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06 June 2015

Catching up with the Cooperative

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In a country like Somalia, where agriculture dominates the economy, too many farmers are still preparing their land by hand, using outdated tools and committing hours of strenuous manual labour for a minimum yield.
39 year old Bashir Ahmed, a team leader of a cooperative of thirty farmers in Afgoye City, just outside of Mogadishu, tells us about how the farmers used to work the land with hand held tools, sometimes using donkeys to till the soil.
Last year, Bashir's crops failed due to the drought that has been sucking the life out of this region for the last few years. Unable to work his own land, he was forced to work for others in order to support his family.
Farming in Somalia is not an easy job. Farmers like Bashir earn as little as $3 for a whole night's labour and the cooperative is vulnerable to many different threats, including drought, robbery and disease, so anything that makes their work easier is a welcome relief.
Bashir and his fellow farmers would spend days in the scorching heat preparing a plot, but since the arrival of two brand new farming tractors, funded by Muslim Hands donors, life has changed drastically. Each tractor has a driver, who the farmers pay to prepare their land, sow their seeds and harvest their crops. Thanks to the tractors, a job that used to take 7-10 days can now be finished in 2/3 hours. Not only is the tractor able to prepare up to seven plots a day, but with the use of the vehicle, the farmers are able to sow their seeds deeper, which produces better crops.
The tractors can be used at night which works well for Bashir, who prefers to work after the sun has gone down and the air becomes cooler. The tractor has multiple parts, which can be swapped according to the function needed. Each tractor lasts for twenty years and is maintained once a month by the driver.
With the help of the tractors, each farmer is able to grow enough to sell and to feed his family with. The farmers also keep livestock, but Bashir, who has nine children, tells us that the produce from his two chickens goes straight to his family.
As well as the tractors, Muslim Hands has also been able to carry out a programme of canal rehabilitation, ensuring that the irrigation system that keeps the whole farm operating, is working as it should do. This is a very important development for the cooperative, as the farmers rely on access to water to keep their livelihoods going.
With the newly rehabilitated irrigation canals, the farmers can access water from a river over 13km away. The water is shared all over the farm and is accessed when needed, ensuring there is no waste. However, Bashir tells us that a water well would provide a vital lifeline for them when rainfall is low over prolonged periods.
Bashir explains to us that his children attend the local madrassa as he wants them to be educated. And with simple measures like the provision of tractors and the refurbishment of irrigation canals, Bashir and the other farmers of the cooperative can support their families to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

By Tijen Horoz, Senior Communications Editor


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