Saleban Hassan Ali, 40, living in Middigale, 60 kilometres east of Badhan, Sanag, has been struggling to revive his two-hectare farm after years of failed rain. Despite his hopes, his farmland still lies bare due to water shortage.

Saleban took a $2,000 loan for his farm last June ahead of anticipated rainfall. However, all 16 water wells that provided water for the farms in Middigale had dried out after two years of no rainfall. Other farmers resorted to water trucking services to advance their farms, but Saleban could not afford to buy the water.

“Crops normally can’t stay three days without water, but a barrel of water is $5 and that’s why our crops would sometimes stay 10 days without water,” he said.

He lost his tomatoes, onions, pepper, coriander and cantaloupe which require constant watering. Although the guava and orange trees can survive with less water, he is worried they will also wither if the water shortage persists.

Saleban’s farm supports his wife and nine children as well as his relatives. They now depend on loans to get meals. He took 25 litres of cooking oil and 75 kilograms of flour, rice and sugar on credit to use sparingly by cooking once a day.

“We depend on our farm output and now we don’t have anything. We were hoping for a $2-3,000 profit. There are about 60 families in this area who depend on farms but they’ve all been hit by famine. We are requesting the aid organisations and Puntland water agency to respond to us,” he appealed.

Salaben is also worried that four of his children at Middigale primary and middle school might drop out due to financial constraints. He was not able to pay their school fees in March and April. The school informed him that his children will not sit for the annual exams in May if he fails to pay the fee arrears.

Another Middigale farmer, Ahmed Farah Ali, 37, says he is on the verge of giving up on his farmland due to the water shortage.

He has not been able to pay the fees for three of his seven children in school. Their arrears have accumulated to $90 since February.

“We normally sell our crops and get food and pay our children’s fees. Now we have to get our food on loan, and incur costs for our water needs,” he complained.

Ahmed had bene planning to harvest his one-hectare farm in April. Due to the water shortage, he lost his onions, pepper, tomatoes, coriander, guava and oranges. Having been a farmer for 10 years, he is now struggling to pay off the $600 loan he took to invest in his farm.

“When we had water, three people would work on the farm and we planted fruits and different vegetables. We got 100% profit from our farm. We have been faced with water shortage in the past three years, although some years were better than others,” he said.

The director of Puntland water development agency, Mohamed Abdikadir Mohamed, told Radio Ergo they were planning to improve the water supply to villages in Sanag region, including Middigale, where about 150 farms have been hit by water shortage leading to crop failure.

“The land is big and people are far apart, they all need water. 60-70% of the people are nomadic pastoralists. We have promised to work closely with farmers so that they can get enough water. The solution is to get water wells in these remote areas and also to increase water catchment areas and reservoirs,” the official said.