Do Charcoal Trade-offs threaten Somalia’s Rainfall?

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management of the Federal Republic of
Somalia, HE: Hamza Said Hamza with Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre - Photo courtesy:
10 October 2018

5 Article 25 (1) of the Provisional Constitution of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) states that “Every person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being, and to be protected from pollution and harmful materials. (2). Every person has the right to have a share of the natural resource of the country, whilst being protected from excessive and damaging exploitation of these natural resources”.

Water is essential to all living things. At this time of the year, severe water scarcity and dry weather effect on livestock portraits, soil moisture, and plants of Somalia in an area where some rain might usually expect. Reliable sources indicate that nearly one-third of the population experienced drought though number statistics effect flatulates every other year.

Over the years, I traveled to many Somalia cities, from South to North, and my eyes have seen the terrible environmental destruction. Many thoughts crossed my mind. I asked myself why the earth is so dry? What causes drought water shortage? Is it the climate change or is the population growth or is it something else? Various perspectives could bring in drought, but one thing that stuck with me is the lack of foresight on the illegal charcoal trade-offs that became a patent. There is no need to present substantial data-based analysis to prove what's happening on Somalia's forestry. It's right there in front of you.

Nonetheless, you hardly see a Somali politician who speaks out environmental issues. You may hear them saying every so often that Somalia is rising again. What made them feel entitlement when they can't protect their environment? I'm not suggesting here that the Government of Somalia can't be in multitask; what we need to understand is that charcoal production remains unregulated nearly three decades for lawlessness and weak administrations.

Charcoal is usually produced irresponsible in post-conflict countries like Somalia where its production has an unprecedented impact on the rainforest ecology. It's why many people expressed grave concerns for the multi-million dollars in hand from the illegal charcoal market given that environmental protection is not a popular model in Somalia. Photo courtesy: Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA).

There are vast fields of forests in our land go up in flames to feed the smelters, while corrupt officials in the military who controls production zones collect bribes worth millions of dollars a year. Isn't it the time to ask the Federal Government of Somalia the illegal charcoal production and trade-offs? The point is that the future of Somalia's forestry is at stake for the massive invasive trees. Our environment reached a tipping point that requires to have a new paradigm for restoring rainforest.

It's why we need to have lawmakers and politicians who take extra precaution steps for the weakening dense tree stands that we see a lot on every corner in our country. It was also shocking to learn a chip carrying 200,000 [1] bags of charcoal smuggled out of the Horn of Africa, undoubtedly from Somalia docked at the Iraqi port of Umm Qasri. Somali Ambassador at the United Nations Abukar Osman affirmed deep regrets and called on Iraq to lunch urgent investigation according to Xinhua.

There is a historical data on seasonal cycle published by The World Bank Group for Climate Change and Policy Makers [2] that shows historical monthly temperature and rainfall that Somalia has had since 1901. The below picture showed that Somalia receives less rain during the dry season of January to March also known as "Jilal" in Somali. The dry season is the time when a drought ravages millions of people and face food and water shortages.

In addition to The World Bank Group's data, other reliable sources are indicating that nearly 97 percent of urban and rural communities of Somalia use charcoal for cooking fuel where its trade supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. The point is that the illegal charcoal production and trade cause enormous deforestation into our country at a time on which livestock portraits are the backbone of the Somalia economy. Ill-advisedly, we haven't changed our attitude yet any better knowing that our country's climate is at a grave.

So, we don’t have as much choice here but to reduce the rate of charcoal production to alternative livelihood for energy. Those initiatives introduced by the local and the international organizations concerning alternative livelihood are not fully grasped but for various reasons. My point is that many people whom I met disbelieve environmental sustainability programs run by local organizations due to unattainable results. My worry is whether those livelihood programs for energy delivered within the Somali culture contents.

Militia allied with the Federal Government of Somalia and Kenyan Defence force
soldiers walk through a charcoal loading area in Burgabo, Southern Somalia on Dec.
14, 2011. Burgabo is a Somalian port village which has been secured by Kenyan forces
as they advance further up the Somali coastline in search of Al-Shabaab fighters. AFP
PHOTO/Carl de Souza (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Charcoal production from wet tree creates soil erosion that leads to water runoff, dry land, and sandstorm. It also creates gully erosion that often restricts the mobility of both pastoralists and their animals. In the end, wildlife habitat and animal life reduced for the drinking water decline. What's needed though is to challenge the growing demand for firewood for cooking courageously. I believe Somalis portraits need drought resilience programs that strengthening livelihood sustainability. All my fear is the widespread drought coming in the dry season that if we don't get enough rain during the Autumn.

Reliable sources indicate that some two million trees are felled every year in millions of dollars trade worth on which at least ten percent of that money is drawing off by al-Shabab. To add insult to injury, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management of the Federal Government of Somalia, Dr. Maryan Qasim resigned for an ongoing power struggle and internal fight with the office of the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre though other sources pointed out that she left for personal reasons.

Her resignation was a political bombshell to those who have administrative quarrels with the Prime Minister. So, from there, it became quite clear that the Prime Minister has the trust he needs thus far from the president to power over the cabinet. The dispute of who is in charge of disaster and humanitarian response programs wasn’t managed properly. It was difficult to digest what had happened given that she was President Mohamed Farmajo's right-hand minister. It’s the same reason why many people feel discomfort on how Prime Minister Kharye handles domestic policies. His political opponents explained such strategy a political weakness not to solve the disagreements coming from the Prime Minister’s office.

