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Locals work to restore sand dunes burying Somali coastal town

Friday September 3, 2021

Amina Hassan Gedi, a drought-affected farmer, is glad of the cash she is earning as part of a local labour force clearing the huge sand dunes that have been encroaching on the small town of Gobweyn in Somalia’s Lower Juba region.

She is among 370 struggling local farmers and fishermen turning their efforts to vital restoration and maintenance work to ensure future livelihoods in the town.

Gobweyn, north of the port city of Kismayo, stands at the point where the river Juba joins the Indian Ocean. Strong offshore winds have shifted huge piles of sand inland, risking burying houses and blocking major roads leading to the town. Some people were forced to leave their homes due to the creeping piles of sand.

Amina leads a group of 24 people, armed with basic tools, working to shovel the sand away from key areas of the town.

“We have spades and metal buckets. We are removing the sand piles from the most important passages where the vehicles and the donkey carts pass,” she said.

Working 15 mornings a month, the $58 wage helps her support her family of seven, at this difficult time.

Amina’s family depend on the produce of their 10-hectares farm, but due to poor rainfall they have not harvested for the last two seasons and have no current income from the farm. She tried selling clothes but the business ran into loss.

“I can pay the Koranic school fees for my children and buy clothes and food for them using the money I earn here. I am also saving part of the money,” she said.

Residents of Gobweyn requested the authorities to fix the problems after 37 houses were buried and the three major roads used by people, vehicles and donkey carts were blocked by drifting sand.

The town commissioner, Omar Abdullahi, said they are removing the sand piles from the town and dumping it on the coastline, where cactus trees are being planted to stabilise the sand dunes. The project is being implemented by Social Agriculture and Development Organisation (SADO) with funding from USAID. The job is providing income over four months to families in need.

A second priority renovating a water canal off the river Juba that irrigates farms has also been tackled. A two metre high wall has been built along 250 metres of the canal to prevent flooding. Dozens of families in Towfiq village in Gobweyn were recently displaced by the flooding.

“We have built a permanent wall that can last for generations. The flood from the canal used to cut the village off from the town. Now there is no fear of floods anymore,” the commissioner said.

Another resident involved in the work is Abdi Ali Ibrahim, who told Radio Ergo’s local correspondent that the cash was very helpful. He had been trying to support his wife and 10 children by collecting firewood with his donkey cart. The 150,000Somali shillings ($7.5) he made from sales per trip was not enough for his family to cook three meals a day.

Abdi said the local food stores in his village are now willing to give him food on credit knowing that he has some money coming in.

“Food is a basic need for human beings right? Before this job, we were worrying about where we would get food for the next day,” he said.


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