Fadumo Adan Egal, 60, goes out every day with a bucket and a sack to climb the hills around the Nasa-hablood 2 displacement camp where she lives on the east side of Hargeisa to collect up rocks and stones for crushing into gravel.
Fadumo and a female neighbor work together, and can make $20 between them over a period of four days. It is tough physical work but the women have families to feed, and selling gravel for construction has become a regular source of income for them.
There are 540 families living in makeshift shelters in this camp in Somaliland. Fadumo, like many of them, used to be a pastoralist but the family’s livestock died in the harsh drought and their livelihood collapsed.
She is one of 200 pastoralist women now making a living breaking stones into gravel in the hilly areas of in eastern Hargeisa. She walks five kilometres each morning to the quarrying site.
“I work half the day and spends the other half taking care of my sister, who is paralysed,” Fadumo told Radio Ergo. “No one else works for us, I cook the food and care for her.”
Most of the women working here are raising families and looking after households alone. Some lost their husbands and others are divorced. They would rather earn independent income than have to wait for handouts, or beg from relatives.
Three women displaced by drought started the quarrying here in 2016. More women have joined over time. Basra Mohamed Muse works 12 hours a day to support her four children. She started working three months after the death of her husband. “Indeed it is very hard work, but I do it because of the circumstances; I cannot watch my children sleep hungry,” she said. Her earnings pay for the children’s food, education and health bills. Two of her children are in Sheikh Nur School, a government run school charging $5 monthly fees.
Mohamed Hussein, a truck driver, told Radio Ergo he buys whatever gravel is ready for collection when he arrives. He said he and the women have been doing good regular business. Mohamed gets the gravel he needs, and he pays the women on time.