Born into a pastoralist family in a small Somali village, Fatumo had an early introduction to hardship. As one of nine children, Fatumo spent most of her childhood cooking, cleaning and fetching water. There were no schools in her village and at the tender age of 14, she was married to her cousin through family arrangement.
The early years of Fatumo’s marriage produced her first child. With hardly any rain fall and lacking the means by which to feed herself or her baby, Fatumo lost her child to malnutrition. Unfortunately, the casualties didn’t end there. As the color of the surroundings faded from green to brown, the livestock fell victim one by one. Fatumo’s farm was devastated by drought and by the age of 18 she found herself pregnant, freshly divorced and destitute.
Unwilling to succumb to the perils of her environment, in June of 2011, Fatumo and 30 members of her village began the journey to Kenya. The group trekked by foot for 15 days before finally reaching a refugee camp in Dadaab. Fatumo would finally settle into a small plastic tent that she shared with her daughter, three younger sisters, a niece and a nephew. She was without family, alone in a foreign land with six children under her care. At this point, Fatumo’s life was at its bleakest.
July of 2011 would forever shape the course of her Fatumo’s fate. She met a Lifeline project manager working near her tent. She was introduced by the section leader as one of the vulnerable women living in the camp. The meeting led to a one month internship during which Fatumo learned to make fuel efficient stoves. By August, she was officially employed. When speaking of her experience, Fatumo shared “I could not believe it. I never went to school and do not even know how to read and write. Who would imagine me getting a job with an international agency?”
Over the course of her employment, Fatumo learned firsthand the dangerous ramifications of deforestation. She learned that deforestation was a contributing factor to the drought she and her family suffered through in Somalia.
Soon after becoming employed, she received word from Somalia that her mother, who was too ill to travel to Dadaab, had passed away. Though saddened by the news, she remained committed to the mission. Fatumo pushed forward and began to teach her neighbors the importance of using fuel-efficient cooking stoves.
Fatumo would later go on to be re-married and have another child. Her life was irrevocably changed by her experience with Lifeline. She continued to share all of the knowledge she acquired with people throughout the camp. On why the use of fuel efficient stoves is so significant, Fatumo shared “I want more and more people to be aware of the importance of saving trees. I do not want to lose any more family members. Unless we can save our environment, we cannot go back to our homeland. I want to show my child where I am from”.