Continual Food Insecurity and efforts to prevent it looms across Somalia

When you think of October, what comes to mind? October makes us think of food celebrations. Over the course of this month, although there is no big food events and awareness about hunger and what it means to have good, sustainable food going on in Somalia at large.

Yesterday October 16, was a World Food Day. It marks the 68th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which has led international efforts to address hunger and malnutrition for nearly seven decades. Every year on this day, people worldwide celebrate food and seek to raise awareness of issues surrounding poverty and malnutrition. The World Food Day theme for 2013 is Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.

On behalf of the World Food Day on October 16, 2013 the Somali Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (SOMESHA) decides to disseminate the current level of Somalia’s food crisis and the ongoing efforts towards its prevention.

Acute malnutrition continues to pose a threat to hundreds of thousands of children especially in the country’s south, latest findings indicate.

A joint report by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU), a project managed by UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) indicates an estimated 870,000 people will be in Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and Phase 4) from August to December 2013. The situation has significantly improved since 2011 when 4 million Somalis were in extreme food security crisis. The recent figures also represent a continued improvement since January when an estimated 1,050,000 people were in Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phases 3 and 4). Improvements are attributed to a near average July/August 2013 Gu harvest, increased livestock prices, increased livestock herd sizes, improved milk availability, low prices of both local and imported staple food commodities, higher purchasing power from income from labor and livestock sales, and sustained humanitarian interventions over the last six months.

However, nearly 2.3 million additional people beyond those requiring more urgent assistance, one-third of Somalia’s population, are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2); their food security remains fragile. This group of households may struggle to meet their own minimal food requirement through the end of the year, and they remain highly vulnerable to major shocks that could push them back to food security crisis.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have joined forces with Somali authorities to encourage Somalis to eat more fish as a way to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa 

Despite Somalia’s enormous marine resources, the country’s fishing industry remains largely under-developed and its fisheries unexploited. This is partly due to decades of conflict and piracy on the high seas – but also because fish does not form part of the traditional Somali diet .

“The major aim of this campaign is to encourage thousands of displaced families living in and around Dolow to start including fish in their diets,” said Luca Alinovi, the FAO representative in Somalia. “The Gedo region has two rivers, the Dawa and Jubba, yet the eating of fresh fish is nearly nonexistent.”

Somalia has a 3,300-kilometer coastline – the longest in Africa – yet the people of Somalia eat very little seafood. The country’s per capita fish consumption is 2.4 kilograms per year, one of the lowest in the world. The country is still emerging from a food security crisis following the drought and famine of 2011 that left many thousands dead.

‘Sustainable food systems’

Celebrating this year’s World Food Day in the southern Somali town of Dolow, the two Rome-based food agencies reached out to thousands of displaced Somalis in the border town, encouraging them to embrace fish as part of a healthy diet.

“Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition” is the official theme of World Food Day in 2013, focused on improving understanding of problems and solutions in the drive to end hunger.

FAO continues to develop Somalia’s fisheries sector with training in sustainable fishing, fishing equipment, jetties and cold chains to support fish preservation, distribution and marketing.

“Making use of natural resources is vital in fighting hunger,” said Stefano Porretti, the WFP representative in Somalia.   “WFP works with coastal communities, providing training in fishing and in preservation of fish products.  Increasing the consumption of fish in Somalia will strengthen the livelihood of fishermen and provide a more nutrient-rich diet for Somali households.”

The “Fish is Good for You” campaign

The campaign’s messages are directed at female heads of households and young people with a goal of diversifying dietary habits biased against seafood. The “Fish is Good for You” campaign also focuses on the nutritional benefits of fresh fish. The campaign was first launched in the Puntland coastal town of Bossaso and in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

USAID started and continues to review the findings of an assessment “South Central Somalia Private Sector Assessement” that was recently carried out by Somali Agriculture Technical Group (SATG). The assessment which was carried out under DAI/ Partnership for Economic Growth Program was conducted to explore future interventions to support economic growth in the region.

USAID works with government ministries and the private sector to create and improve opportunities for investment and employment. The program began in April 2011 in Somaliland, then expanded to Puntland in mid-2012, and plans to expand to South-Central Somalia later this year. DAI, SATG and Amoud University have been conducting agriculture activities in the Adwal region since 2011.

The objective of the assessment was to identify interventions that will in turn promote opportunities for short and medium term economic gains, with a strong focus on creating employment, wealth, and investment in order to strengthen stability and development in targeted geographic areas in South Central Somalia. The assessment thrived to identify ways to build on the progress made so far in South Central Somalia with respect to livelihoods activities being implemented by a variety of development partners including the USAID’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization (TIS) program.

The workshop was held at Zen Gardens, on Lower Kabete Road, Nairobi Kenya on the 27th and 28th August, 2013. Major stake holders from Somalia and Nairobi were invited to provide feedback, comments and further analysis to the outcome that were presented by the research team.

After two days of intensive discussion the participants came up with the following recommendations:

1. Livestock sector.

i. Dairy business skills and capacity development, financial services, and production (equipment and infrastructure)
ii. Meat sector development.
iii. Commercial fodder production
iv. Strengthening government institutions, service delivery in the livestock sector

2. Agriculture sector

1. Strengthening regulatory framework.
2. Developing agricultural financing pilot activities.
3. Capacity building for ministry of natural resources, lenders, agribusiness dealers and possible clients
4. Develop the agro/food processing sector
5. Capacity building of the Agriculture input sector
6. Technology testing and transfer through demo plots and
7. Establish Websites – for local organizations and ministries (MNR, Commerce), farmers to improve the communication system.

Worldwide, 195 million children suffer from malnutrition, which adversely affects their development and overall well-being. Approximately 26 percent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. And according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the number of malnourished children in the region will increase by 18 percent between 2001 and 2020. Fortunately, innovations such as school feeding programs and kitchen vegetable gardens are working to combat malnutrition and hunger in many African countries except Somalia.

“Protecting the environment, and improving livelihoods is a key human rights and vital one  with a lot of  efforts and hope to inspire the farmers, eaters, businesses, and governments must make the food system more environmentally, economically, and socially just. And I urge the funding and donor communities to give the first priority and more attention, more research, and ultimately more investment to be replicated and scaled-up in developing and industrialized countries alike”.said Mr. Daud Abdi Daud SOMESHA Secretary General

Last month, the government of Norway pledged $23.7 million to conserve and sustainably manage some of the world’s most important food crops, citing the critical need for crop diversity at a time when populations are soaring and climate change is threatening staples like rice and maize. Worldwide, agriculture depends on a relatively small number of cropsonly about 150 are used on a significant scale. The Norwegian investment is intended to facilitate greater collaboration internationally in the collection, conservation, and utilization of seeds and plants.

How will you celebrate food this month? Send your comments to , and we’ll profile your ideas on the SOMESHA blog!

About somesha

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