Somalilandsun: The Hajj, Mecca’s annual pilgrimage, is usually a windfall for the Somali economy, which exports millions of head of cattle to Saudi Arabia to feed the pilgrims and for the feast of sacrifice.
But this year, reports the AFP in Mogadishu restrictive measures imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic have reduced the pilgrimage to the minimum. Only tens of thousands of faithful residing in Saudi Arabia were able to participate, far from the approximately 2.5 million believers in 2019.
And Somali pastoralists are paying the price.
“Business is bad,” says Yahye Hassan, who works in Mogadishu’s largest cattle market.
“The effects of the coronavirus are being felt. Arab countries are not in demand for animals from Somalia and nomadic herders who normally bring their herds to town to sell them are afraid to come, for fear of being infected,” Hassan continues.
“We are seeing a drastic decrease in demand” and the supply is also lower than usual, confirms Nur Hassan, another cattle trader in the Somali capital.
The Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city of western Saudi Arabia, which is held this week, is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every devotee is expected to accomplish at least once in their lifetime. , if he has the means.
The falling camel
Almost two-thirds of Somali cattle exports are normally destined for Saudi Arabia, according to the World Bank. In 2015, more than five million head of cattle – goats, sheep, camels and cows – made the journey from Somali ports to the Saudi kingdom.
“The cancellation of the Hajj has very important consequences on the life and resources of the Somali population,” Ahmed Khalif, director of the NGO Action Against Hunger for Somalia, told AFP, who specifies that trade cattle account for 60% of the income of Somali pastoralist households.
Almost three-quarters of Somalia’s export earnings come from livestock, Khalif adds, and while exports are year-round, “the majority, 70% of (exported) animals take place during this period. Hajj period “.
With the restriction on exports, supply far exceeds demand in local markets, causing prices to drop sharply, with camels selling for $ 500, half of their usual value, according to Khalif.
While a few wealthy clients have taken the opportunity to do good business, it is a disaster for the majority of pastoralists who have to sell their cattle for food, to pay off debts and to pay for essential services, such as school fees.
Not only do these breeders not have the expected income, but having to keep the animals they thought to sell generates an additional cost, explains Isse Muse Mohamed, a broker specializing in the sector of the coastal town of Eyl (north ).
“Sell more goats”
“Keeping hundreds of goats or sheep for a year necessarily entails costs, such as the salary of those who will keep them.”
“It’s a real crisis,” he said. “We believe that only Allah can soften the impact. If it continues like this, the consequences will be even more serious.”
Rising costs and the loss of the Saudi market are forcing herders like Adow Ganey, in the city of Hudur (center), to sell their animals at cut prices.
“When the family wanted to buy basic necessities, like sugar or clothes, we would take a goat or two to the market” to sell them, he describes. “But this year things have changed. We have to sell more goats to get the money we need.”
For Somali pastoralists and traders, already facing decades of conflict and political instability, and subject to ever closer cycles of drought and an ongoing invasion of locusts, restrictions on the Hajj this year could be the shot too.
“We have never seen such a situation,” swears Abdqadar Hashi, a cattle exporter based in Hargeisa, capital of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland (north), which houses the large port of Berbera. “It affects everyone.”
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