Somali Agricultural Technical Group (SATG) was founded in 2001 to provide sustainable home-grown solutions to alleviate rampant food shortages caused by civil strife and a lack of agricultural and food policies in Somalia. That was fourteen years ago. How fast time passes! This is 2015. During this period SATG in partnership with international research institutions, Ministry of Agriculture, DAI/USAID and farmers rolled out innovative climate smart agricultural technologies embracing both crop and livestock sectors.
It introduced improved high yielding, drought tolerant hybrid maize and cowpea varieties, and a wide assortment of horticultural crop varieties. The vegetable and fruit crops are commercial and include capsicums, carrots, chillies, lettuce, onion, Swiss chard and tomato, and dwarf pawpaw and watermelon varieties. Together with improved crop varieties it provided a package of best practices for the whole value chain – from farm to kitchen – for these crops.
In livestock sector, SATG introduced improved fodder species such as alfalfa, dolichos, Napier grass, Rhodes grass and Sudan grass. It established production of fodder, propagation of seeds and planting material combined with appropriate training and backstopping for fodder growers. SATG launched a mechanical fodder harvester and baler to commercial farmers who may want to venture to fodder production as a business. It engaged milk producers and milk traders in successive training on best hygiene practices and introduced quality milk containers and cold boxes. It also supported private animal health service providers to access quality veterinary drugs and demonstrated the benefits of animal health measures on milk yield to milk producers.
The impact of improved technologies is increased yields of quality products. This translates into increased sales and higher profit margins especially during the month of Ramadhan and the following Eid festival. Somalis on Thursday June 18 joined the 1.6 billion global Muslim faithful in fasting in observance to the month of Ramadhan. These two events usher brisk business activities for traders in groceries, meat, milk, fruits and fresh vegetables. Overnight the business landscape changes: business roller coaster zooms off and frenzy shopping starts. Prices of commodities skyrocket and sales go sky-high. All this happens to the delight of food producers, traders and retailers. Equally SATG and donors supporting SATG agricultural initiatives share this good feeling of the small-scale food value chain actors and, particularly, seeing specks of light at the end of the tunnel of economic transformation of the lives of smallholder farmers and pastoralists. Parting shot – Farming is business. Ramadhan Kareem – Eid Mubarak!