Somalia: Livestock-based economy receives major boost

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Somalia’s livestock-based economy has received a major boost as its major market, Saudi Arabia lifts its 11 year ban on imported livestock from Somalia. The lift comes after many Somali farmers suffered from the severe east African droughts that dried the soil and dehydrated livestock to death. Last month, a U.S. based NGO embarked on a project that saw some 2000 families in the autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, from livestock supplies.

“The livestock still hasn’t recovered from the 2005 drought. And already we have to confront a new drought. The drought cycle is getting shorter and shorter – every three or four years instead of every 10,” a district veterinary official was quoted by local reporters.

Saudi Arabia banned the import of sheep, goats and cattle from Somalia to prevent the spread of Rift Valley fever, but after 11 years, the ban has been lifted. According to Somaliland Interior Minister Ismail Adam Osman, the ban has caused a great suffering to Somaliland whose economy depended mainly on livestock export.

The Saudi agricultural ministry said the decision is based on years of cross examination and monitoring of animal farms in Somalia.

Animal farmers and business leaders have welcomed the decision with extensive jubilation. Pastoralists and traders now prepare to profit from increased demand for livestock in the forthcoming Eid al-Adha festival when Muslims demand for livestock is high; following the traditional sacrifice of an animal.

The lifting of the ban was announced in a press statement from the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture yesterday. The Ministry said the lifting came to secure supplies of livestock at reasonable prices to locals and pilgrims during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha and the Hajj season. It emphasized the Ministry would strictly enforce animal health legislation and scan all imported live animals for possible diseases.

“This is a tremendous decision for Somalis across the Horn of Africa,” said Idiris Ibrahim Abdi, the livestock minister of Somaliland.

The Puntland Meat Processing Authority told reporters that they expect to export more than half a million herds of goats and cattle to Saudi Arabia in time for the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage, which will be performed by early December.

According to experts, the self-declared republic of Somaliland is expected to achieve major economic gains from the reopened Saudi market. In Somaliland, were political stability provides farmers with predictable conditions, a boost in livestock production and an export is easily manageable.

Help for Puntland

A California-based NGO, Relief International, on October 13, helped hundreds of drought-displaced families recover their livelihoods, in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, with each family receiving some animals. The project was reported to have benefited over 2,000 families.

“Some 900 families in Tawakal camp have received three goats each; it is the first time that anyone has given us anything other than a few kilos of maize. Three goats may not seem a lot but for us it is a good beginning as, in the long run, it will free us from waiting for maize handouts,” Hawo Goni, a community leader in the camp was quoted.

Africa is already home to one-third of the 42 million people worldwide uprooted by ethnic slaughter, despots and war. But experts say climate change is quietly driving Africa’s displacement crisis to new heights. The crisis is apparent at this refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border, which was built for 90,000 people and now houses three times as many.

Other than the 18 year civil war, many Somalia’s have been driven out of their homes by rising seas, failing rain, desertification or other climate-driven factors. The climate situation in East Africa is a reminder that behind the science, statistics and debate over global warming, climate change is already having a deep impact on Africa’s poverty, security and culture.

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