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Start Building Somali’s economic muscles to avert recurring food insecurity
By Abdirahman Yusuf Ali
Thursday November 24, 2022


Most vulnerable are receiving end of manmade difficult -on the report of FSNAU September 2022 It is unfortunate nearly 6.7 million people  are facing acute food crises while 1.8 million children are likely to be acutely malnourished  it is time now to hold Somali Government accountable for start building Somali’s economic muscles as well to hold aid agency accountable for redefining their programs for better resilience. As the new government battles these two equally demanding challenges of security and drought, it ought not to lose sight of the need to rebuild the economy through robust sustainable interventions.

Somalia’s economic growth is projected at 3.0% this year and 3.6% in 2023. However, the ongoing drought which the UN has said will be crossing the famine phase this month is likely to slow that growth. The international community will need to move faster to avert a second famine in Somalia in a decade. But it should not be lost on anyone that more famines will still come our way unless we deliberately commit to finding and investing in sustainable solutions to vulnerable communities, especially in critical yet fragile economic sectors.

In this article, Anchored to Uistaag Dadka iyo Dalka’s “Start building Somali’s economic muscles” campaign I argue that the Somali government, international partners and aid agencies must pull resources together and soundly invest in crop and livestock development. These two sub-sectors, in addition to an average of 3% from fisheries and forestry contribute 75% of the country’s GDP. It is therefore imperative that the government makes a deliberate effort to pump more resources into these two major sub-sectors.

Crop Production

According to a joint report by the World Bank and FAO in 2018, the share of crops to GDP in Somalia has dropped by 8 percentage points from the prewar period to stand at 10%. This can be attributed to several factors such as the collapse of agro-processing industries which were owned by the government, displacement of populations which resulted in the abandonment of farms and attendant climate change effects which exposed the country to adverse and erratic weather patterns characterized by droughts and flooding.

Somalia has an estimated 3 million hectares of cultivable land which constitutes about 5% of the country’s landmass. Out of this, 2.3 million hectares is under rainfed conditions while the remaining 700,000 is sustained by irrigation. However, cultivation of these lands has significantly reduced in recent years with FAO indicating that less than 20% of the irrigated farms are being utilized. Of note also is that these farms are located along the riverine zones of the Shabelle and Juba rivers. Both the World and FAO have warned that river flows especially to Shabelle river cut be cut by 80% should Ethiopia fully implement its water masterplan.

The National Development Plan for 2020 – 2024 (NDP-9) which sets agriculture under pillar three envisages sustainable interventions to cushion farmers from adverse weather patterns, creation of new markets and revising administrative procedures to spur growth in the sector is a good starting point. However, there are indications that the government is yet to live true to this aspiration. For example, in the 2022 national budget, the Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock and Forestry is allocated a paltry $5.4 million.

Given these scenarios, Somali government must adopt a multi-pronged ‘Marshal Plan’ in reviving and sustaining the agricultural sector. The plan can be looked at in the following ways:

i)    Infrastructure development

To realize this, the government must allocate funds to enable farming communities to access cheaper fertilizer, and machinery, expansion of farms under irrigation and construction of roads to ease transport. The government should also encourage greenhouse technologies to supplement production from conventional farming. This can be realized through deliberate policies and laws which for instance reduce taxation of imported farm machinery, allocation of more funds to expand irrigation schemes and partner with the private sector to provide machinery on a loan basis.

ii)    Marketing

This entails the exploration of new markets for farm produces such as bananas, sesame and lemon which have the potential for high yields as well to invest in more exportable Somali farm produces. This task should not be limited to the line ministries, and we should have well planned collective actions that enhances and sales Somali’s economic competitive edges to international markers, The ambassadors and marketing-promotion agencies are best channels to secure more international markets

iii)    Capacity Development

Hard investment in agricultural technologies must be matched with competent personnel and continuous research. Capacity development could be through short-term training for farmers on effective modern technologies or long-term through the development of relevant training courses for universities and tertiary colleges. The Ministry of Agriculture should be empowered through personnel and economic resources to provide necessary capacity support to farmers.

Livestock Development

The UN estimates that Somalia can produce milk worth $3.3 billion annually but the irony is that every Somali home does not miss a can of powdered milk. Despite this massive production, none even a liter of milk is exported meaning all this product is either consumed locally or goes to waste. Given the myriad health properties of camel milk and its demand in the global market, we should invest in local processing factories and explore markets for the exports of various milk products abroad. Similarly, instead of exporting up to 5 million live animals annually, we should be exporting various meat products, hides and skins for more value. Similar investments will have to be put in place to realize this objective. Somalia earned US $398million in 2020 from livestock imports.

But we must start with the farmer. Thousands of livestock perish every year as a result of predictable cyclical droughts. The question should be, how can we cushion livestock farmers from losing their animals to these vagaries of the weather? The camel leasing approach pioneered by USAID which entails leasing camels to farms with the potential to sustain the camels through the drought is an option worth considering.

Just like with the crop production sub-sector, the government and partners must invest in research, capacity development, resilience building, value chain addition and marketing.

The fishing and marine sector

This is perhaps the least developed sector in Somalia and has been riddled with a lack of capacity development, illegal fishing and dumping of toxic wastes. A report by One Earth Future, foreign trawlers have illegally caught up to 2.4 million tons if fish in Somalia in the last 60 years. Despite the potential of 600,000mt/year valued close to $1 billion, the fishing sector contributes only about two per cent of the country’s GDP amounting to $135 million annually.

Like the agricultural sector, there is a need for a deliberate investment in this sector to realise its potential. The government, in partnership with the international community and regional instruments, should step up and consolidate its war against illegal and unregulated fishing and regularise licensing to cut off illegal practices and ensure sustainable consumption of the blue economy resources. Investment in cold storage and robust marketing is instrumental in optimising revenues from this sector. With a population of over 100 million and landlocked, Ethiopia should be Somalia’s major market for marine resources. That requires the establishment of regulatory frameworks, standardisation of fishing and deliberate market prospecting.

Supporting associations

Farmers or fisherfolk associations are instrumental in leveraging efforts and securing the interests of respective members from exploitation, developing, and adhering to standards in addition to bargaining for better deals. The government will need to encourage and support the formation of these associations which can also establish chapters abroad to secure markets and negotiate trade deals.

Finally, there is a need for investment in the processing of these agricultural products to bolster local consumption and cut off over-dependence on imports. The World Bank Somali Economic Update for 2021 estimates that the cost of imported food products in 2020 stood at $1.2 billion amounting to 31% of total imports. By boosting local food production and processing locally top produce such products as pasta and rice which are heavily consumed locally, we can significantly reduce these current account deficits.

A deliberate commitment by the new administration to inject resources, energies and foresight into the agricultural sectors could go a long way in not only building the economy but also addressing the perennial food insecurity facing our nation.

Abdirahman Yusuf Ali
Social and Peace activist
Uistaag Dadka iyo Dalka
[email protected]


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