Asha in her dried up tomato field. All photos: Sarah Easter/CARE

Responding to the drought in Somalia: “My life and that of my family depends on the harvest”

By Sarah Easter, Emergency Communications Officer for CARE Germany and CARE Austria

"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.

The mother of eight 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 them. Now she has to buy tomatoes herself from the next town.

For the second year in a row, it has rained far too little in Somalia. In the past, rainwater was collected in water tanks. The amount collected covered family needs and was enough for the fields. Now, the village doesn’t have enough drinking water and is relying on water trucks that come from the nearest town. All families in the village must join together in order to be able to pay the cost for the imported water, which is only used for cooking and drinking.

Three children are looking down an opening of the water tank. The top of the tank has corrugated sheet metal on top.
Asha's children look through an opening into the family's empty water tank.
A woman squats down over a cooking pot on the floor. The pot sits on a fire.
Asha cooking lunch for her family.

When the family water tank is empty, Asha has to get her water from the neighbours.

With a wheelbarrow and water canister, she walks to the neighbour’s yard, pulls a bucket out of the tank on a rope and fills her canisters. Sitting on a small stool, she lights a fire and then places a cooking pot on it. The family often has to skip a meal because they do not have enough water.

"I cannot cook for my children without water," explains Asha.

Next to the hut that serves as a kitchen is a fenced area for their goats and sheep.

“We have lost almost all of our animals.”

The animals do not have  enough water and food. They become weaker and more susceptible to diseases. The local vet has more clients than ever before.

Two men stand together, wearing white vet coats. One leans down and is patting a small goat.
The local Veterinarian Ahmed Saleban.

"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.

“Life is hard and is just getting harder. 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,” says Asha.

As a participant in CARE's cash-for-work project, she receives 90 Euros (approximately $120 CAD) a month for her work in a project that reduces the spread of drought.

"Without the work for CARE and the help, we would not survive," concludes Asha.