Somalia: Who Could End the Prolonged Political Showoff to avert Charcoal Business?

acacia-tree“In Somalia there is lack of a uniform standard of plants reporting”

The Somali Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (SOMESHA) delighted to recall Acacia trees wellbeing. This recall of Acacia trees protection comes after when the newly elected president of the Federal Republic of Somalia Government H.E. Hasan Sheikh Mohamud commemorated on Wednesday April 17, 2013 Somalia’s national tree planting day.

The President of the Federal Republic of Somalia planted a mango tree in Villa Somalia in honour of National Tree Planting Day. During his planting dash for action the President was accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator and Head of OCHA, Philippe Lazzarine; Minister of National Resources, H.E. Abdi Rizak Mohamed Omar; Minister of Social Services, H.E. Maryan Qasim.

President Hassan stressed that it is a crime to cut down trees, make and export charcoal and said: “There are laws in this country adopted in early 1970s by the Government of Somalia. Also there have been UN resolutions regarding the charcoal ban. Despite the current situation, we must enforce these laws.

Causes behind the charcoal

During the last several years, a new type of business was introduced in Somalia. Cutting of trees to produce charcoal for export to the Gulf States has become a big business with considerable profits. In order to optimize the operation, local businessmen introduced a new technology – battery-powered chain saws for cutting of the forests.

Trees are cut down, burn and brought by trucks for export from major ports in the country, particularly Mogadishu, Kismayo and Bosaso. Most of the charcoal is made in southern Somalia, while northern and eastern regions also experience the same problem but to a lesser extent. More than 80% of the trees used for charcoal are types of Acacia, the most dominant species.

The acacia trees are found at altitudes of 350-1,700 meters above sea level. These areas straddle Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Somalia. High temperatures and a mean annual rainfall of 300- 800 mm characterize them. The flowers of the tree also provide excellent bee forage. Its twigs, leaves and fruits are good fodder for livestock and especially in the dry season when herbage becomes scare as grasses and shrubs dry up and become scorched.

Mature seeds can be collected all the year round and a mature tree can produce up to 300 kg of fruit annually. At harvesting time, the fruits have high moisture contents (about 40 percent) and must be dried. Due to absence of powerful functioning government institutions, there is no documentation of the volumes being exported or the amount of trees being cut down. The Lack of powerful functioning government in Somalia could therefore be seen as the major cause of the ongoing deforestation.

Somalia has the lowest consumption of modern forms of energy in the Sub-Saharan Africa Firewood and charcoals are the major sources of energy for the majority of the people in Somalia. As a result of this, the removal of trees in Somalia is steadily increasing, following demographic trends, which are reversing the traditional Somali nomadic way of life, as well as other social crisis. As their source of energy, rural people rely on firewood while urban inhabitants use charcoal. Mogadishu’s charcoal supply comes mainly from the south. In rural areas, strong link between poverty and deforestation exist. Like other countries in Sub-Sahara Africa, Somalia is presently, as well as in the past, suffering from energy problems. Power and fuels cut-off have been frequent in all urban centers, access to electricity have also been poor or unreliable, if not absent.

Foreign Demand for Charcoal – the Major Driving Force:
Traditionally, the making of charcoal was limited to a small group of cutters who used hand axes and responded to an internal and much localized demand, which during the last several years started to increase. In spite of increases in local consumption, foreign demand for charcoal puts unprecedented pressure on locally limited wood resources.

Taking full advantages of country’s lawless condition, interest-driven local businessmen with commercial links in the Gulf countries export tremendous amount of charcoal to mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Charcoal from dry land in poor Somalia is used in the houses of the Gulf countries as luxurious.

The illegal removal of trees in Somalia to produce charcoal for export is an action destroying the common national capital, which the society does not benefit. Although public awareness of the impact of the deforestation in Somalia has increased in recent years through media, it has not slowed the alarming rate of deforestation appreciably. As a result of deforestation, land suitable for grazing is destroyed. This will inevitably affect the nomadic communities who entirely depend on grazing. The most visible results of this action are desertification, soil erosion, and general environmental degradation. The highest price will be the long-term effect in desertification.

The valuable role of trees in controlling runoff and water and the positive interaction of acacias with crops and animals are reasons why much more emphasis needs to be given to the forest protection. Deforestation will have major adverse impacts on rainfall availability, capacity of the soil to hold water, local climate, and habitat for animal species and bio-diversity. Basically, humans abandon areas that have been cleared, particularly when the community is nomadic depending on grazing for their animals. All these will finally collectively affect the livelihood and socio-economic aspect of the society.

In addition to environmental impacts, deforestation as an income-generating activity also causes internal dispute and conflict within the society. In 1997, actions taken by local chiefs and clan elders in areas in central Somalia who tried to prohibit charcoal cutting led to conflict, that resulted loss of life.

Obviously, Somalia policy makers are well-known on doing showoff pledges and political campaigns to maintain ensuring their political agenda.

“On behalf of Somalia green writers and environ journalists, we have new projects in fighting forest fires, and we employ officials in our country that need to be part of the national tree-planting campaigns in their fights against forest fires and restoring the country’s fast-disappearing forest cover,” SOMESHA Secretary General Mr. Daud Abdi Daud told members of the press locally.

“We built education hub for information sharing, and are willing to build more, and send our officials out, if requested”. “We also urge schools students and the community as a general to fight against the deforestation and encouraged them to plant a tree in front of each house”. Mr. Daud added

SOMESHA Recommendations;

  1. Somalia government should appoint forest protection officer instead of launching events without prior strategy.
  2. In Somalia there is no any intensification of tree planting activities exist in across Somalia or even projects so the government should be formed proper plan of projects on planting.

Note to the editors;

Since independence in 1960 further plantings have taken place in the Somali Democratic Republic, although it was not until the late seventies that these became widespread. More recently the number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) undertaking forestry-related work has increased, and by mid-1986 there were over 20 projects (or sub-projects) planting trees. It has been apparent for some time that there is a lack of coordination between these projects, and that information gleaned by one project is not readily available to another. Thus each project has in effect started afresh and learnt from experience the best species to sow, the most appropriate nursery methods and suitable out-planting techniques. Though plantings were confined to relatively small numbers of trees on private farms. Prior to these dates plantings had taken place under the guidance of veterinary officers, agricultural advisers or as private ventures.

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Somali Media for Environment, Science Health and Agriculture (SOMESHA)
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