Pastoralists and their livestock have been cut off by river floods in southern Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region, forcing them to use boats to transport their animals.
Ahmed Hussein told Radio Ergo that he was having to buy rice chaff to keep his animals fed, costing 300,000 Somali shillings ($12), a bag as the grassland was underwater.
He had to cross three flooded areas between the rural area of Elad to reach Jowhar, 40 km to the east, using three separate boats. Two of the five goats he was transporting in an overloaded small boat drowned when he was bringing them to the livestock market.
He managed to sell only one goat at Jowhar market, despite it being the Arafah festival at the end of July. He accepted the price of 700,000 Somali shillings ($27) because the animal was not in the best condition after the boat journey and he had no option.
“I wanted to sell the goats to get supplies and pay off my debt at the food store,” Ahmed said. “I have to go back to my herd now, but there is not much to return to and I will have to pay nine dollars for the boat journey.”
Ahmed’s left his 12-year-old son behind in the area called Lebiga, on the other side of the flood waters, looking after the rest of the herd while he travelled to the market.
He is also worried about the rest of his 11-member family stranded at home in the village. He has been sending them some food by boat. They are living on the milk of the two cows at home.
There are around 40 herdsmen in a similar situation in this area. They are all racking up debts with the additional expenses forced on them by the extreme conditions. Ahmed said he already had debts of over 12 million Somali shillings before he started buying food on credit.
Pastoralists stranded beyond the floods with their cows are in an even worse position. The cows are too big and heavy to transport to the market in the small motorised boats plying the flood waters.
Farah Jim’ale, a herder, told Radio Ergo he was caught in a dilemma with his herd and his family separated by huge expanses of water.
“I can’t bring the cows to the market as there is no boat that can transport them,” he said. “In the meantime, my family is in the far-off Dhay-gawan area and they need me, my wife is pregnant and tending to five small children. Only God can help us!”
Farah came to Jowhar town alone to get food for the family on credit, despite already owing 17.7 million Somali shillings ($68).
Everyone involved in the livestock trade has been badly affected by the floods. Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh, a broker at Jowhar’s livestock market, told Radio Ergo that business was so poor he might have to leave the area. He was considering moving to trade at the livestock market in Siinka Dheer on the outskirts of Mogadishu.