water catchments and
wells. This would enable pastoralists to move their livestock during
drought and preserve their herds.