At an early age, Faduma began to learn an art that has been passed down her family from generation to generation. Her hands are slightly worn and slow-moving as she demonstrates how to weave the edge of a straw mat to the woman beside her.
The room is filled with women aged 20 to 30 years old who sit against the walls, straw in one hand and weaving tool in the other. The walls are adorned with previously completed mats, showcasing the skills the women have gained. Faduma lives in Habarshiro, a village comprising approximately 150 households in the Sool Plateau of Sanaag in Somaliland.
The region suffers from water shortages due to overpopulation and open grazing, as well as a lack of basic services such as health care, sanitation and education. In Somaliland it is rare for girls in remote rural areas to attend school, so the majority of Habarshiro's women are illiterate. Instead, they spend their daily lives caring for children and livestock, completing household chores, fetching water and herding goats. Alternative livelihood opportunities are scarce, and the community receives no outside support from the Somali Diaspora. In Somaliland, credit represents an essential coping mechanism for drought, lack of income resources and poor livestock conditions. Households often accumulate debt in order to meet their basic food and non-food needs. Heavy inflation exacerbates debt levels within the community, which can lead to the collapse of the credit system.
In 2010, Adeso partnered with Save the Children UK to implement the Social Safety Nets (SSN) project. The project aimed to reduce community vulnerability to chronic food insecurity in the Karkaar and Sanaag Regions, and targeted 2200 vulnerable households in total: 1200 for monthly unconditional cash relief payments and 1000 for skills trainings/cash grants to help start small businesses. The skills training targeted the most vulnerable community members, offering them income generating opportunities within their own communities.
Skills trainees were selected by a village relief committee (VRC) formed by the community during the initial stages of SSN. Handicraft skills training was a key activity of the SSN project, and after Adeso recognized the needs of Habarshiro, it was specifically selected to host trainings. Faduma is Harbarshiro's handicraft skills trainer, and also teaches basic literacy and mathematics to participants.
Trainers often provide extra activities to enhance trainee literacy levels and entrepreneurial skills. At the end of the training, completion was rewarded with a grant of $380 USD. Trainees used this money to start their own small businesses, utilizing skills gained through the SSN project to make products to sell at the local market and to surrounding towns.
Whilst Habarshiro's women greatly benefited from Adeso's SSN project, they still remain at risk. Poor transfer links mean that access to sales opportunities outside of Habarshiro is very limited. Insecurity is also still a major issue. Inflation of goods is as high as 40% and overall debt levels are increasing. The lack of basic services continues to affect the community. SSN ended in November 2012. However, Adeso has recognized the vision and vulnerability of the people of Habarshiro, and is transitioning to phase II of the SSN intervention to continue addressing the growing needs of the region. SSN II specifically targets communities identified as those most vulnerable to food insecurity within Sool Plateau. Habarshiro village is just one of the communities that will be targeted.