The World Bank approved a $70 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to develop resilient water, agriculture, and environmental services for rural communities in Somalia’s drylands. The Somalia Water for Rural Resilience Project named ‘Barwaaqo’ builds on the Biyoole project and comes at a critical time when Somalia is facing an unprecedented multi-season drought and worsening food insecurity.
The Barwaaqo project will expand services in Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug, and the South West States while expanding to include two additional federal member states—Hirshabelle and Jubbaland—where the project will focus on the areas situated away from the floodplains of the Shabelle and the Jubba rivers. This project will provide water to 500,000 people, representing approximately 15% of the rural population, who currently only have access to limited services and unimproved or surface water.
“The Barwaaqo project supports communities to build resilience and adapt to climate change by improving access to water resources in a dryland environment,” said Kristina Svensson, World Bank Country Manager for Somalia. “Increasing access to water will help improve human health and well-being, particularly in the face of the current drought.”
Environmental challenges, exacerbated by climate change over the years, have contributed to the degrading of a quarter of Somalia’s territory and coupled with deforestation and loss of soil, rural livelihoods are under threat. These challenges, along with droughts, also cause pastoralists to lose their livestock (their main source of wealth and income) while farmers and agro-pastoralists lose their harvest (which is their main source of food). Given that pastoralism and agriculture are important to the economy, land degradation leads to a reduction in income and food security and affects rural livelihoods, with a direct knock-on effect on the urban economy. It is estimated that approximately 54% of Somalia’s population lives in urban areas and a shift to urban hubs has increased pressure on existing water infrastructure. Scarce water resources must be shared between rural communities and growing urban centers.
“To increase the sustainability of investments, the Barwaaqo project will integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation measures which will support the strengthening of natural resources management. This includes water harvesting and storage, soil conservation, afforestation, and rangelands restoration around water points to slowly ‘green’ the drylands,” said Chantal Richey, World Bank Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist.
For better water storage across Somalia’s drylands, opportunities exist within the Barwaaqo project to deploy low-cost, small-scale water harvesting and storage technologies. For example, sand dams can protect communities, livestock, and crops from flash floods. They can also promote water storage, as demonstrated by the Rabaable dam which was completely filled by one single 20-minute rain shower in early May and was able to provide water for the entire duration of the dry season.
These, combined with soil improvement techniques, can reduce run-off and erosion, promote infiltration, reduce evaporation losses, and contribute towards restoring the soil. This will promote sustainable use of natural resources which will improve the availability of water for longer periods, thus reducing water-related displacement and reducing the drivers of resource-based conflicts.