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Drought in Somalia: 'If things go on like this, we will also lose our lives'

A person wearing a colorful dress

Asha Mohammed, 43, on her dry tomato field. All photos by Sarah Easter/CARE

Asha Mohammed, 43, on her dry tomato field. All photos by Sarah Easter/CARE

"I am a farmer. My life and that of my family depends on the harvest. It's our only source of income,” says Asha Mohammed, 43. The mother of eight children is standing on her dry tomato field in a little Somalian village, pulling out weeds. It's windy and clouds of dust swirl across the dry ground.

“I don’t think I can harvest anything from this field this year. There is just not enough water,” Asha says. In a good rainy season, she can harvest her tomatoes every three weeks and sell 37 pounds for around $12. But for the second year in a row, it has rained far too little in Somalia.

Now, Asha has to buy tomatoes herself from the next town.  

In the past, when the rainy seasons were good, the villagers could collect enough rainwater in their water tanks for their own needs and for the fields. But now the village doesn’t have enough water in their tanks even to drink. The villagers must rely on water trucks from the nearest town. All families have to join forces to pay for these water trucks to come, but the water is too expensive for the fields. It can only be used for cooking and drinking. 

Asha Mohammed, 43, fetches water from her neighbors.

Water is life

Asha’s children look through an opening into the family’s water tank. It is empty. Asha has to get her water from the neighbors. With a wheelbarrow and water canister, she walks to the neighbor’s yard.

She pulls a bucket out of the tank on a rope and fills her canisters. With the canister she goes into a small hut made of sticks and corrugated iron behind the main house — her kitchen.

Sitting on a small stool, she lights a fire and then places a cooking pot on it. They often have to skip a meal because they do not have enough water. “I cannot cook for my children without water,” explains Asha.

Woman squats over small fire
Asha Mohammed, 43, cooks lunch for her family.

Next to the hut that serves as a kitchen is a fenced area for the family’s goats and sheep. “We have lost almost all of our animals,” Asha says. The animal herds cannot find enough water and food. They become weaker and more susceptible to diseases. The local vet has more clients than ever before. “Many of the goats have parasites or pneumonia and infect the other animals in the herd,” says veterinarian Ahmed Saleban. He treats the animals with medicine and advises the village on how to separate the sick animals from the healthy ones. Asha feeds her goats and sheep with dry grass, but even those who are left are coughing.

Two men with a small animal
The local vet treats more animals than ever before.

“Life is hard and is just getting harder,” Asha says. “We live hand to mouth, day-to-day. We are losing our fields and our livestock. If things go on like this, we will also lose our lives.”

As a participant in CARE’s cash-for-work project, she receives 90 Euros a month for her work in a project that reduces the spread of drought. “Without the work for CARE and the help,” Asha says, “we would not survive.”

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