Saturday January 28, 2023
Dhubo at her small table selling milk in Luq/Mohamud Abdirashid/Ergo
(ERGO) – Women milk sellers in the southern Somali town of Luq are struggling to make a living as milk production has plummeted due to the drought.
Dhubo Mohamed Ibrahim is one of 30 women milk sellers in Luq, who for the past six months have seen their income slashed. She used to sell about eight litres of milk a day earning $12 and is now selling at most two litres for about $3.
This mother of nine is the family breadwinner and is worried. Many local pastoralists have migrated away from Gedo to Middle Juba with their camels in search of water and fodder. The livestock that remain in the area are not producing much milk and their owners demand high prices for what little they sell to the women.
“Now food as well is expensive. People can barely buy anything because they have lost their income. These days we get breakfast and dinner, but we were getting lunch as well when we were selling milk. This drought has gone on and on for so many years now,” Dhubo complained.
Dhubo’s main customers are women tea vendors who normally buy milk daily. With rising milk prices due to the scarcity, however, the tea sellers are finding alternatives to fresh milk.
“I buy the camel milk that is available and bring it to the market, but people are now using powdered milk in their tea, and few people are drinking camel milk,” she said.
Another milk seller, Fadumo Isaq Ibrahim, 49, takes care of 11 children including her four grandchildren. She had to pull two of her children out of Koranic school when the backlog of unpaid fees accumulated to 1,600,000 shillings ($61).
“I used to pay their school fees, but they are staying at home now. I also have my son’s children who are also just at home. The teachers need to be paid and I don’t have the money. I haven’t paid eight months’ worth of school fees,” she said.
Another 13 women from the rural areas around Luq town are also facing challenges with their small milk selling businesses. Habibo Mohamud Madobe, 38, lives in Taganey village, 12 kilometres from Luq. In the past two years, her own 40 goats and 80 cows have all died in the drought.
She collects milk from her neighbours in Taganey who still have milk-producing animals and brings it to sell in Luq. She has five children and is the breadwinner as her elderly husband does not work.
“I don’t get enough food for my children. I can’t always buy maize flour for them. In the morning I give them whatever remained from the night before and during the day they just stay hungry,” Habibo said.
“I don’t have livestock or money. I carry these two plastic containers of milk on my back for long distances, but I don’t make enough money from them. Sometimes I get home without having eaten anything all day.”
Habibo’s average daily earnings have fallen to a dollar or less (13,000-27,000 shillings) from around four dollars before.
“I used to sell milk every day, but the drought has hit us hard. You just can’t get milk every day because the livestock are so weak,” she said.