Yemeni refugee’s thriving irrigation-supported farm in Hargeisa
The drive from Hargeisa to the farm, 50 kilometres away, is on a tarmac road, then for about ten kilometres of this distance, it winds into a dusty earth road with no farming activity. There is only limited vegetation, with goats and sheep trying to graze from patches of grass and other plants’ leaves. The road then passes through a ravine, where during heavy rainfall, water covers the whole stretch.
Suddenly the vehicle stops a few metres from lushly-growing crops such as tomatoes, red jelly, bell pepper, pawpaw and onions. The four-acre farm’s owner Ahmed Abdalla Ali, 40, gestures as he explains how he has transformed the desolate and dry land in Hombowayne area into a source of income, by managing to make about $200 from his harvest weekly. He sells the crops in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.
Ali is a trained pharmacist, who used to run a thriving chemist in Sana’a, the Yemeni Capital. He fled the country, two years ago due to conflict. There are close to 3000 Yemeni refugees in Hargeisa, who in the last two years have sought protection from the war in their country.
Despite being a trained pharmacist, Ali acquired farming skills from his father, who has been a farmer in his entire life. “I know about farming of different crops and procedures. These include activities such as planting, pest control, harvesting and marketing,” explains the father of five, whose wife is teacher. His family still lives in Yemen.
Ali has put up a house where he lives. He has five farmhands, four hails from the locality, and one is a Yemeni. He sells his produce in Hargeisa and to the local community.
Ali says he started the farm after purchasing the four acres from a local at $30000, three months after he arrived from Sana’a. The funds were his savings. He started the farm on a small scale. Then in September last year, UNHCR financed him to the tune of $3600 to purchase pipes that make him irrigate crops on a wider area. AAH-I in Somalia is implementing the interventions.
“I have a generator that pumps water from 11 metres deep then to the crops. I then use drip irrigation to water the crops,” he says, adding that he initially used rainwater that he harvested and preserved in three reservoirs, he had dug.
But the water would run out after about two months, with evaporation contributing to its diminishing. “That is when I thought of drilling a well that is 11 metres deep and about 50 metres from the crops,” he says.
AAH-I’s Self-Reliance/Livelihoods Manager Barlet Jaji says in 2015, they received 292 business plans but approved 91, due to limited funding.
Ali also rears some chicken and goats, and plans to expand his farm. However, there are a number of challenges he faces, such as shortage of water. “Due to failure of rains for several months, there is limited water from the well. It is almost drying up,” says Ali.