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Issue 503/ 17th - 23rd Sept 2011
Current Status Of
Forests And Woodlands In Somaliland
SES Fact-Finding Mission to Somaliland
August / September 2010
Mohamoud Omer Sh. Ibrahim BSc (For) MA
We would like to thank all those who made the fact finding mission a success, and in particular I would like to thank the following individuals and organisations
Dr Maxamed Cige, Executive Director SES (Somaliland), for his commitment, passion and willingness to undertake the conservation and protection of Somaliland’s environment. And for his wise advice and practical support in arranging all visits including Gacan Libaax Baki, Ruqi and Qabuurta, as well as his remarkable source of information about the current conservation works in Somaliland.
Our gratitude goes to Maxamuud Axmed Barre (Garaad), Cabdiraxmaan Aw Cali Faarax Cabdirisaaq Muuse Muruuud, Cabdi Nuur (Gurey), Dr Hufane, for their advice and practical support during the fact finding mission and Cabdiraxmaan Jumcaalle for his valuable advice before the trip and his subsequent comments and corrections on the report.
Our thanks goes to staff working candlelight especially those based in Gacan Libaax for their willingness to provide information about Gacan Libaax and share with us the work that the organisation is currently engaged in, and, the progress made by the organisation in the past couple of years.
My thanks goes to late John Leefe, SES (Hon) President, and co-founder of the SES; and John Jenks, the SES Treasurer, for their unwavering support and commitment to the conservation and protection of natural resources in Somalia and Somaliland, and their encouragement and support to so many former Somali students of forestry and wildlife in the past nearly 30 years. And especially their support to the current and previous SES work and this latest fact-finding visit to Somaliland.
Finally we would like to thank the elders of Baki town, Ruqi and Qabuurta villages for their willingness to share with us their thought about the current threats of environmental problems facing them, and the kind of support needed to reverse these threats.
Mohamoud O Sh Ibrahim
The overall aim of the SES fact-finding mission was primarily to assess the current status of natural woodland/forests in Somaliland, and to identify / take note of the impact of the excessive use and misuse of the natural resource on the environment, as well as any urgent threats, opportunities or challenges facing the Somali people and the Somaliland authorities.
The fact finding mission has shown that Somaliland is affected by a great deal of environmental degradation due to factors such as:-
· clearing of vegetation;
· illegal charcoal trade and export;
· soil erosion;
· deforestation; and
· Generally depletion of natural resources.
Also, in the absence of strong government, land-grabbing has become a national problem in rural areas. Common grazing area has become a target for individuals who put up enclosures, thus depriving pastoralists and their livestock, who depend on the land for their livelihood.
This brief fact finding mission has confirmed that, despite the fact that Somaliland’s livestock sector contributes a great deal to the economy of the country, providing forage for livestock, and poles for construction of the traditional Somali house (aqal), nearly 90% of the local energy used for homes (charcoal and firewood). Also, others products (food, non-woody products, traditional medicine, shade and soil protection), the forestry sector does not get the kind of recognition it deserves from the Somaliland authorities, and this is particularly the case when it comes to resource allocation especially funding of relevant forestry and related department.
The most serious environmental threat facing Somaliland, is the continuous demand and consumption for charcoal, combined with the illegal charcoal trade (in which both local villagers and outsides are and have been increasingly engaged) – these levels of demand and consumption are unsustainable. This has not only contributed to loss of biodiversity, but also increases deforestation and accelerated the total depletion of the remaining natural woodland base. Without urgent and co-ordinated action to address the problem, a disaster for the people and the country will follow. The need to study the possibilities of introducing alternative energy for urban population is long time overdue and support from international communities is vital for both technical as well as financial support.
There are encouraging activities currently underway to protect areas such as Gacan Libaax forest, which is unique and ecological important area, and woodlands around Baki Town in the west. But there is urgent need to work with the local community and other stakeholders to put together a sound management plan which will enable local community to use of the natural flora/resources, but will also protect this unique flora on sustainable basis.
Weak Governmental Institutions including Forestry, and Wildlife departments, lack of financial and human resources, the lack of capacity among staff means that the work of various statutory and non statutory agencies involved in forestry/rangelands and wildlife works appears uncoordinated. Clearly, the lack of overall defined and co-ordinated environmental policy, both in the short term and long term, to reverse the threat of environmental degradation and promote wise use of natural resources, are the main challenges facing the Somaliland Authorities.
There are opportunities to use relatively free and robust media to get across environmental awareness and the risks associated with the excessive use of natural woodlands and forests. Also it became apparent during the fact finding mission that rural as well as urban population are aware and willing to work with the relevant government institutions to protect the remaining natural woodlands, but the authorities often appears not prioritise the vital role in which community engagement and involvement play in addressing urgent environmental threats facing the people.
Finally, it became clear during the fact finding mission that there is a need to re-establish nurseries, both at regional and town level. Also there is a need to revisit the remnant natural forests which are unique ecosystems or forests, such as Gacan Libaax, Daallo, Libaaxley and other similar mountainous woodlands and declare them as forest reserves, not only to conserve and protect them, but to use these assets for educational and recreational purposes.
The objectives of the fact finding mission to Somaliland (August 20th – September 8th 2010)
· To identify key environmental issues facing Somaliland and report the key findings to the next Anglo–Somali annual meeting.
· To support offer financially where possible and encourage the re-establishment of the Somaliland Ecological Society and its work
· To visit, if possible ecologically important areas, namely Gacan Libaax, and other high mountain open woodlands;
· To explore the possibilities organising the next SES conference in Somaliland and to identify former SES members and recruit other members;
· To raise the profile of the SES, through local media newspapers / radio / TV / etc;
Limitation of the fact-finding mission
It was not possible to meet the newly appointed Minister of Livestock, Range, and Wildlife during the fact-finding mission and due to limitation of time and resource, the fact-finding mission only visited 3 regions out of the 6 main regions that formed Somaliland
About the Somali Ecological Society
Founded in 1983, the SES is non-political and non-profit making organisation dedicated to the conservation of the Somali environment (both marine and terrestrial).
The organisation made considerable progress from 1983 –1990. The most successful projects by the Somali Ecological Society during this period included the following:
· The SES established the first Nature Reserve in Balcad and was able to achieve reserve status as of 7th June 1985. The objectives of the Balcad Nature Reserve were protection of the remaining forest, encouragement of the recovery of the ecosystem, establishment of the facilities for the study of wildlife and forest ecology and provision of education and training opportunities;
· Aid to the Somali Research Project (University College London) in their study and presentations on the remaining riverine forest of the Jubba Valley;
· Assisted the survey four potential Wildlife Reserve near Mogadishu (Within 60 kilometres radius);
· Provision of a forum for Scientists to present and discuss their findings by holding meetings, open to the public, once a month;
· Publications included a regular newsletter and guides to Birds and mammals in the Nature Reserve and Nationally;
· Before the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia, the organization’s effort focused upon identifying and preserving remnant vegetation and wildlife habitats which represent natural ecotypes indigenous to Somalia and Somaliland.
Summary of the Society’s Achievement
All major SES activities in the country were terminated with the onset of the civil war at the beginning of 1990. However, a number of SES members have continued the SES activities in various parts of Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland on a voluntary basis. In addition, there has been a continuous communication between former SES members living in the UK and other countries since 1995.
The re-vitalized SES sent two fact-finding missions to Somalia and Somaliland in 1998 –1999, to survey the current environmental health of the country and to make contact with those concerned for conservation on the ground, including former active members of SES. Also, regular newsletters describing relevant to the on-going conservation situation in Somalia and Somaliland and in giving information the Society‘s activities have been resumed and are made available to members.
The SES has provided limited financial assistance to SES members in various regions in Somalia and Somaliland.
1 Brief Background
Somaliland became independent from Britain on 26th June 1960, and united with Somalia on 1st July 1960. After 9 years of democratic systems, a military Junta led by Major – General Maxamed Siyaad Barrie overthrew the government in 21st October 1969 and soon after the National Assembly was disbanded and the democratic constitution suspended. The army promised to get ride of corruption and nepotism and other social ills such as ignorance, and hunger. The National Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) of Military Officers and Police Officers was named as the new Force in the land. The initial decade, the military regime undertook various successful public projects including a new Somali script and campaign to enable adults as well as school children to write the Somali language, created state farms and major resettlement was carried to assist people displaced as result of severe drought (DABA-DHEER – Long tailed) in 1974/5. Despite its achievements in the first decade, the military regime has through its socialist policies increased the state control of economic sector and has increased the monopoly of state agencies and nationalisation of other key factories left the country with huge deficit. By 1980s exports were in serious decline, and the economy was characterised by massive corruption and raging hyperinflation (WSP, 2005).
The defeat of the government troops by armed opposition groups in 1991 caused the collapse of the central government in Somalia and the president fleeing from capital Mogadish. Following the reconciliation conference held in Burco in May 1991, Somaliland declared its independence from the rest of Somalia. Since 1991 Somaliland enjoyed relative peace and had strengthened its government institutions and many acknowledged Somaliland’s relative stability, and its recent successful parliamentary as well as presidential elections. At the time of the fact finding the newly democratically elected President Axmed Maxamed Maxamuud (Siilaanyo) has replaced former President Daahir Riyaalle Kaahin who ruled the country since 2002. However. The country is not recognised by the international communities.
The economy is one based on livestock products and by-products both for local consumption as well as for export. In fact, more 50% of the country's income and subsistence comes from livestock and livestock related activities. The principal markets for livestock export are Saudi Arabia. It reported that between 1991 – 1997 livestock export on hoof grew considerably exceeding pre-war levels when Somaliland exported three million head of livestock in 1997, most to Saudi Arabia (WSP 2005). The total revenues generated in 1997 were estimated US$120.8 million, which meant over 80% of the total hard currency income in the country. Financial support from the Somalis living overseas contributes a great deal to the economy. Also, the private sector contributes to the economy usually providing employment and investment both of which are vital to the livelihood of many people. Although difficult to estimate the amount of revenue it generated other export come from resin Frankincense collected from Boswellia spp and Myrrh from Commiphora species.
In the Somaliland, pastoralist is the dominant land use mainly with camels, sheep, goats, and in the north west regions with cattle. Less than 10% of land area is estimated to be is suitable for permanent agriculture, this is mainly found in the north west regions, where high rainfall and fertile soils are both common. The major crops include maize, sugarcane, millet, and cotton.
Somaliland’s topography has three key features, Guban, Oogo, and Hawd. Guban is known as the narrow coastal region, which is very hot and humid, especially during the summer months June – August. Oogo, inland from the coast the elevation rises and this is Golis mountain range, which runs from the west to east and in this region its cooler and has unique flora and fauna, and abundant water. The third feature, Hawd stretches across the border from Somaliland to Ethiopia. The majority of the population in Somaliland live in Oogo which has habitable climate, water, and areas appropriate for cultivation.
Somaliland is a semi-arid country, and the climate is generally hot with a frequent drought and extreme variation in rainfall. Average daily temperature range from 25oC – 35oC, and are combined with strong winds and clear skies. It is generally considered that rainfall is the most important metrological element in Somalia as well as Somaliland.
The rainy seasons are the result of northerly and southerly movement of monsoon winds of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITC2) and its associated fronts. There are two rainy seasons – Gu rains (April – June) are greater and longer than the Dayr season (September – October). In the dry seasons Xaggaa (June – September), and the main dry season Jillaal which often extends for five months from mid November – April. Temperature and rainfall influence the type of vegetation and their distribution in the country. The most extensive vegetation in the country is a deciduous thorn-brush dominated by Commiphora species and small trees. These are semi-desert type of vegetation mainly grassland scrubland, especially in the areas with less than 200mm annual rainfall.
To be continued .