Somalia is facing the worst drought following the failure of three consecutive rainy seasons since October 2020. The worsening drought conditions devastated the vulnerable population’s access to water both in terms of quantity and quality particularly the rural people who make up 60% of the country’s 15.8 million (2020) people.

Somalia is a water scarce country with approximately 411 m3 of renewable fresh water per capita as of 2017 (World Bank, 2020). This is a staggering decline over time from 2 087 m3 in 1962 (ibid) which is far below the UN recommended threshold of 1 000 m3 per capita per year. The continuous decline of freshwater availability and repeated droughts as result of the climate change has resulted in fierce competition over water resources and increased water prices, which pastoral people meet through increased debt accumulation and/or livestock sales.

Pastoralists who typically breed cattle, camels, goats, and sheep depend on water trucking or water from boreholes and Berkads (Reservoirs) which are sold for higher prices. Less 20% of them receive from rivers, streams, and shallow wells for pastoralists for free but they mostly dry up in the time of drought. Pastoralists have to sell their livestock to buy water, but in this devastating drought, they run out of saleable livestock due to lack of water and pasture that impacted negatively to the animal conditions with livestock deaths increasing in many areas and an increasing proportion of the surviving ones being in very weak conditions. The pastoralists in Jariiban district under Mudug region of Puntland, one of the hardest hit regions share water scarcity and associated debts as their biggest problem in the face of the devastating drought.

 “In this area (Jariiban) is a water scarce, and water is bought from water truckers for human and animal consumption as there are no free water (streams or surface water) as other regions. The livestock condition are poor and not fit for sale, and no one can afford to pay water in this condition” says Mohamed Said, a traditional elder in Jariiban district of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

Pastoralists in Jariiban receive water through water trucking from the strategic boreholes that exhausted by dropdown of water levels and constant breakdown of boreholes due to long hours of pumping, fuel shortage and limited spare parts. Somali Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) indicates that water trucking is on the rise with some boreholes pumping for more than 12 hours in a day and serving more than 15 trucks per day.

“In the rural, lack of water exists, lack of money exists. Lack of saleable livestock exists, lack of food exists. All exist. Livestock receive water with water trucking, and the water trucking is not enough for livestock. The nearest place, we are charged with $250. The remote areas, it is more than that; $300 and more…. And no one can afford it” says Madina Nor, a pastoralist woman in Jariiban district of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

Most of the boreholes use fuel-powered generators to pump out water, and the recent fuel prices that jumped to $1.1 per liter makes the situation even worse, sending a 200-liter barrel of water to more than $7 in some areas being the highest prices ever recorded in the area. The increasing water and food prices will send poor pastoralists into deep crisis and unpayable debts while they are still owed debts incurred in previous years.

 “We have to pay back the heavy water debts incurred during the drought in the time of prosperity (rain season). I still pay back the water debts incurred previous droughts let alone of those incurred now and recent droughts” says Haji Farah, a pastoralist in Jariiban district of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

“The vulnerability of the people using the borehole who cannot pay the fuel ..and the worsening situation of the drought and impact on livestock and the people, so we are calling for the concerned entities.. either of the government, the district of Jariiban, the regional administration, the state government and other generous individuals who give, to assist these people with whatever they can. We are asking Allah for blessed rain and take these people out of this situation” says Said Karshe, a member of Jariiban local council of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

Water scarcity and drought conditions will get worse if this rainfall that expected to start in April fails, given that likelihood of below average rainfall in March – May 2022 as forecasted by IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Center (ICPAC) on March 24, 2022.


Abdikhayr Mohamed Hussein
Bertha Fellow 2022