Fatima Jibrell is a woman who moves against the tide. While most people were fleeing Somalia during the 1991 civil war, she was returning. Having grown up in a Somali herder community, Fatima had left as a teenager and built a new life in the United States. But she realised things would only change if Somalis converged to bring ideas, solutions and energy back to Somalia. In response, Fatima founded Horn Relief, now known as Adeso, African Development Solutions.” Though the organisation was indeed originally called the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Organisation, it was commonly known as Horn Relief.
Fatima saw the connection between peace, empowerment and resource protection. The war had destroyed natural resource management systems, jeopardising traditional ways of life. She co-founded the Resource Management Somali Network (RMSN), one of the few cross-clan networks, and was instrumental in the Puntland government’s ban on the export of charcoal. But she hasn’t just changed minds; she’s changed the landscape. Through her “rock dam” initiative, communities have learnt to manage rainfall using stone piles, which halt water wastage and create spaces for plants to germinate.
One of her greatest achievements has been empowering women and girls to take the lead in peace and conservation. She has helped to secure a constitutional minimum of 30% of government seats for women and fostered a Women’s Coalition for Peace in northern Somalia. Under her guidance, youth and elder pastoralists have shared ideas around the use of fragile resources, healthcare and peace. By encouraging change from the bottom up, Fatima has ensured that the capacity for action will outlast her work.