For nearly two years in office, the mindset of political compromise is missing from the Prime Minister Khayr’s administration. Anyone who disputes his domestic affairs is seeing a political adversary. The evidence to this contrary is that two-thirds of the cabinet ministers removed from their ministerial positions unexpectedly following one another. Such behavior is nothing but a system of monetary to restrain cabinet views.

On May 2018, a new minister appointed to Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, six months after Dr. Maryan Qasim’s departure. Many political commutators once again questioned Khayr's ability to govern as a leader of the ministers in the executive branch because of the delay in the appointment of a minister for that long period. To this day, it's about four months since the new Minister, Hamza Said Hamza [3] appointed. I hope the minister will emphasize on bringing strict new environmental laws to bring individuals and states sponsoring charcoal trade-offs into justice.

However, the irony of the Prime Minister Khayre’s commitment to accountability and transparency was to publicize it on the social media. The government shouldn’t broadcast everything. Likewise, Puntland Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Cali Cabdullahi Warsame resigned on Sunday, September 23, 2018 [4] for the environmental, financial mismanagement by the office of the president interference. Letter to the press, the minister mentioned that two projects of Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood – Phase II and Strengthening Drought Resilience and Preparedness of Communities Project invested by African Development Bank and the GIZ agency from the Germany Government respectively turn up to be unsuccessful and failed for corruption and nepotism

On the other hand, Puntland Government's spokesman, Abdullahi Quranjecel responded to the allegation and called the press release a misleading statement. He criticized the minister deviating projects from the strategic plan or the project proposal. It's sad news to Somalia in a time where a significant number of rural communities are in danger not to have enough water or clean water to drink.

Is there one stop solution? The short answer is, in fact, no. The difficulty is that small percent of our people understand environmental hazards that excessive charcoal production and trade-offs effects on rainfall. It's part of why many people are skeptical Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Solar Steam Cooking Energy use programs as an alternative source of energy mostly for financial mismanagement and nepotism.

Reliable sources indicate that the majority of those projects and other delivered through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) thus far awarded to those businesses who have a relationship with public agencies and officials. A misstep here has sent mixed messages. It also triggers problems in the project's sustainability. So, people want the federal government, and the national state members manage LPG, Solar Steam Cooking Energy, and water accessibility projects effectively and in a fair manner.

However, a press release statement by the World Bank says it approves $80 million in grants to Somalia, [5] "60 million for the Recurrent Cost and Reform Financing Project and $20 million for the Domestic Revenue and Public Financial Management Capacity Strengthening Project." The World Bank also says it would also help Somalia access to energy and clean water. I want to congratulate the federal government for this shining result, but the Somali people need more than this. It requires a government that identifies energy, climate change, and disaster management as to one of its cross-cutting issues in all the sector strategic plans.

The awareness of unwarranted charcoal production and trade gives local communities a power to affect change and the kind of political setting of their communities they want to see. Another benefit is that local communities who have shut out of the environmental protection will come out to make natural world issue more fun, engaging, relevant, and meaningful to their life. Such ecological advocacy will be a milestone because I believe climate change discourse will functions most effectively when all of our voices including small business owners have heard their concerns and being represented. If their participation is missing, it will lead into deciding the future of earth by unwanted leaders. I believe that their involvement will bring positive change in our society; in other words, their voice will give confidence and ownership to environment structure in Somalia.

The awareness and the advocacy that is giving to the Somali people will create an opportunity to know where future legislators both the federal and the states stand on environmental protection. For the coming elections, the Somali people should elect parliamentarians who are vigilant and who can address ecological threats of charcoal production and trade-offs, dumbing residential garbage, single-use plastic bags, and unnecessary urbanization. The coming parliamentary should be one that treats dumping toxic waste materials from the foreign industries into our oceans a hindrance to our environment, habitat, and ecosystem.

It's about the time to invest the next generation leaders in our communities. We have to strengthen the capacity of our business people so that they have other mechanisms to sustain their business rather than using charcoal which will affect their lives and the life of their children. Among the necessary steps that are needed to take include:

Environmental policies by the federal member states should be in line with the Federal Government of Somalia's National Disaster Management Policy so that we rise and fall in one direction. · The Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education of Somalia should add environmental courses to k-12 curriculum.

· Colleges/Universities should offer an environmental science degree so that students continue specializing in energy, sustainability, and ecological conservation.

· Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) use, solar steam cooking, and wind power sector as an alternative source of energy needs to continue. Income generating activities that enable households to stop, or reduce reliance on charcoal trade need to support.

· The Federal Government of Somalia should support portrait of farm animals to stop overgrazing and rangeland conflicts

· Million Tree Project should be started in different parts of the country to protect, preserve, and restore the natural environment of our country so that the wildlife and migratory birds have shelter and viable food source.

Local institutions should continue cash for work projects for rehabilitating eroded land and conserve soil water to addresses land degradation.

Reference: [1] Xinhua. Somalia urges Iraq to probe ship with smuggled charcoal. (2018, October, 01). Retrieved from

[2] The World Bank Group. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Federal Government of Somalia. Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. (2018). Retrieved from

[4] The Puntland State of Somalia, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. (2018, September 23). Resignation [Press Release]. Retrieved from

[5] REUTERS, World Bank approves first loans to Somalia in 30 years. (2018, September 26). Retrieved from

Tarabi A. Jama

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