How Solar Energy Changes Lives in Drought-Stricken Somalia

Portable, solar-powered irrigation helps small farms reduce hunger caused by climate change

Nuriya Mohamed Abdi, a mother of seven children, has been facing drought conditions in the Xudur district of Southwest Somalia. Together with other members of her community, Nuriya is working to maintain a small kitchen garden, growing everything from chilis and cucumbers to guava and pumpkins. But erratic rain patterns are having a disastrous effect on food production.  

For many years, smallholder farmers in the area have battled a cycle of longer and more severe droughts due to climate change.  These droughts have meant poor harvests. Not a single farmer could plant and produce with the erratic rainfall. 

For farmers like Nuriya, this not only meant fewer grains, vegetables, and fruit, but also having to find more money to pay for food. “When rains fail, it affects our work and feeding the family becomes difficult,” she says. 

Sadly, the crisis is not limited to the Xudur district. Nearly 3.5 million people across Somalia face a shortage in food or other household necessities. 1.2 million of those affected are children under the age of five battling the effects of malnutrition. The erratic rainfall cycle impacts everyone.  

Nuyiya waters her crops using a portable solar-powered irrigation system that's shared by her community.

Photo: Action Against Hunger,

Without rain, Nuyiya and other families in her community seek other ways to water crops. Irrigation holds huge potential, but there are no permanent rivers from which to siphon water. In the past, the only irrigation solution available was diesel powered - a system that doubles crop yields, but this was not sustainable. “Diesel pump sets for irrigation were expensive,” says Hudurow Mohamed, another community farmer. “The system had to be replaced periodically, so we did not get viable returns.” 

To help, Action Against Hunger trains community members on an innovative way of farming using solar-powered generators. By installing five portable solar irrigation kits, each one own maintained by a different community leader, farmers can efficiently pump water from shallow wells.  

“My farm’s yield increased by almost 67 percent compared to before,” says Nuriya, who has adopted the solar irrigation system. The extra yield allows families like hers to sell the surplus. The additional income boosts her household’s food security and creates a more robust local economy.  

Habiba Ali Nur, a widow living nearby in Madawarabe village, shares, “I have three acres of land, but was only able to cultivate half of it in the past. Now, I have increased vegetable production, which requires less labor and provides a consistent income, which I can use to cover the basic needs of my household.” 

How does each community share one irrigation systems? Each irrigation kit rotates among community members. Participating families pay $.50 per hour when borrowing the irrigation system, which is then used by the group collectively for maintenance. The farmers anticipate that the savings will be used for purchasing additional solar panels – building a sustainable economy for years to come.  

A man stands with a portable solar-irrigation system which has been mounted to a donkey so that it can be easily shared shared throughout his community.

Photo: Action Against Hunger,
Thank you to Action Against Hunger for introducing and educating farmers on the use of modern, mobile solar-powered irrigation technology.

Moalin Hussein Abdi, a 34-year-old farmer, who recently harvested papaya during the off-season, sums up his experience: “I have been growing papaya and onions for three years now. Thank you to Action Against Hunger for introducing and educating farmers on the use of modern, mobile solar-powered irrigation technology. Honestly, I found this system to be the best intervention and highly useful for growing vegetables.” 

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocates for change, and reaches 25 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.