Hunger along the Wabi Shebelle River and the negative Consequences of Food Aid to the Productive Farming Communities in Somali Region

Somali Region is endowed with different Resources and among them  Wabi Shabelle River that passes through  most of Gode Zone Districts of Somali Region including East Emey, Gode , Adadle, Qalafo, Mustahil and Feer-Feer  where then the River goes to Hiiran of Somalia.

All along these districts there are very fertile land stretched in long distances along the River and except very few innovative farmers dispersed along those districts there is no any kind of large scale Irrigation farming by Commercial farmers or any kind of Government invested farming in those areas.If you ever happen to be in Gode, the Zonal Capital of Gode Zone , on your first glance on the way from the Airport, you see large fleet of many number standing along the road and with many young men, almost all from the other regions of Ethiopia, in large number sitting there waiting for loading or unloading of those Lorries.

These lorries are coming from either Berbera , Djibouti or from the big stores in Dire Dawa and Adama bringing food Aid from the World Food Programme stores.  The type of food mostly carried by those Lorries is destined to those districts along the River and the food mostly contains Wheat and other Nutritious Biscuits for the undernourished children in those areas.

If it is your first visit, you will not have any bad feelings about the many Trucks carrying the food Aid but might think it’s because of climate change induced drought that has resulted in the huge amount of food Aid to be brought by Humanitarian organizations to save lives.

 your surprise starts when you travel just a Kilometer away from Gode and you are caught   by the sound of the Shebelle River Water following down the way to hundreds of Kilometers all along those districts and that is when you ask yourself why in this World People with all those resources are dependent on food Aid that comes from as far as the USA or Canada with a very normal kind of food that can be grown with a minimal cost in those very fertile farms along the River. 

I was with a mission in Kalefo Sometime back and saw many donkey carts in queue in one of the big stores in the Districts and before asking anyone about the donkey carts, I replied to myself with the understanding that Kelafo is known to be a very productive land with People that are known to be hard working when it comes to farming, that these carts are bringing harvests from the farms from close by green and lush areas.

I asked our driver about these donkey carts and he told me that all these carts are queuing to collect the food Aid brought from Jijiga and to be distributed to the people in this town. Can you imagine it was the harvesting Season in this area and people are in those lines to receive food Aid?

 That is when sorrow and disappointment filled my heart on how my people are being mentally colonized with a very cheap kind of food while they are able to produce their own food and feed others in the drier parts of the Region.  

The other Question that is lingering in my mind unanswered is that if it is by coincidence or by clear deliberation that food distribution is done on the Gu’ harvesting season when all farms are ready to be harvested? 

I am aware that there are both intended and unintended consequences of the food Aid Distribution resulting in that farmers do only focus on Cash crops production for better market prices. I spoke with some farmers to understand how food Aid has affected them and I was told that all farmers stopped growing maize and Sorghum for Commercial purpose because they will not have access to better market prices as the food aid has already occupied the market. 

I saw many Lorries in the other side of Kalafo and to my surprise its onion to be transported for sale to as far places as Gondar of the Ethiopian Highlands because there is high demand of this kind of Onion produced here.  Talking to the  people in the area about food Aid Distribution in a place that is the heart of food production in Somali Region and how they perceive it. Most of them told me that they are able to produce more than the amount of food brought here from abroad but instead told me that they have stopped cultivating crops for there is o market for the produce.

I have personally thought about the possibility of the NGOs to purchase food from the local areas that will encourage also farmers to opt for large scale production of crops.

Hussien Mohamed Yusuf

Hussien is interested in Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation. He has worked many years in Somali Region for both the Regional State and NGOs in the Region.  For any communications he can be reached through hussienm4@gmail.com