Halima Hassan Adan in her shop in Ajawa, Wajir County. Photo credit: Joyce Kabue

Halima Hassan Adan in her shop in Ajawa, Wajir County

One woman's journey towards resilience in the drought stricken Ajawa

She sits silently in the classroom where we were having a meeting with the Community Disaster Management Committees (CDMC) from Ajawa in Wajir North Sub County. Her eyes would dart to the floor every time the camera flicker went on, something we noticed in women in some of the communities we visited; getting a perfect shot of her was a daunting task.

Her face lit up when we started discussing women empowerment and she started contributing to the discussions and sometimes her excitement made her drift away ending up having a separate discussion with fellow women who were in the meeting. She’s 26 year old Halima Hassan Adan, a single mother of a 9 year old boy and a member of the Ajawa CDMC. We walk to her shop as I seek to know her story and how she is coping with the current dry spell which the community says is likely to be disastrous.

How did this journey towards resilience start?

It all started in 2012 when WASDA (a local non-governmental organisation that Oxfam partners with for the project delivery) held a meeting in the community to introduce Phase III of the La Nina project which was funded by the EU humanitarian aid. The specific objective was to enhance the capacities of communities to anticipate and respond to shocks and stresses. For Ajawa community, the main hazard affecting them is drought, which cripples their lives. Halima was selected by her village together with other nine community members to represent them in the committee that would oversee the implementation of the project which included the construction of an underground water tank as a mitigation measure for drought to harvest rain water which will get them through the dry spells. The committee was also charged with the responsibility of helping the larger community in managing disasters at community level.

Is that all she did?

“No, we were taught different things which we could do even at an individual level to mitigate the effects of drought”. She was equipped with skills she had acquired through the Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) approach and numerous training undertaken in the different phases of the project to build their capacity; Halima and five other women who are members of the CDMC, set to establish Merry Go Round groups locally known as ‘Ayuta’ with the objective of diversifying their livelihood and stop relying solely on livestock.  The members contribute KES 1000 (Euros  9.3) every month and the KES 10,000 (Euros 93.4) is given to one member to invest in a business.  Any member who fails to contribute is removed from the group.

Why did she choose to invest in a shop?

“I was tired of getting things on credit from other shops, I wanted to be independent”, she responds. Two years down the line since the group started, it’s still going strong.

Has she benefitted from the shop?

 “Haa” (Yes in Somali), “I am able to provide food for my family, pay school fees and save some of the money with Equity bank. I want to expand my business with the profit I make”.

How does the community especially men perceive women?

A woman who had walked into the shop to buy juice for her daughter was quick to jump in saying “Men appreciate us, they know they will go home to a beautiful smartly dressed wife, there will be food and we will help in paying school fees”.

What’s her advice to women who are not members of the ‘Ayuta’?

“I tell them merry go round groups have many benefits. They have helped us open businesses and become independent”.   

I thank her for her time and walk away wondering, were it not for her business and considering she is a single parent, would she be able to provide for her child in the wake of the recurrent drought in Wajir County? The rains were expected the first week of October (2016) but not a single drop has been seen in Ajawa (as at the 5th of November, 2016). The Ajawa community like other pastoralist communities we visited are preparing for the worst, it’s only a matter of days before they start losing their animals so they say, but Halima Hassan Adan is hopeful she will sail through. She can afford to buy food and water for her family. This was made possible through funding from EU humanitarian aid where four phases of the project on resilience building have been implemented and have contributed a lot to the mind shift of community members like Halima and enabled them to diversify their livelihoods to mitigate the effects of drought.