The Farmers of Somalia Beat Climate Uncertainties Using Mobile Money
2019 was the worst for Somalia as the nonstop dry spells resulted in the lowest cereal yield in the south region. This was the worst harvest done ever since the last one in 1995. Residents had to face the severe consequences, and one such farming family was of Madino, a 21-year-old woman residing with her husband, grandmother, and three kids in the lower Shabelle village. The family was nearly starving by August.
The Madino family farms on rented land and do not own this farming field, just like the other farmers. Unfortunately, this farm usually depends on climatic conditions and irrigation from River Shabelle.
They felt their financials worsen at the rapid approach of the Deyr season and, out of desperation, decided to sell off their two goats, causing them to face even more poverty.
Cash + (Integrated Cash and Livelihood Assistance)
Madino’s, however, quickly came to know of FAO’S program Integrated Cash and livelihood assistance that the European Union funds.
This FAO program was established to provide farmers with emergency relief during extremely tough times when they were nearly starving. This introduced a system of electronic vouchers and money transfers through mobile that readily helps the families easily purchase all essentials they need in the community markets. Moreover, the smart program also trains the farmers in intense – climate environments and strengthens their livelihoods against expected shocks in the future. This helps build certainty, boost confidence, and increase agricultural activity and food and nutrition on a long-term basis.
Madino got very relieved upon learning about her enrollment in this FAO program. They could now get $132 on a three-month basis, no conditions attached, and therefore meet their food and other urgent needs during the lean season. Apart from monetary favors, Madino was sent maize, cowpea, and many other seeds and vegetables and farming tools and bags for storage. It’s assisted her in making most of the crop season and finally putting her land to good use.
Cash + supported 20 700 such farming families in the Deyr season and saved countless from starving.
Why Mobile Money Is So Safe and Convenient
Somalis prefer receiving their cash on phones because they believe it risky to be carrying it around in their hands, and Madino was no different.
FAO’s mobile money and livelihood assistance program reduces mobbing risks by simply transferring the money belonging to beneficiaries in the mobile accounts. They need to be, however, registered under the program after biometric verification.
Covid-19 caused a stir in this department like the rest of ye world. Instead, it was decided to use GPS pictures to recognize the beneficiaries and confirm identity before sending assistance. More work is being done to replace this with voice recognition, which becomes an even better foolproof identification method. Other apps will also follow.
Etienne Peterschmitt is a representative of FAO for Somalia who says, “It is a great innovation that is supporting helpless people belonging to rural areas. We are fortunate and lucky enough to be supporting people living in the most far off regions in the country without any hindrance caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Somalia saw the peak of coronavirus in March 2020, and FAO responded by going digital and sending beneficiaries their monetary assistance to replace paper vouchers with e-vouchers sent via SMS.
Forty thousand farming households got these SMS vouchers that could be redeemed from approved traders of their region and got good farming tools, seeds, and irrigation devices easily. The local traders have a tablet handy that identifies the voucher holder using a unique code, plus take pictures enabled by GPS.
Madino got a good yield in January – February due to sheer hard work and a heavy rain flow. She produced almost 450 kgs of cowpeas rich in protein and maize in 2.1 metric tonnes. This fed her whole family for six whole months. The family expects to harvest onions and sweet peppers and grow coriander and many other healthy foods categories soon.
The abundant Deyr yield also saved Madino’s family from the price inflation of the food category that started due to the pandemic.
“I will never be able to forgive or return this favor. This harvest brought enough food for my entire household, and we are much happier than ever before.”, said Madino
Coronavirus in Somalia
When Covid reached an emergency state in Somalia in March, FAO got active and sent $15.4 million to approximately 429300 people via mobile transfer. Communities are now receiving funds from FAO, which they use to buy local goods and services. Thus the money is reinjected into their economies, avoiding the delays due to coronavirus on the supply chain.
Many farming families residing in the rural regions depend on the climate and rely heavily on rainfall and fluctuating temperatures due to climate change. It is, therefore, crucial to assist communities in preparing ahead for climatic changes. FAO aims to help such families increase their security and resilience against each uncertain force of nature using innovative platforms like mobile money and livelihood assistance electronic systems.