When our Somali friends heard we had a farm, we couldn't keep them away. Shamis Farah Hussen, centre, and her friend from Peshawa, Pakistan

The word degmo is used by Somalis to describe a group of several encampments erected by families of nomads whilst grazing their herds of camels, sheep, goats, and cattle. At Hangingheld Farm we have created our own version of a degmo and turned it into a centre in which you are invited to stay.

Before establishing Degmo, its director, Hamish Wilson, had for many years lived amongst Somali nomads and collaborated with Somali communities throughout the UK to promote understanding of Somali culture and history. This is important to the Somalis because the origins of their language and customs are rooted in the pastoral heritage of their homeland where more than half the population still adhere to the nomadic tradition of herding livestock. Even those who inhabit the towns continue to revere the ethos of their camel keeping clansmen with whom they maintain strong ties. Therefore, for Somalis who have settled in Britain, it is with regret that they find themselves confined to the cities, isolated from the countryside and their rural traditions.

So when Hamish and his family acquired the farm at Hangingheld, it was not long before his Somali friends from the UK began to visit, drawn by the prospect of seeing the British countryside for the first time and once again being in a natural environment and amongst livestock. In every instance, when the time came for them to leave, the Somalis asked if they could return with their family and friends.

About the same time Hamish also noticed concerns being expressed by older generations of Somalis and community leaders about the adverse effects on their children of growing up isolated from all influences of the pastoral life that defines so much of their culture and identity. Loss of identity, especially amongst young male Somalis, they concluded, was contributing to a sense of alienation, lack of achievement at school and, in extreme cases, to a life of disillusionment and crime. Could visits to the farm featuring comparisons between rural life in Britain and Somalia not only benefit older Somalis, but also help demonstrate to the younger generation something about their heritage of which they could feel proud? Every Somali to whom Hamish spoke believed it could. And so was born the concept behind Degmo.