Nugal farmers switch from vegetables to cereal crops as water remains short

Farmers in Jibagalle village in drought-hit Nugal region have turned from vegetable to cereal crop production due to the shortage of water.

Jibagalle, 18 km from Garowe, received very little rainfall at the beginning of last year and nothing since then. The water levels in the wells are not enough for the constant irrigation vegetable farms require. Furthermore the farmers have suffered an array of pests and diseases that have ruined their recent harvests.

This month, farmers in the village switched to maize, beans and millet on the 30 hectares of land comprising 60 farms. Hassan Yusuf Karshe, deputy director of the Puntland farmers association, said he has also turned away from vegetable growing. He explained that cereals take 70 to 110 days to grow and need to be watered only twice, whereas vegetables need watering more than eight times before harvesting.

Cereals are also selling at a high price in the area, with a 50 kg sack of maize selling for around $40.

Karshe used $360 to plant his farm. He bought maize seeds from Garowe and planted on a portion of his four hectares. He hopes to plant more if the anticipated Gu rains arrive at the end of April. These new cereals are vital to their own survival in farming.

Farmers share the limited wells and the engines that pump water to the fields. The largest wells can only water six farms at a time.

Nadifo Ali Liban, 46, told Radio Ergo she had not harvested anything from her tomato farm in the last two years. Tomatoes, normally very profitable, have been badly affected by insects.

Three years ago, Nadifo used to earn around $15,000 from tomatoes on her 1.5 hectare farm. Now her hopes rest on the cereals she has planted. As a single mother of 13, including 10 children in school, Nadifo wants to be able to pay back her loans and stop feeding her large family off credit.

Abdiaziz Ismail Garad, a farming expert, has been campaigning for the development of Puntland’s agricultural sector for two decades. He said the new crop production will be key to the availability of food for people. Livestock will also hay from the cereal plants to keep them fed in the dry season.

Abdiaziz says local grain production will reduce reliance on expensive food brought in to the area from distant areas in southern Somalia and Ethiopia.