Somalia: Nomads using mobile phones to trace water, pasture

Published: September 4, 2014

Somalia: Nomads using mobile phones to trace water, pasturePastoralists are using the growing reach of mobile phones to find out where they should take their cattle to get grazing and water.

Mohamud Yasit Hassan, a herder in Galgadud region, said mobile phones were helping his community to make better decisions about their lives and livelihoods.

“When looking for water and pasture, we used to walk for long distances and make assessments and then come back home and relocate our families,” Hassan told Radio Ergo’s local reporter. “Today, one phone call or one text message can give us the information that it used to take us days and weeks to get before,” he said.

Mobile phones have also helped nomadic people to track real-time market information on livestock. Instead of moving in the hope of finding good prices for their animals, they tend to make calls and get information first.

The use of mobile phones has significantly increased in Somalia’s vast rural areas and has been making life easier for the pastoralist communities.

Mohamud Ismail Aw Osman, head of Golis, the largest telecommunications operator in Nugal in the north-east, said four people in the average family of seven living in rural areas now have mobile phones.

“It makes it easier for them to get in touch with each other and to communicate with the urban areas,” Aw Osman told Radio Ergo’s local reporter in Garowe.

However, it has not been easy for members of this largely illiterate community to access fully the benefits of mobile technology. Most nomads do not read or write any language and found it hard to navigate the various features on mobile phones. But a little ingenuity has enabled them to adapt.

Abshir Farah, a pastoralist in Nugal, said he and his community had to figure out the best ways of using new technology. “We use signs and symbols that make it easier to find a saved contact in our phone and to make calls,” he explained.


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