It was late afternoon and the muted orange sun hung low on the horizon. I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again, there is nothing like an African sunset – more specifically, a Ugandan sunset.
As we trudged over anthills and leaped across dried riverbeds, the priest spewed unintentional wisdom from his weathered lips; wisdom that can only come from knowing a before and an after.
“If we would just listen to the earth, it could teach us a few things,” he said, toying with a dried piece of grass.
As we continued walking, examining rocks and tasting salty earth in the form of water pouring from an abandoned pump, the priest continued:
“We really don’t have to do much. In fact, our problem is that we are doing too much already,” he shared. “The land would produce on its own if we would harm it less and love it more simply.”
Picking up my mud-encrusted skirt I turned to walk back to the car, where we’d left our friends roasting local vegetables to celebrate the Easter holiday.
Backtrack one month to Ceel Ade [pronounced ‘Ehl-Ahdeh‘], Somaliland.
“We can now taste our land,” Fadumo explains.
We sit on the dirt floor of her home – a dome-shaped hut patched together with sticks, dried mud, emptied flour sacks, and tattered canvas bags – faded and brown from the wear and tear of Ceel Ade’s arid climate. Fadumo, her seven children, grandchildren, and in-laws all sleep, eat, and live on this small plot of land.
But Fadumo does not see the land as small. Forced to flee Ceel Ade during a previous famine, Fadumo and her family lived in an IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps for over 15 years.
Pointing to the earth, she confidently states, “This is my motherland. Ceel Ade is better than the camp.”
Traditionally pastoralists, the Ceel Ade community is persistently suffering from droughts and famines that plague its arid land.
And for a people whose livelihood, as well as much of their personal value, is heavily determined by their goats, camels, and cattle – the consequences of a drought are truly extreme.
Recently, World Concern partnered with the community to build a number of shallow wells and rehabilitate berkads (a traditional Somali water catchment system). Reducing the effects of the predictably yearly droughts, water is now less of a concern for the people of Ceel Ade.
Accessible, clean water is significant. Okay, more like HUGE. But Fadumo can’t seem to stop talking to me about farming. She’s infatuated.
With the help of World Concern training and tools – Ceel Ade has rapidly transformed into an agro-pastoralist community.
“We are very glad to be able to produce food from our land,” Fadumo shares with great joy – the curious kind of joy that comes from learning something new.
In the last five months, Ceel Ade has grown from a community of zero farmers to over 75. It is notable that multiple locals made sure to point that this is the first time they have ever seen a woman farm.
Later, lightly tip-toeing over her newly budding soil, Fadumo says, “When I saw the people in our community growing farms, I requested for seeds. My neighbors taught me what they had learned from World Concern and now I am growing watermelon, carrots, maize, and many other things.”
Fadumo crouches down to run her fingers across a lush head of cabbage. My eyes trail off to the seemingly endless desert serving has her backdrop. The contrast is almost unbelievable and I do not blame Fadumo for never knowing that such cracked, dusty land could harvest such bountiful produce.
“We are thankful for World Concern because they have helped our community to make farms,” she tells me. “Before we did not know that our land had a good taste, but now we know it is good.”
Like others, Fadumo plans to eat and sell her farm’s produce, using the money to pay for her seven children’s school fees and improve the structure of her home.
And with the genuinely selfless attitude that encapsulates every Somali I’ve met, Fadumo explains, “Yes, it is my goal to eat and sell and give food to my neighbor who has none.”
As the land has shared with her, so she wants to share with others.
My mind trails off to the Ecuadorian priest on that late humid afternoon, “If we would just listen to the earth , it could teach us a few things.”