Reducing displacement and helping communities to cope with a changing climate in rural Somalia
The project aims to reduce these risks through a climate and ecosystems approach to water and flood management in riverine communities
We hope this project reduces the flooding and the resulting displacement in Beletweyne and the surrounding areas that we used to see almost every year
Somalia’s farmers and pastoralists are at the frontlines of global climate change. Khadijo Abdi Tigaa, who lives in the rural town of Beletweyne in southern Somalia, has experienced living through erratic weather due to climate change, such as floods and droughts, which have increased in recent years. A riverine farmer, Tigaa depends on the nearby Shabelle River to water her crops and feed her family, but like many in her community, the floods and droughts have wreaked havoc on her crops and her family’s food security.
“We are farmers. Our life depends on farming. When the floods came, I was devastated by the loss of our vegetables. I had to leave all of my crops - corn, lettuce and spinach - to the floods,” she said. “When we came back from being displaced, our homes and properties were destroyed. The floods were devastating,” she said.
Tigaa and her community have often fled their homes to higher ground after heavy rainfall caused water to spill over poorly-managed river embankments and debilitated irrigation canals. That is until the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the “Sustainable Flood Management and Risk Reduction Action” project in partnership with the Federal Government of Somalia and with funding from the Government of the United Kingdom.
The project aims to reduce these risks through a climate and ecosystems approach to water and flood management in riverine communities. The project modelled flash flooding in the area, and constructed flood mitigation infrastructure in strategic locations along the Shabelle River such as embankments and dams.
Today, 10 kilometres of embankment rehabilitation is underway and FAO, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is also implementing nature-based solutions that involve the use of natural ecosystems to improve water quantity and quality and increase resilience to climate change, such as planting grasses and native plants on embankments to prevent erosion during flooding.
It is projects like these that will help communities cope with the changing climate, and an uncertain future of droughts and floods. “Up until now, communities in this area have lacked the tools they need to manage the changing environment they’re living in,” said Ahmed Mohamud Adam, FAO National Project Manager in Beletweyne. “With the level of data we could gather from geospatial images, historic data and computer modelling, the enhancements will not only protect the community right now, but also in the years to come,” he said.
The intervention also has a significant focus on technical capacity building and outreach support, particularly through the National Flood and Drought Task Force and development and implementation of policy guidelines. This approach is in line with FAO’s overarching Country Programme Framework and its commitment to institutional support in the country. The project has delivered on this commitment by supporting the National Flood and Drought Task Force, holding consultation meetings with government and community-level committees to ensure sustainable delivery and developing technical capacity. It also published the Flood Road Map and developed the guidelines for Flood Works (a policy on flooding and action) as well as supporting the Task Force on the development of a structured situation assessment process to ensure a foundation of understanding of the current conditions and informing action for the future.
“We hope this project reduces the flooding and the resulting displacement in Beletweyne and the surrounding areas that we used to see almost every year,” said Ahmed Mohamud Adam, FAO National Project Manager. I think our work has given the people of Beletweyne a lot of hope because many lands that were once uninhabited are now worth living in,” he added. The work in Beletweyne is expected to protect about 400 hectares of agricultural land and contribute to the protection of more than 13 000 rural families like Tigaa’s.
“Before the dykes and embankments were built, we felt like our lives were constantly in danger. With these developments we hope to keep our families safe and sound, and are optimistic about the future,” said Tigaa.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.