Somaliland: Drought, Pastoral Economy and Political Opportunism


Water scarcity has been one of the main effects of the recurrent drought in Somaliland

By Fatheya Gelleh
Somalilandsun: The Somali pastoralists are the backbone of Somaliland economy and rest of Somalia, over the years climate change, urbanisation, environmental degradation and civil war had severe socio-economic and political impact that need to be urgently addressed. The Somali heritage, culture, oral history, tradition and way of life is intertwined with nomadic pastoral existence, urban dwellers and rural population have a symbiotic relationship based on familial connection, interdependency and cooperation. Nomadic life of pastoralists is under threat not only from recurring drought common enough in the region, but from lack of effective efficient government water management and resources support programme. Drought and famine plagued Somaliland regions Hawd, Maroodijeex, Saaxil, Gabiley, Salal and Awdal in September 2015 and again 2016 a more robust action and planning by government and parliament to lessen the impact of low rainfall is needed.
Water scarcity is common to sub-Saharan Africa; according to FEW a social justice advocate research group access to Food, Energy and Water are intrinsic necessities that will determine our economic and social development. Somaliland semi-arid region has always experienced drought but agro-pastoralists and Nomadic people are ill equipped to manage when circumstances outside of their control ranging from climate change (El Nino), soaring prices of water the very poor can’t afford ,high inflation, poor and inadequate social and health infrastructure system exacerbate living conditions.

Somaliland an already fragile post conflict society has experienced large displacement of rural communities (IDPs) due to successive droughts, if water a basic essential right for human survival becomes a commodity to be bartered then it’s inevitable for disease and malnutrition to proliferate especially amongst disenfranchised and vulnerable communities thus the government should be promoting realistic policies orientated towards achieving an end to the suffering of Nomadic rural population and Urban inhabitants, this can occur by incentivising Private Public Partnership models. PPPs schemes can be advantageous solution for towns/cities as residents have higher disposal income while a full funded water schemes by (Ministry of Water and resources) using SDF for rural communities will certainly improve health and sanitation drastically.

Human and livestock have suffered equally from prolonged drought in Somaliland The limited external funding (no full access to IMF, World Bank loans except for Somaliland business fund 2013 SBF $10Million grant), budget constraints within government, lack of experienced technical staff are symptoms of greater obstacle (international recognition of Somaliland) however Somaliland survived without international community support in 1990s thus its efforts should be directed into using private sector funding to facilitate urgent developments. The unique liberal economy of Somaliland can be used in a progressive way to accelerate development, people of Somaliland are already accustomed to paying for water and energy there by investing in Urban/Rural water schemes such as the UNCIEF European Union funded Tog-Wajaale project 2015 is the only way forward, in times of hardship private sector/ companies should be incentivised to assist and given greater role in rebuilding the country.

The private sector success in telecommunication, remittance, trade and livestock industry indicate the future of Somaliland lies with establishing clear decisive political policies and institutional framework aimed at complimenting the great achievement of business community. The government should encourage and take advantage of the innovative progressive ideas business leaders set forth but above all strive to balance open market economy with legislative policies that protects the public welfare, for example guidelines on combating high inflation rate, food prices and increasing wages/salary for teachers, police and army.
The livestock industry is the largest export worth $250 million mainly to Saudi Arabia (95%) and Gulf countries, it’s an economy with little state interference (government revenues only account to 10% of GDP according to World Bank Statistics 2016), 55% of the population are nomadic dependent on local and international market. It is becoming harder for agro-pastoralist and nomadic families to maintain this way of life as its vulnerable to closures/overgrazing,

Charcoal harvesting, price fixing (average price of Ram 1994-7 $38), climate change and limited veterinary services hence why resumption of livestock trading after an 11 year ban from 1999-2010 by the Saudi government due to (RVF) outbreak was hugely welcomed but at what cost? It is the major foreign exporter (Al Jabri leading Saudi company specialising in livestock) that is benefiting most not the Somaliland nomads, been dependent on a single market limits bargaining power and profit margins. Therefore what is required is a cumulative in depth assessment on how to diversify Somaliland livestock economy, one solution might be focusing on alternative markets such as Jordan, Egypt and Iran by diversifying into producing high quality leather products for exporting into international markets, chilled meat as well as shoring up the livestock industry through investment in Water (boreholes/dams), veterinary training programmes for nomadic people and protecting the environment from further erosion by focusing on sustainable agriculture.

The Somaliland Development Fund (SDF) was specifically initiated by DIFD, DANIDA, Norway and Netherlands to assist government of Somaliland to enhance its capacity to develop functional public sector, as part of the national development plan a $62million has been allocated to fund 12 projects. This entails investing and providing for all regions and districts, but this hasn’t materialised in a tangible way as evidence point to a system plagued by insufficient funds, technical expertise and centralising services in particular districts i.e. Hargeisa.
A recent study by World Bank in 2016 (Somaliland’s Private Sector at crossroads: political economy and policy choices for prosperity and job creation) stated the main challenges facing Somaliland are:
Lack of credit
High energy costs
Shortage of skilled labour
Unreliable supply of materials
Tax burdens
Import competition
Property rights
Uncertain contract enforcement
Poor roads
Underdeveloped legal regulatory framework for business
Lose of livelihoods has been most harsh among Somalilanders after losing livestock to drought
These obstacles to national development are all issues the current government struggled to address in a cohesive manner. Politicians have a duty of care to their citizens and must be held accountable if they fail to provide safe and secure environment for their people. The Pastoralist ever stoic, fiercely loyal, keepers of our traditional values and history are undervalued, their plight and struggle against significant environmental challenges has not been tackled properly it’s a national disgrace to allow the suffering to continue unabated. The political elite are vying for public support through the ballet box; the people of drought inflicted area are dying slowly while aid money from international donors is squandered in needless campaigns. Upcoming election 2017 is very important to Somaliland but drought must not be made a political pawn, in times of natural disasters all parties need to put aside divisive politics, find common ground to articulate the importance of unity. The current government has lost the hearts and mind of many Somaliland people due to rampant corruption and weak governance, there is no justification to use drought as a national emergency and delay legal and free election. Somaliland was built on grass root initiatives; the people deserve transparent and competent authority.