By Carol Natukunda
Growing up in the 1940’s, Haji Nasir Al hamed remembers his parents and grandparents involved in farming in the Lower Shebelle in Somalia.“I knew to make it in life, I had to do agriculture,” he says.
Now at 60 years of age, farming is his life. Al hamed owns over 130 acres of land in Lower Shebelle which passed on through generations.
“It took us 30 years to buy this entire land,” he recalls. His family cultivates matooke, oranges, lemons, mangoes, avocadoes and coconut among others.
Although Somalia is prone to prolonged droughts, farming is flourishing here. Through irrigation canals which supply water from the nearby Shebelle river which is just meters away all you see is lush green and banana plantations. It is hard to believe it hardly rains in this region.
Before the war erupted in the 1990’s, Al hamed used to export lemons and grape fruits to Italy and Dubai. But with gunshots everywhere, and people scampering for safety, that soon changed.
“We kept cultivating but at a smaller scale. Some of my children had to flee the country for safety,” recalls Al hamed. “Those of us who stayed had to plead with the Al shabaab not to kill us. We told them we were not serving any political interest. Still, you were never too sure you would be alive the next day.”
A banana plantation sustained by irrigation in lower shebelle
They would later return in 2011 when the AMISOM got rid of the Al Shabaab terror group from the area.
With security guaranteed, farmers like Al hamed have now resumed their livelihood and are smiling.
Today, Al hamed employs over 70 people and pays them a weekly salary of 30, 000 Somali shillings. He uses the modern tractors to till the vast land.
Most of the food he cultivates is sold to the local market, to feed the internally displaced persons and parts of Somalia without food. But the local market is still not enough for the farmers.
“Our fruits are rotting in the gardens. Apart from the lemons which we are able to export, the local market is still too small to consume our entire big food basket,” says a farmer.
But there is hope.
Recently, UN’s World Food Program (WFP), reported that they were for the first time buying food from the Somali farmers, which is in turn supplied to areas within the country that have inadequate food.
Somali’s minister for agriculture, Abdi Ahmed Mohamed said revamping the sector would revive the economy which has been strained by decades of war.
The Lower Shabelle regional administration has no plans yet to tax the farmers until they recover from their losses caused by al-Shabaab, officials told New Vision.
The Army spokesperson, Paddy Ankunda encouraged farmers to help other displaced persons to pick up the pieces and move on.
“For us as AMISOM, we are here for security. We want the Al Shabaab to stop fighting; the shooting must stop. We have not come here to stay. If other Somalis can learn how to farm like you, it would be good,” Ankunda stated.