A shortage of vegetables has led to sharp price rises in the markets of the Somali capital Mogadishu, as a consequence of the long drought affecting the bread-basket production areas around the River Shabe
The River Shabelle provides crucial water for irrigation for the farms in the regions of Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Lower Shabelle that supply Mogadishu.
Despite the onset of rain in some places, the water levels in the river are still below average.
Hassan Mohamed Sakeel, a wholesale vegetable seller, said there had been only 10 trucks ferrying fresh produce from farms to Mogadishu, compared to 30 per day when harvests were good.
Prices of vegetables have doubled or trebled. A kilogram of potatoes has risen from 18,000to 40,000 Somali shillings ($0.78 to $1.6) to 40,000 ($1.6), while tomatoes have risen from 120,000 to 400,000 Somali shillings ($4.8 to $16).
Asha Hassan Mohamed, a small trader in Banadir market, said she was receiving just two sacks of farm produce to sell instead of the usual 20.
Her expected profits of around 300,000 shillings ($12) have dwindled to around 50,000 shillings ($2).
Asha said she will have to choose between paying $34 a month fees for her six children at primary school or buying food for the family.
Asha lives in Wadajir district and has built her family’s life on her small business over the past seven years.
She sources fresh vegetables mainly from Afgoye, Jowhar, and Janale in Middle and Lower Shabelle.
The Mogadishu markets affected by the food shortages are Sebiyaano, Bakara, Beerta, Banadir, Wadajir, and Hamar-weyne.
For the poorer households, buying vegetables has become a luxury they cannot afford. Halimo Hassan Mohamed in Hodan district said she is not buying them anymore.
“I can’t afford the vegetables because they have become very expensive. We would do our morning green grocery shopping with a budget of a dollar or half, but now we would need three to four dollars. I am now substituting fresh vegetable consumption with meat and serving it with rice to my children,” said Halima.
Hassan Mohamed Mudey, a farmer in Irdole village five km from Afgoye, told Radio Ergo that the vegetables he planted on his five hectare farm had all died due to lack of irrigation.
He is selling butter and milk from his goats, making around 550,000 shillings ($22) for the sale of five litres.
He does not know how he can continue paying the $20 a month school fees for his three children.
Most farmers in these areas rely totally on river water for irrigation.
More recently some have dug their own or shared boreholes to use in the dry season or when the river levels are too low.
Abdikarin Hassan Mohamed, an agriculture expert at Jamhuriya University, said digging boreholes was a positive trend that more farmers needed to consider to save their crops in future.
He said farmers do not usually get help so needed to devise their own initiatives to cushion their farms from water shortage.