Road project opens up remote Somaliland village to farming potential

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Building of the road from Borama to the remote village of Heego in Somaliland’s Awdal region has brought welcome jobs to local families, as well as prospects of opening up this rural area for development.

Buuh Farah Du’ale and his two older sons are earning $10-15 a day each working on the road, providing a good income of around $900 a month for his family of 15 people.

“Before I got this work life was difficult, but when my two children and I started working, our life changed in terms of the food we get and our savings,” he said.

Buuh’s family were pastoralists until drought culminating in 2021 reduced his herd of 280 goats down to 50, meaning they could not survive on this livelihood.

He joined many others in charcoal production but found cutting down trees was arduous and time consuming and brought little money. He was making just $19 after selling two sacks of charcoal produced from a week’s work. He had to sell some of his last animals to keep the family going.

Now, however, Buuh has managed to enroll four of his children in a local school for the first time, paying $36 for their education. They are saving as well to invest in a future business.

He has repaid the $600 debts he incurred during the drought and feels relieved not to be chased any more by businessmen wanting their money back.

Another father of 12, Abdi Muse Suldan, is also working on the same 25 kilometre stretch of road. He is another former pastoralist, who lost most of his livestock to the drought in 2017.

“We have been doing well in the past three months, my children and wife are all doing well, we get our daily food,” he said.

Abdi owns a three-hectare farm in Heego but has made losses due to the poor state of the old road and the difficulty in getting fresh produce to markets. He is pleased that the new road will help farmers in the area who have been struggling.

Truck drivers hesitated to brave the journey to Heego because the road was so rugged. This meant that transportation costs were high and passed on to local consumers on any items brought in to the village.

Basic amenities such as schools are also lacking in Heego.

“There were no schools in this area, there is no way for people to access us. My father never gave me an education, and my children have also grown older with no teachers. We don’t have Koranic teachers, so where would we get an education?” Abdi told Radio Ergo.

Abdi has made $1,500 since starting work on the road in January, both as a construction worker and as a guard. He plans to invest this in his farm.

The road construction funded by the Somaliland Development Fund is part of the Ministry of Agricultural Development’s Sustainable Land Management Project.

The local NGO Agricultural Development Organisation (ADO) has been providing agricultural skills trainings for local farmers and also implemented a well facility.

ADO’s coordinator, Hassan Hussein Nur, said the project launched on 16 January 2024 had offered job opportunities for 150 people, including former pastoralists and farmers.

The work also aims to stop the soil erosion that has plagued the village during the rainy seasons, when the farms around the village lose land as sudden rains carry away the soil and lead to flooding. Heego has frequently been cut off as a result.

“We have worked on two parts of the road, Kidile and Bololo. The road gets inaccessible because of water gushing down from the mountains. We have diverted the water away from the road using gabions, and we have levelled the ground and refilled the holes,” Hassan explained.