Story by Edward Johnson
Getting by as a pastoralist in Somali Region is hard-going. There is potential and appetite for a flourishing agro-pastoral sector. However, the combined impacts of cyclical droughts, market price fluctuations, crop failures, desert locusts and livestock ill-health, are all challenging pastoralists from meeting their potential.
On any given day there are dozens of farmers and traders at Dollo Ado’s primary livestock market, buying and selling camels, cows, donkeys, goats and sheep. They’re there because both the supply and demand for livestock is high in Ethiopia’s southern belt, but there’s one significant obstacle working against them: the harsh climate.
Dollo Ado sits on the borders of both Somalia and Kenya. Around 220,000 refugees, mostly from Somali, live in the five camps in Dollo Ado and neighboring Bokolmanyo and with limited income opportunities, they’re all dependent on regular humanitarian assistance. Many are also reliant on livestock as a productive asset used for transport, cultivation, as a food source and as valuable trading commodities.
Mercy Corps and the World Food Programme (WFP) joined forces to support these communities, and help them help themselves so they could slowly move away from reliance on humanitarian assistance towards a more self-reliant future.
One project was the construction of a large market shelter with an iron sheet roof at the Dollo Ado livestock market. It’s a simple solution that gives traders, buyers and their animals, respite from the scorching sun in summer and shelter from the rainy season deluges.
Forty-five-degree centigrade temperatures previously forced people and animals to vacate the space by midday. Now there’s a market shelter with a roof, that’s no longer the case and business days last from sunrise to sunset.
“The direct scorching sun and the heat meant I never had enough stamina to stay in the market long enough to get a good deal and I ended up selling goats for less than they’re worth,” explained Mohamed. For the last 18 years, he’s been supporting his children with the funds raised from trading animals. With the shelter in place, he’s staying longer in the market and earning more than he used to.
Activities supporting local livelihood initiatives, such as the construction of this market facility, are funded by generous contributions from the Danish Embassy in Ethiopia, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the Swiss government. Together, they are supporting dozens of activities in Somali and Gambella Regions.
Kamilo is the sole provider for her five children and in recent years has been forced to find time to moonlight as a livestock trader to gather enough cash to buy the extras that her children need. She works on a monthly schedule, purchasing a couple of sheep or goats at a time at fattening them up at home. Weeks later, she returns them to the market to sell them at a profit.
“It used to be so stressful at the market,” explained Kamilo. “Even without the sun, it was terrible because the rainfall turned it into a mud lake sometimes, but now the shelter protects us all from everything.
After the market shelter was built, Mercy Corps has expanded the facility, adding water and feeding troughs for animals. There’s also a new notice board where traders can check the latest livestock market prices and keep ahead of price fluctuations.
It’s not just animals and their owners benefiting from the improved market. Next to the main entrance, Fatima is brewing tea on a small burner and pours out coffee into small white cups for thirsty traders. She’s selling hot drinks and home-made snacks to market-goers, and thanks to the new shelter, she now has a roaring trade.
This once hostile working environment is now bustling with vendors and bleating livestock, all thanks to a new shelter. WFP is facilitating numerous livelihood activities like this one for both refugees and host communities, all designed to boost resilience in Ethiopia.