This upcoming project aims to increase food security and self-sufficiency by contributing to sustainable organic-Islamic farming for 80 people across 30 acres of land in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Al-Khair Foundation will be working with Global One (GO) and Aqua Garden of Africa (AGA) on this project over the course of a year. AKF’s main outputs for this project will include increasing awareness and use of Organic-Islamic farming practices, encouraging faith leaders to champion for organic farming practices using a faith-based approach, and also establishing a Seed Bank which will enable the conservation of organic seeds and support the project’s sustainability. The indirect beneficiaries of this project includes 480 people (average family members of 80 beneficiaries) as well as the average number family members of the “awareness outreach beneficiaries???.
Why the project is needed?
Before Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown and the civil war broke out in 1991, Somalia used to be known for the resilience of its livestock to drought, as well as the resistance of bananas, sorghum and corn. The following two decades of war, protracted conflict and emergency, eroded the nations’ base to be food secure. Hunger and malnutrition are some of the major challenges large portions of the population face in their everyday life. The conflict has also resulted in an increased number of natural disasters such as floods and drought, along with major disease outbreaks. This has undermined the community’s ability to maintain a secure source of food and has heavily and negatively impacted the agricultural sector.
Today, the government is investing great efforts in the agricultural sector, with support coming from countries like Dubai and Kuwait among others. Positive effects were felt across the country when in 2011 foreign aid groups were asked to leave the country. This is because they were importing food from other countries, undermining the growth and development of local farming. Though farming is a sector in growth, only 1.6% of the land is currently being used for this purpose, with 69% used for grazing. In fact, livestock farming “makes up 40% of Somalia’s gross domestic income and 50% of its yearly exports???.
Among the main reasons for Somalia’s weak agricultural sector are water scarcity, land degradation, lack of technological innovation and climate change. In Somaliland, low production rates, unfavourable terms of livestock trade and insufficient diversification have made the region especially susceptible to external shocks such as drought and leave it to rely on imports as the main supply of food. In line with the Republic of Somaliland’s vision 2030, Al-Khair Somaliland, Aqua Garden of Africa (AGA) and Global One wish to start a pilot project on organic-Islamic farming, where science and faith meet to create an approach that is both result orientated and culturally sensitive, to increase food security in the area. Furthermore, the use of Aqua-Ponics farming will make this technology even more efficient in a region like Somaliland which suffers from extensive periods of drought. In fact, Aqua-Ponics require 90% less water compared to any other conventional farming processes.
The change will be achieved using an approach which will integrate scientific and faith-based methods. From a scientific perspective fish farming, also known as Aqua-Ponics, will be utilised for the cultivation of crops. Our partner Aqua Garden of Africa (AGA) has run a 6 month pilot project using Aqua-Ponics and crop rotation on 3 acres of land. It has proven extremely successful and the farm is today considered the most fruitful in the region.
Fish farming is a water efficient practice, reducing the use of water to less than 90% in comparison to other traditional farming methods. Considering the challenges to water access across Somaliland, this method is even more valuable. Aqua-Ponics have been implemented successfully in Canada, the US, Australia, Hawaii and South Africa. When combined with crop rotation, it harvests light root plants within 6 weeks, and self-supporting plants within 7-12 months, producing a healthy fish population and a constant harvest which rotates vegetables and fruits. Overall, this method uses the natural abundance of fish waste as a natural, rich fertiliser to reclaim degenerated land.
Aqua-Ponics and organic farming will be coupled with a faith-based approach. Somalia is a Muslim majority country and therefore Islam plays a crucial role in people’s lives. The aim is therefore to inspire rural communities to use organic and sustainable farming practices, connecting Muslim famers to their duties of worship to help them safeguard Allah’s (swt) creation, the Earth. To achieve this goal, Al-Khair and AGA will partner with Global One (GO) to raise awareness and deliver trainings on Islamic Farming and conservation agriculture. Islamic Farming is the revival of one of the greatest achievements of Islam’s Golden Age, the Arab Agricultural Revolution. In March 2014, Dr Husna Ahmad (CEO Global One 2015), launched the first manual in conservation agriculture specifically designed for Muslim farmers in Africa. It shows how the six promises of Allah (swt) can create practical farming techniques based on conservation agriculture. GO has recently completed a six month Islamic farming pilot project in Garissa County, Kenya. The project was a success, and saw a 49% increase in yield for the farmers involved.
This double approach, which integrates science and religion, will be used to train a total of 80 farmers, and students from the Agriculture Department, on Organic-Islamic Farming practices across a 30 acre farm. Awareness will be raised with the support and engagement of faith-leaders on organic and conservation farming practices in Islam. Both men and women will be working together, rotating between labour related and Aqua-Ponics related roles. The income generated from the first yield will be reinvested in the project to sustain it over time. Organic seeds will be also collected and stored in a Seed Bank for the next planting season, improving the overall sustainability of the project.
Republic of Somaliland. Somaliland Food & Water Security Strategy, Somaliland Vision 2030. 2011.