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Meet Fihima Ismail, a Djiboutian farmer with a penchant for helping

By Mohamud Farah (Dulyadeyn)
Tuesday October 20, 2020

Fihima Mohamed Ismail travelled back to her native Djibouti after working in Europe for a decade and found her purpose helping children and widows.

Ismail immigrated to France to pursue higher education and build a better life in 1999. Upon graduation, she moved to London, became a British citizen, and secured a professional job. 

In 2012, she returned to Djibouti and started volunteering, and this provided the chance to gain insight into critical issues and connect with people in need of care. With her experience and understanding of her people growing, she established the Birds of Paradise, an NGO to help the poor, the needful, and the vulnerable. 

“I think that we’re in this world for a reason and purpose,” Fahima said. “Mine is to help widows and orphans. I decided to open a walk-in centre where people with needs can come in and go back with hope.”

Fihimia’s friends describe her as an empathetic person who has the drive and resolve to help as many people as possible. Helping vulnerable people, like orphans and widowed women, through her NGO, is important to her. 

“My organization always stresses helping widowed women and orphans and aims to bring immediate relief to those in need throughout the country,” she said.

Two years ago, her focus on helping women and girls from impoverished families to become independent and self-sufficient led her to establish another non-profit organization, the Cooperative Women Lead. The organization exclusively assists women. 

She said, “The idea is to help girls from destitute families to gain knowledge and find jobs, and I am happy that everything is going as planned.”

While establishing two NGOs would suffice for others, it’s not enough for Ismail. According to her, one has to keep going and giving through various means because acts of kindness never stop, and there’ll always be more people than yesterday who need help.

Setting that as her motivation, Ismail looks for opportunities to provide warmth and comfort to others. For instance, every Ramadan, she works with her team to organize an Iftar dinner for Muslims to break their fast after sunset.

 “We don’t offer just food, but offer their preferred cultural food,” she said. “At the end of every Ramadan, we also offer them Eid clothes to bring them joy.”

However, her determination to do more for the people of Djibouti caused her to switch paths. She shifted gears professionally and went from having an established political science career to become an agricultural entrepreneur.

Among the problems she encountered as a farmer was the lack of fresh, organic produce and trees. As part of her strategy to introduce change to Djibouti’s agricultural landscape, she launched a campaign, advocating planting more trees and growing more organic produce. 

“So far, I planted 3704 trees,” she said. “I am advocating for fresh produce and organic farming in my country.”

Unfortunately, being vocal about the changes in the country’s agriculture policies has brought her unpleasant remarks, challenges, and setbacks. Still, regardless of what life threw at her, she always managed to preserve and come out the other side stronger. For starters, farming in a hot and dry country, where temperatures can rise to 41 degrees Celsius or 106 degrees Fahrenheit with very little to no rain expected, is demanding.

With her perseverance to bring a much-needed reform in a country experiencing a major water crisis, she succeeded and grew organic produce. She has been dealing with the pushback ever since she began her journey as a farmer. Luckily, it has not diminished her strong sense of humour.

When asked if she feels different as a farmer, she commented, “I used to love beautiful insects, but farmers and insects don’t get along. Even though my life has changed, the benefits of farming go beyond money.”

Djibouti should keep an eye out for her, as Fihima is an unstoppable force committed to reviving her country and giving its people their place and purpose in the world.

Mohamud Farah Dulyadeyn is the host of the Wacyi Show and reports for the London- based Somali Cable TV. He is an alum of Metropolitan State University, where he majored in Technical Communication and Professional Writing and minored in Political Science.


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