Conflict forces farming families to abandon their land in Beletweyne to languish in IDP camps

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Friday November 18, 2022

Halimo sits worried about finding food for her children in an IDP camp while her farm stands empty kilometres away/Abdirisak Ahmad/Ergo

Halimo Abdi Dahir, a farmer in Beledweyne, was gearing up for the planting season when conflict exploded between Al-Shabab and Somali government forces, forcing her to flee with her children to an internal displacement camp for their safety and survival.

She and her 10 children walked from Hilo-ba’ad, 28 kilometres from Beledweyne, and are spending their first week in Share’o IDP camp in Bundaweyn.

Whilst they languish in the camp facing a shortage of food, poor shelter, and unemployment, Halimo’s six-hectare farm that used to support them with food and cash lies empty in their village.

“We are hungry, we arrived yesterday after the fighting got worse. I took my children and brought them here; we don’t have anything. As I speak to you, we are hungry, we didn’t cook last night. I don’t have food to cook for the children!” Halimo said in frustration.

She left all her belongings behind as there were no vehicles to ferry them from the conflict zone. Her husband remained behind in the area. In the camp, Halimo quickly set up makeshift shelters and started asking for some food handouts from her neighbours.

They have to walk a kilometre every day to fetch water from the river Shabelle despite the insecurity in the area.

“We want to revive our farms. I was motivated but now we are discouraged, how can you farm in a conflict-torn area? I have always been a farmer and it’s the first time that I have come here to a camp. We were getting rainfall and the maize was growing on the farm, although it was attacked by caterpillars,” she said.

There is no school or health centre in this camp and the 600 families in the camp queue for only two toilets.

Dahabo Hassan Farah, a mother of 13, also abandoned her farmland in September and has been struggling to find food in Share’o camp ever since. This former proud farmer now accompanies other IDP women scouring for odd laundry and housekeeping jobs in the town.

“I don’t know people in this area and every day I wake up and go to the city. I knock on people’s doors and if they open I ask if they can give me a job. If I’m lucky I get to work. That’s how we survive, this type of life is very hard,” said Dahabo.

Dahabo was displaced from Samataro, 45 kilometres from Beledweyne, where she owned a farm. Her 45 goats all perished in the drought, but she was starting to cultivate her fields as the rainfall began. When the shooting erupted, she and the children fled.

Dahabo carries four 20-litre jerrycans on her back from the river every day and is not worried about water, although finding food is a problem.

The leader of Share’o camp, Abdullahi Hassan, said new farming and pastoralist families have been joining the camp every day for the past two months. He said they are unable to help them other than inding them a space to put up a flimsy hut and reporting their situation to the Hirshabelle government and aid organisations.

“We are in the rainy season; the people have their children. There are no plastic shelters, there is also no food. The IDPs include children and elderly people. It’s God who provides but these people don’t have anything,” he said.