New grass offers hope for livestock herders in Somaliland

New grass offers hope for livestock herders in Somaliland

A new type of grass introduced to agro-pastoralists in Somaliland is showing signs of success as a way of keeping livestock fed under drought conditions.

The grass seeds, imported from Colombia, are resilient to hot climates and require little water to grow. Seeds were given to 35 families to grow over a two-year period in Arabsiyo, Huluk, Agasmaha, Gal-dawo, El-baxay and Lafta-tiin villages in Gabiley, 45 km west of Hargeisa.

According to scientists from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), the Kenya-based research institute leading the project, the grass is more nutritious for livestock than other local vegetation and reduces the costs to herders of providing livestock feed when drought occurs.

“This type of grass, called Barakariya, thrives in hot, dry areas. It is different from local types and it can grow in a week or two. It has other benefits as well as it does not need much water and it can withstand drought. We have introduced it hoping it can bring resilience among the people,” said Dr Mohamed Hassan Mohamud, ICIPE project director.

Abdikadir Aw-Mohamud Ahmed planted the new grass to try to keep the remainder of his herd alive. Only eight of his cows survived the drought but he said they are now thriving.

“Since I planted the grass the cows are getting healthier and stronger, three of them are pregnant and I can get up to five litres of milk a day. This is all because of the constant pasture the livestock have got now,” Abdikadir said

Farhan Ibrahim Yusuf, another agro-pastoralist, told Radio Ergo’s local reporter that he spent $400 feeding his livestock last year and could not afford it again. The new grass has saved him a lot of money.

“The cows are producing abundant milk, whenever they eat they become full in no time. They don’t need much now and the grass doesn’t need a lot of labour, it grows as soon as you plant it,” he said.

Families can access the grass seeds free of charge from the Ministry of Livestock in Somaliland. Word is spreading to other regions.

Dr Mohamed said the preliminary stage of testing the grass has been successful.

“We have seen the benefits of the grass and it is doing well in the country. It has saved livestock and it is cheap. We want to spread it to rest of the country based on the success of this phase,” he said.

By Hemed Abdiaziz