Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Beasts of burden a boon to the displaced in Baidoa


Beasts of burden a boon to the displaced in Baidoa

A UNHCR-funded programme in the south-central Somali town of Baidoa is helping displaced women to feed their families with four-legged help.
5 May 2009
Donkeys play a vital transport role in Somalia.

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5 (UNHCR) - Habey Edin Mohamed's future looks promising. Her small transportation business is thriving - thanks to the help of UNHCR.

The mother of seven was one of 50 displaced women each given a donkey and cart under an income-generation project for vulnerable families in the volatile south-central Somalia town of Baidoa. The programme is being funded by UNHCR and implemented by the Somali Association for Rehabilitation and Development.

Habey said the donkey had helped transform her life, making daily chores easier and helping her to earn enough money to buy food for three meals a day and second-hand clothes for her family.

The 30-year-old fled to Baidoa in 2007 after a bloody feud erupted between rival sub-clans in her village, some 70 kilometres to the south, over scarce water resources. "My brother was killed and so many other innocent people died. I had to save my family," recalled Habey, who ended up in a camp for internally displaced people when she was pregnant with triplets.

"We were desperate; we had to beg to survive, to feed ourselves. My husband was not working. We were starving," said Habey, who earned a small amount from cleaning clothes for well-off families. Today, she is making enough from her donkey to think about buying another animal and expand her business.

She uses the donkey and cart when she needs to fetch water and firewood, saving her a long and potentially dangerous journey outside the camp for displaced people that she lives in. "I used to walk for hours every day, carrying heavy wood and water," she said. "Now I can get sufficient water for my family in a very short time. I can even carry extra water and sell it to people in the camps."

She also runs a transportation service for other displaced people, which keeps her husband busy taking people around Baidoa and the camps. "We are now able to earn 360,000 Somali shillings (US$17 dollars on the black market). The time will come when we will even be able to send our children to school, hopefully in our own village."

For the project, the Somali Association for Rehabilitation and Development asked the displaced in Baidoa to nominate vulnerable women to receive a donkey and cart to help them and their families become self-sufficient in the town, which has some 3,000 displaced people living in 24 sites.

UNHCR funded the programme to help the most vulnerable live a better life and to reduce their dependency on aid in Baidoa. The displaced in Baidoa have either fled conflict, persecution or drought.

The refugee agency has launched several livelihood projects for vulnerable households throughout Somalia, where there are some 1.3 million displaced people. Hundreds of thousands have also fled overseas.

Esther Mwangi in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this story