Harvests from 550 farms in Salahley, 80 km south of Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, have been destroyed by pests.
The crops were planted in April and May when the Gu seasonal rains resumed in Salahley, after the long period of drought.
Mustafe Abdiqadir, an expert working with GIZ, said the pests included in particular the Tomato Leafminer which originated in Peru, and might have been imported with produce coming from Europe.
He said this insect is resistant to chemicals available but farmers should plant coriander and fenugreek in the fields to fend them off.
Omar Warsame Nur, whose farm has been affected by the pests, has a large family of 17 children and two wives. They depend on the farm for a living. He planted tomatoes, muskmelons, maize and beans using $1,500 he borrowed from the money transfer company Dahabshil when it began raining.
Omar said he used the money to cultivate the field and pay the labourers. He expected to reap the harvest between the end of June and early July, but it was all destroyed. He is worried about how to find the $220 to pay his six workers.
Omar very high hopes from the farm this year, expecting to make $5,000 from the sale of the produce. This is equivalent to what he made all of last year.
He told Radio Ergo this is the worst turndown he has suffered since he started farming 30 years ago.
The head of the farmers association in Salahley, Hamud Abdilahi Ismail, estimated that the pests have destroyed $150,000 worth of food. He said farmers have really lost hope now.
“The people have been recovering from prolonged drought. We have tried different ways to enhance the productivity of the farms, but nothing worked. We have sprayed different chemicals on the crops but nothing has changed,” he said.
Dahir Osman Guled has abandoned his four hectare farm where he planted tomatoes and maize. Over the last four months he used to wake up early to attend to the crops. He had invested $400, which he borrowed from his brothers working in Hargeisa.
Dahir and his six children have always depended on the farm produce. He now needs to find $300 that went into preparing his field.
He described it as the worst loss since he started working on this farm seven years ago. Last year, he earned $2,300 in profit from his farm.
Abdirisaq Muhumed Gabobe, the coordinator of the agriculture ministry in Maroodi-Jeh, told Radio Ergo that they are aware of the Tomato Leafminer and its destruction. They have sent experts to survey the farms after receiving numerous complaints from the local farmers.