Controlling Expanding Gully Erosion: The Case of the Jiidali Village
Somalia in general and the Sanaag region, in particular, have been experiencing increasing environmental degradation due to both natural causes and human activities which have resulted in rainfall shortages and recurrent droughts. The impact of environmental degradation in the Sanaag region has put at risk the lives of both human beings and livestock. In recent years, gully erosion, which is the removal of soil along drainage lines by water run-off, has been identified as one of the major environmental problems threatening the lives of people and their livelihoods in Sanaag region.
Jiidali village, which is situated 40 kms east of Erigavo district and is surrounded by valleys, has been facing climate change induced hazards, including floods caused by gully formation. This has led to the loss of farmlands which has contributed in turn to a drastic decrease in agricultural production and availability of arable land for pasture in the most fertile grazing areas. Additionally, the gully almost damaged the only drilled underground well (known as Riig) that was recently constructed by the Jiidali local community with support from their diaspora community.
CARE’s approach to climate change adaptation and resilience building projects, like Somalia towards Reaching Resilience (STORRE), is grounded in the belief that people must be empowered to transform and secure their rights and livelihoods. Thus, in response to the above mentioned challenges faced by communities in Sanaag region, CARE’s STORRE project, in consultations with Jiidali local community, conducted a participatory needs assessment to identify communities’ priority needs. One of the prevailing challenges identified by the Jiidali community included the formation of gully erosion. As a result, the community listed the need for the construction of gabion baskets as the number one priority in their community adaptation plan. Once a gully formation begins, it will continue to move headward or drop sidewalls. Therefore, the construction of the gabions help stabilize the gully’s expansion and its disruption to communities’ livelihood activities. According to the community, the construction of gabion baskets help them control the highly escalating gully erosion in their village and protect their livelihood activities.
To ensure community participation at all levels, the local elders were consulted to provide advice on the best design that will meet the need of local communities before installing the gabion baskets. The aim of the consultation with the elders was to harmonize the technical design created by CARE’s Program engineers and the design proposed by the traditional elders.
Two gabion lines were constructed by the STORRE project in Jiidali Village with a total length of 360 meters at the gully’s head in order to partially reduce the water run-off and to retain soil. For example, if the velocity of the passing water is 60m/sec, the gabion reduces it to a velocity of 30m/sec, which means it decreases the speed up to 50%.
From a technical perspective, when the water reaches the gabion lines, it slows down its speed and directly pours down to the borehole and remains there. As a result, the gully is stabilized and the area is expected to return to normal. The installed gabion baskets are not expected to stop the water flow but rather slow down its velocity. During each rainy season, floods have caused the gully erosion to increase about 10 meters due to the fact that the soil is fragile and, therefore, readily collapses. Notably, the local community played a crucial role in gabion construction. They contributed their manpower and they also provided other necessary materials, including stones and water.
A total of 50 people were employed for constructing the gabions through Cash for Work (CFW) which was on-going for 2-3 months. With the CFW, each person was earning a monthly wage of $ 70 dollars. In recruiting the laborers, local community members were involved in the selection process through a participatory and transparent approach with pre-determined selection criteria. Some of the pre-set criteria included that participants should be from destitute families and 50% of the employees should be women.
One of the most effective lessons learnt from this intervention is that the community was able to assess the aggravating threats they were facing, including the issues concerning the environment; they unanimously participated in the controlling measures, i.e. gabion lines construction, and henceforth monitored the progress made in close collaboration with the STORRE project team. On the other hand, the project’s ability to recruit participants for the cash for work activities from the most vulnerable and poor households enabled this group of people to have access to financial resources which contributed to alleviating the financial challenges they usually face.