Preventing droughts, floods and soil erosion in land desperately needed by some of the poorest farmers and herders

Year-round water supplies for communities facing drought in Puntland, augmented by irrigation channels and erosion barriers, will help boost productivity, incomes and nutrition

August 9, 2023
restored rangeland drone shot in Puntland

Protection walls constructed by UNDP and the Government of Puntland, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), are protecting rangeland in Somalia's most vulnerable areas


Somalia is threatened by its worst drought in 40 years. In 2022 alone, there were 42,000 excess deaths and since 2021, at least 3.5 million livestock have been killed and an estimated 1.4 million people have been displaced.

Climate change means the situation is unlikely to improve, with extreme weather events becoming more likely. Against this backdrop, recurring humanitarian assistance is essential to save lives today but cannot be the solution that will guarantee people’s lives and livelihoods in the years to come.

To provide longer-term solutions and build resilience to climate disasters, UNDP has supported government institutions across Somalia to construct water harvesting infrastructure, including earth dams, sand dams and barkets. In Puntland, these interventions are bringing reliable sources of water to the most vulnerable communities, enhancing food insecurity and reducing poverty and displacement. 

In Jidad – a village in Gardo district where the local pastoral community has struggled to get enough water – UNDP’s 24,000 cubic-meter earth dam has provided water for two years, helping to keep camels and goats alive and ensuring the viability of this traditional herding way of life. 

This water catchment area is so important that the new dam also supplies clean water to villages as far as 80 km away. In some cases, the water is transported in tankers from the dam to where it’s needed; in others, pastoralist communities still arrive with their camels. In total, around 5,000 families have benefited.

To ensure long-term sustainability, the structure is operated and maintained by a local water committee trained by UNDP. A small charge of up to US$10 is levied on water trucks to cover operational costs and the salary for a security guard. 

Water from the dam has also allowed some of the communities nearest to Jidad to expand their farms, improving nutrition and incomes for local people.

The Jidad dam is just one of 35 water infrastructure projects in Puntland built by UNDP in partnership with Puntland’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the Puntland Water Agency.  Together, these have improved water access for 50,000 drought-affected households, of which around 42% are headed by women. With Funding from Global Environment Facility (GEF) UNDP continuous to work with Vulnerable community across Puntland to improve access to water address deforestation and desertification and build long term resilience to climate change. 

Pastoralist and father-of-eight Mawlid Mohamed fled the drought in Nugal in 2021 and gets his water from the dam in Jidad. During the drought, his community couldn’t feed their animals and faced poverty and hunger. People had to survive on emergency humanitarian relief. 

“Now the situation is completely changed,” he explained. “Our livestock have fully recovered from the drought and we can pay back the heavy debts we racked up when a 200-litre barrel of water cost more than US$5.” 

Somali farmer grows watermelons in Puntland

Even small amounts of productive land can mean the difference between making money and going hungry for farmers in Somalia's most climate-vulnerable areas, like this one in Puntland.


A land of potential riches

Puntland’s most important assets are its people and its natural environment. But the environment is being destroyed by drought, overgrazing and the uncontrolled cutting of trees for charcoal and fuel. This threatens livelihoods and food security.

In Gardo’s Burdadley Valley, UNDP has worked to control land erosion exacerbated by these environmental factors and economic practices.  We’ve slowed the pace of erosion and seen the return of local vegetation like grasses, shrubs and small trees. 

With Puntland’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change we’ve also rehabilitated around 1,500 ha of potential rangeland by building check dams to control water runoff. As well as protecting the environment, these ecosystem-based adaptations have created short-term employment for around 5,000 workers in drought-affected areas. 

In Hodobohol, where land erosion has created on of Puntland’s longest gullies – directly though rangeland that is critical for local pastoralists – we have constructed two parallel check dams and 4km water diversion channels to control runoff and prevent the gully growing larger. This rangeland area is now good for livestock grazing.

Local pastoralist Hurre worked on the rehabilitation project. He explained: “The gully has been kept in check because the rocks hold the water back until it is absorbed. The land has now regenerated by itself. 

“These plants and grasses you see are nourished by the rocks that have been laid to hold the water and our livestock always come here for grazing. When I am grazing livestock here, I always check to see if any rocks have been knocked over by water or humans and put them firmly back in place.”

In many areas, traditional ways of life that have been practiced for generations are under threat from climate change, but UNDP and the GEF are helping to fight back with environmental infrastructure.


Looking forward

Restoring the productivity of rangelands is critical if pastoral and agro-pastoral communities are to continue their natural resources-based livelihoods in ecologically fragile parts of Puntland. They play a key role in combating desertification and enhancing groundwater and fodder availability. 

UNDP will continue to mobilise resources and work with local communities and government partners to build new environmental infrastructure and to help maintain existing structures. 

Special thanks to the Global Environment Facility (GEF)

None of this work would be possible without GEF funding, which continues to save lives and livelihoods across Somalia. For more on our work with GEF please see: