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Issue 506/ 8th - 14th Oct 2011
Current Status Of Forests And Woodlands In Somaliland: (Threats And Opportunities) Part IV
SES Fact-Finding Mission to Somaliland
August / September 2010
Mohamoud Omer Sh. Ibrahim BSc (For) MA
[Continues from our last edition]
4 Impact of the current use and misuse of the Forests and Natural Woodlands
The most serious environmental threat facing the people of Somaliland is the excessive, uncontrolled and illegal cutting of trees for charcoal, mainly for local consumption but also for export.
The population living in all major towns and cities in Somaliland, especially Burco, Hargeysa Ceerigaabo, Laascaanood and Boorama, have increased sharply over the past 10-15 years. This is mainly due to people returning to Somaliland from Europe, North America, and Europe to settle and start business. Also there is the arrival of a significant, but unknown, number of Somalis fleeing and being displaced as a result of intense fighting in southern Somalia, particularly in and around Mogadishu and Central Somalia, and sizeable number of migrants from Ethiopia.
As the number of people living in major cities in Somaliland increased this has in turn increased the demand for charcoal and firewood. Pastoralists, farmers and agro-pastoralist, local villagers and outsiders began to engage in the illegal charcoal business to subsidise their income. This situation is further exacerbated by the methods of charcoal making used throughout Somaliland which is wasteful as this usually involves setting fire to the tree at the base (or to cut it at about 50cm or higher above ground level leaving a large part of stem unutilised), and then covering it with earth to extinguish the fire.
Charcoal burning is often practiced by pastoralists who can not cover their expense by selling their livestock, and as result they often neglect their livestock as charcoal burning is very time consuming (Klught and Eggeh, 2002).
The areas worst affected by illegal logging include the areas visited during the fact-finding mission in and around Gacan Libaax, as well as in and around Baki town and nearby Ruqi, and Qabuurta villages. Juniper forests used to cover substantial areas in the mountain forest, government reports put the area as 180km sq (Somalia today 1975), but recent estimates put the area as far less, at less than 900 ha. The forest has been subject to very extensive grazing and logging. In some areas many trees are reported to be over-mature, and heavy grazing / browsing partly prevented natural regeneration.
The earlier SES fact finding mission of 1999 – 2000 reported the threats of illegal charcoal trade for export to the pastoralist living in Sanaag and Sool regions. The SES mission report noted:
“that in the areas visited people engaged in illegal charcoal trade set up 140 different camps, which covered 200km sq, and SES mission reported to get an idea the level of trade, and the volume of charcoal going to the small port of Elayo, the mission stayed one night nearby village (Ceel Doofaar) to observe the traffic and it was reported that less than 12 hours, a total 19 lorries all carrying charcoal for export of which seven are 30 tons capacity passed through.”
There is an urgent need for Somaliland authorities to follow up previous research studies and recommendations which have drawn attention to the urgent need to find alternative sources of energy (e.g. Kerosene / alternative sources energy) as current level of demand and consumption is unsustainable.
Any initiatives by the Somaliland authorities to reverse the current threats of environmental degradation would likely to fail without finding alternative source of energy for people living in main cities and towns, this in turn would further accelerate the lost of rich bi-diversity, fodder/forage for livestock and wildlife.
Botanical surveys carried in Somaliland have suggested that the diversity of the plant species in Somaliland is higher than all countries in the sub-Saharan Africa put together. It is also well known amongst the botanical community that there are still unexplored areas which may disappear without the necessary protection or rest to recover
The vegetation in most of the most regions has been depleted heavily due to overgrazing by livestock. Despite the lack of empirical data, environmental degradation leads to a reduction in rangelands productivity, which affects livestock productivity and which in turn affect the livestock productivity, and which in turn threats the food security of the pastoralist(WSP, 2005). The situation has been further exacerbated by enclosures of rangelands, which reduce the common grazing lands, and increase the overgrazing of remaining rangelands.
It is evident that as result of the pressure on the vegetative cover, soil is exposed for wind and soil erosion, which in turn further increase pressure which could result in the extinction of some plant species.
The Klught and Eggeh (2002) have reported that community elders in Baki have listed a number of coping strategy to manage natural resources, these included:-
· Forest conservation activities carried out by the communities
· Reintroduction of forest guards to carry on environmental protection activities as in the past
· Setting up/reintroduction of rotational grazing system
· Soil erosion control activities under the food for work assistance
· Better methods for charcoal burning using dead trees and side branches
· Introduction of alternative energy sources, eg kerosene stoves, introduction of energy saving stoves
· Job creation to reduce intensity of charcoal burning
· Involve government and NGOs in natural resource management activities
The construction and expansion of watering points is causing initially a great deal of vegetation clearance, and later increased land degradation due to overgrazing and increased for charcoal and firewood in the nearby land areas.
Considerable literatures exist about the fauna of Somaliland, especially in the last century. As a result of armed conflicts and civil strife has destroyed most of the habitats of wildlife; including several species that are endemic and many of them are on list of endangered species identified by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Endangered species of wild life in Somaliland and Somalia include Wild ass, Leopard, Lion and Beira antelope. However, the mission has been informed throughout that the attitude of the local communities are much more committed now to protect wildlife, and interviews with villagers near Gacan Libaax established the change of attitude towards the protection and conservation of wildlife Somaliland.
Wildlife such Elephants, Leopard and Lions that are now extinct or very rare were abundant in Somaliland, in fact, Hunt general survey (1944-1950) reported that Lions were very common all over the country, and especially in the high mountains where juniper forests persist. It also reported that leopards (Shabeel) was getting rare at the early part of 19th century due to high prices of its skins, and that in 1928, a total of 2,000 leopards were exported to Aden from Somaliland.
The mission did not have the time and resources to assess the uses and misuses of Marine resources, however, the mission would like to point out studies carried out in Somaliland in the past 10 years, and in particular the report entitled “The preliminary Ecological Assessment of the Saardin Islands. Awdal