Renewed funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) will support ongoing efforts to build the resilience of riverine farmers in the Jowhar corridor by improving water access and management to boost productivity.
The Government of Sweden’s timely contribution to Somalia through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) of an additional USD 2 million committed to the Building Resilience in Middle Shabelle (BRiMS) Project has been welcomed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The action will substantially increase the resilience of vulnerable peoples’ livelihoods to food crises by addressing some of the underlying vulnerabilities in Middle Shabelle, within Somalia’s breadbasket. In light of recent, recurrent drought and flood emergencies, the main issue to be addressed by the project relates to water: water access, its sustainable management and its use for production.
“We appreciate this renewed and timely commitment from Sweden that focuses on strengthening one of the essential building blocks of agricultural food systems in the region,” said FAO Representative to Somalia Etienne Peterschmitt. “The ongoing severe drought in the region shows that – more than ever before – we must invest in resilient communities and, for the Middle Shabelle region in particular, this means equitable access to and sustainable management of water,” he added.
Somalia is highly vulnerable to recurrent shocks, with colliding and cumulative effects. Droughts, flash and riverine flooding, cyclones, locusts, disease outbreaks, conflict, and subsequent large-scale displacement have affected the country with increasing frequency since the 1990s. In the Jowhar corridor, the periodic flooding of the Shabelle River basin causes destruction of crops, villages, roads and large-scale human displacement in locations close to the river. Most of the villages located along the river are exposed to recurrent flooding during rainy seasons as witnessed in 2019 and 2020.
To protect the families living in and around Jowhar towns, ahead of the upcoming rains, the project proposes the rapid closure of river breakage points and the reinforcement of weak river embankments. In these hard-to-reach areas, it is also important to help farmers organize themselves into collective farmer groups. By aggregating local input supply needs and production, farmer groups create the economies of scale that strengthen their ability to access services and participate effectively in supply chains and markets. This is crucial in Middle Shabelle, where insecurity and access constraints can deter trade – especially if at a small scale.
‘’Effective and sustainable water management is key to addressing cyclical and devastating droughts and floods that have serious and long lasting impacts on already vulnerable communities in Somalia. A strong nexus approach linking short term humanitarian interventions to longer-term development and peacebuilding efforts is needed to tackle a number of the underlying root causes. Furthermore Sweden remains committed to working with the government and providing continued support to empowering communities in implementing locally-led solutions to recurring risks and crises’’ said Swedish Ambassador to Somalia, Per Lindgärde.
Building resilience among riverine communities
The Sida- funded BRiMS project supports riverine farmers to restore irrigated crop production and productivity in the Jowhar corridor. The areas was once among Somalia’s most productive agricultural areas but is now highly vulnerable due to lack of functioning irrigation networks, exposure to recurrent drought and flood, insecurity and related access constraints. The project will help to increase agricultural production, improve and rehabilitate productive agricultural infrastructure as well as strengthening the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MoAI). Likewise, the project supports innovations and the use of technology in the development of information platforms. For example, a productive livelihood information platform, national agricultural commodity market data and information network as well as training in related international best practices.
This intervention is expected to enhance and strengthen resilience, making communities increasingly able to cope with floods and reducing the impact of overflowing river embankments on the local economy, agriculture and everyday life. It is an exemplary intervention that will bring substantial and lasting benefits to the riverine communities. By reducing their direct exposure to the destructive force of floods, rural families will be able to invest in longer-term livelihood opportunities without having to rebuild after recurrent floods sweep away homes and livelihoods.
In Somalia, FAO has a history of successful engagement in the actions proposed under the BRiMS project, within the Shabelle River Basin and beyond. Through BRiMS and similar interventions, and with continued support and commitment from international resource partners such as Sida, FAO will continue to work closely with communities and government at all levels to strengthen food systems and build a more resilient future for rural communities in Somalia.