Balli Hiile, 9 December 2009 (Somalilandpress) The town of Balli Hiile lies about an hours drive south east of Burcao in eastern Somaliland. Miles and miles of monotonous semi-desert landscape surrounds the village, nothing but acacia trees, termite mounds and small prickly shrubs scatter the land.
Somaliland forms the north western part of Somalia. Declaring its independence from the south in 1991, the region has been striving for international recognition of its independence ever since. Despite a fledgling democracy, its own currency and remaining relatively stable, its claim has never been recognised.
Like the rest of Somalia, Somaliland’s people are in the midst of the worst drought they have seen in a decade. Water points are drying up, animals are dying and with them, thousands of people’s way of life is disappearing too.
For ten years, the inhabitants of Balli Hiile have been noticing this change in the weather. “80% of the village has left because the rains haven’t come” our guide, Fardus who works with Oxfam in Somaliland, tells us. Many of them will have walked 100km with their animals to the Ethiopian hinterlands in search of rain and something for their livestock to eat.
“Those who have left will pass information down the roads from village to village, sending news if they’ve found rain and pasture”, she says.
Only those not able to move and help are left behind. One of those is Abdilahi Ahmed Ali.
Abdilahi is 80 years old and has lived in Balli Hiile since 1958.
“When I look at the landscape now, I think of hungriness”, he says, looking out at the parched land surrounding him. “When I was a boy, the village was full of green, we had the best quality fodder.”
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The community told us that this year, the rains have failed completely, allowing nothing to grow and decimating the livelihoods of a village that relies solely on its livestock for survival. “Each family will lose livestock”, says Abdilahi. “Last year we lost about 40% of our animals, this year we’re hoping it will be no more than 20%.”
Oxfam’s partner HAVOYOCO has been working with the community in Balli Hiile to conserve soil and water by rehabilitating water points and rebuilding crumbling berkads, large holes dug into the ground in which water can be stored.
“We nearly died a while ago,” says one local stallholder in the village. “We had food, but no water to cook it with.” When the community was at crisis point earlier this year, Oxfam though its partner trucked in water to keep people alive.
Despite the devastation of his village and its way of life over the past ten years, Abdilahi still has hope. “We are expecting rain, all we need is rain”, he says.
But if the rains continue to fail and more animals die, many of Balli Hiile’s inhabitants will be forced to give up their way of life and flee to the towns to beg for money and food.
But Abdilahi was adamant that he will not leave his home and the place he loves. “The only thing I can do is lie down here, I’m not going anywhere. I prefer to die in my house.”