News / Africa

    Aiding Somali Herders a Factor in Fighting Famine

    Livestock drink from a water point in the Kenya-Somalia border town of Liboi July 29, 2011
    Livestock drink from a water point in the Kenya-Somalia border town of Liboi July 29, 2011
    Michael Onyiego

    With Somalia's famine spreading, experts are looking at new strategies to address the crisis that go beyond simply feeding people.  

    The town of Dobley sits just 18 kilometers from the Kenyan town of Liboi, and just three kilometers from the officially closed Kenya-Somalia border.  The dusty desert town was controlled by Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab until early April, when - after three days of fighting - government forces with allied militias beat Shabab back, creating a buffer zone 90 kilometers to the north and 30 kilometers to the east and south.

    Though Dobley is no longer on the front lines of Somalia's civil war, it has in recent months been at the front lines of the Somali famine.  Dobley is often the last stop for displaced Somalis travelling to the sprawling refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya.  Families often pause in Dobley, taking a few days to recover for the final push into Kenya.

    But with no permanent international humanitarian presence on the Somali side of the border, the town of about 5,000 families must do what they can to help the famished refugees.

    According to local shopkeeper Abdullahi Abdisalam, this can cause problems for the local residents.

    Abdisalam's business has suffered since the drought.  With economic conditions in Dobley already quite dire, Abdisalam says providing help for the internally displaced Somalis has drained his already limited resources.

    And while around 5,000 families live in Dobley, many thousands more in the surrounding area rely on the town for survival.  

    With the drought wreaking havoc on Somalia's countryside, as many as 50,000 pastoralist families rely on the town's two boreholes to water their livestock.  It is these boreholes in the town center that reveal a unique truth about Somalia's farmers and the famine itself. The square containing the boreholes is the center of life in Dobley, packed with camels, cows, goats and sheep which their owners keep alive at great expense.

    The cost of feeding livestock in Dobley is actually higher than the meat of the animals themselves.  But Luca Alinovi of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, to these families the animals are everything.

    "In people's concept, the life of the individual is at least equal as the one of the animal, often less important," said Alinovi.  "Because animals are the protection of all the family, the subclan and the clan.  Individuals are just members of the clan."

    The Dobley market is a testament to how important livestock is to the local population.  For cattle, which cannot forage from the region's remaining shrubs, people purchase bundles of grass imported from Kismayo, nearly 200 kilometers away.

    Kismayo is one of the strongholds of the al-Shabab rebels, who have banned all trade with government-controlled Dobley.  As trader Mako Mahamud explains, the grass travels a circuitous route between Shabab blockades before arriving in Dobley - and the price more than doubles along the way.

    But people continue to pay for the grass, because without it their livelihoods would disappear.  Luca Alinovi of FAO explains how the refugee crisis in Kenya is closely linked to the livestock in Somalia.

    "Slowly, slowly they lose animals," added Alinovi.  "Below 50 head of livestock they start to become agro-pastoralists, [that is] they need also to do some agriculture to keep up.  When they lose below the minimum breeding stock, then they basically have to [move].  And having to go means they become displaced.  And then rebuilding costs 10 to 15 times more than it was costing keeping them in their own livelihoods."

    When livestock perish, Somali refugees leave with absolutely nothing, giving them little reason to return home once they reach the safety of Kenya's refugee camps.

    For this reason, a controversial new approach to famine relief is gaining currency within the FAO: feed animals instead of people.  This of course does not mean ignoring the severely malnourished who arrive in refugee camps every day, but providing support and sustenance to livestock in Somalia so pastoralists have reason to stay.

    There is food in Somalia, but rising prices coupled with the collapse of the local currency means many families simply cannot afford it, even by selling their animals.  The FAO believes a kind of cash-for-work scheme could be utilized to build up famine-resistant infrastructure such as water catchments, while providing people with the resources to protect their most vital assets.

    The U.N. organization is pushing for $70 million to test this new approach.  If granted, the FAO could begin the program in Dobley, creating a buffer zone that would help people remain in Somalia and weather the storm.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora