Solar power harnessed to draw water from the Juba River has enabled poor farmers in Somalia’s Lower Juba region to return to their fields after three years of failed rains and lack of harvests.
Madey Abukar Mohamed, a farmer in Yontoy, 25 kilometres north of Kismayo, planted seeds on his one-hectare farm in September, with irrigation provided by solar pumping water along a700-metre canal from the river.
“It has been 70 days since we resumed farming. We are growing maize, tomatoes, and beansi,” he explained.
Madey, a father of 12, had to abandon his own farm due to lack of rainfall and inability to buy a generator to source river water. He worked as a labourer on other bigger farms for two and a half years, receiving payment in kind of a third of the farm output after harvest.
“I used to work on a farm that had generators. I grew onions, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes and that’s how my family got food,” he said.
He is happy that the solar installation has enabled him to revive his own land and independence. He has 10 children, including four girls, studying for free at Yontoy school.
Another local farmer, Sahra Mohamed Ali Bilaal, a mother of six, works with her husband on their two hectares of land and are hoping for a decent harvest this year.
“I have invested $200 in buying seeds. I earned this money when I was working on another man’s farm. He had a generator, and that’s how I got the money to invest in my farm. I am now growing vegetables and maize,” she said.
They have been taking food and other supplies on credit from the local stores and hope to pay their debts from sale of their farm produce.
“I work on my farm. My children get food, and my husband is not rich, he also works with me on the farm tending to the tomatoes and vegetables,” she said.
Sahra’s children are also at Yontoy school, and three also study at Koranic school where she pays $5 for their classes.
Jubbaland Ministry of Agriculture and the Norwegian Refugee council (NRC) have been working on this solar power project that began in June and may be extended.
Abdi Hersi Gurrase, head of implementation of the solar panel project, said they targeted farmers owning land near the canals and with large families to support. The solar panels installed work for eight hours a day and are able to generate water for 100 hectares of farmland.
Some 84 poor farming families who could not afford generators to pump water have been helped to return to make their land productive again.