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Charcoal production is a major problem. Most of the energy is derived from charcoal. Some 13 lorries (80 tons) are coming into Hargeisa each day! No wood is used for cooking ‑ "charcoal is better". Only bakers and Bedouins use wood. The problem has been addressed in the FAO project-proposal of 1993 (p 63):"It is reported that about 92% of domestic energy requirements in Somalia are dependant upon wood and charcoal fuel source. The impact of the overcutting of desired species for the production of charcoal and harvest of fuelwood has become a very serious issue. While the demand for fuelwood and charcoal on a national basis does not exceed the overall forest increment, its distribution largely concentrated around urban areas, rural settlements, refugee camps, etc., has resulted in complete removal of forest cover from over extensive areas. The situation is aggravated by the use of energy material provided by a very specific number of species The end result is a sharp dwindling of supply sources, and spiraling cost."
Acacia bussei and A. nilotica are the preferred species. Preferably large diameters are cut or often set on fire even while standing. Charcoal production in pits and simple kilns is rather inefficient.
Charcoal producers should officially get a license. Often charcoal is produced by "outsiders", and the locals do not have the power (and guards) to protect the forest. Still, a positive aspect is that the charcoal producers are often organised in co‑operatives.
Somaliland is semi-arid. Water has a high priority. Especially during the dry season water supplies are the major problem for people as well as for livestock. On the other hand - where there is water - the vegetation is dwindling.
For this reason, normally, a permission of the forest and range department would be needed for the establishment of birkas. Nowadays, most often the permits are given by the water department alone, without any consultation of the range department. The birkas are not checked, the environmental situation is not being assessed, water is not managed! Wells in the tugs (water courses) seem not to be a problem, but the birkas (cisterns and tanks) are, as they are refilled by tankers.
The National Range Agency indicated as major causes leading to range degradation:
ever increasing livestock: Its number is now estimated as some 25 millions for Somaliland!
concentration of livestock in certain areas
added climatic effects of prolonged periods of below average rainfall.
Stage 1. Palatable herbs are killed out and the grass is reduced in quantity.
Stage 2. Most of the grass is eaten off, shrubs are thinned out and much of the remaining grasses and herbs are found in the shelter of the bushes. Felling of trees for fuel and lopping for fodder contribute to the degradation. Trampling by sheep goats and cattle loosens the soil, which is blown away by the wind or washed away by storms.
Stage 3. Remaning grasses are killed off and in many areas unpalatable Aloes colonize the bare ground among scattered bushes. Stage 4 The last bushes die of browsing and erosion and the Aloes die from trampling and erosion, leaving behind a bare stony desert. In 1980, when that report was written, there were small areas of stage one, large areas of stage 2, where regeneration is still possible if grazing is prohibited. Stage 3 was frequent in towns, while stage 4 was already widespread in the north of Somalia - in today's Somaliland!
This degradation is the main cause of erosion, an other major problem! The water problem has two "ends". On the one side there is the lack of water - on the other side there is an enhanced erosion due to increased runoff that again is due to soil compaction by trampling and the removal of vegetation.
A network of range and forest reserves has been set up in Somaliland during the colonial time. It was quite extensive and helped the range to recover from overuse. During the last years of civil unrest many of those reserves have been neglected and being destroyed. Even inside the reserves (e.g. the Qadow, Daloo ...) nowadays (illegal) charcoal production is going on. In the Qadow reserve farmland is rapidly expanding and many trees are cut for fencing, the forest is dwindling.
While the encroachment of agriculture onto the woodlands may be lamented, there is the fact, that the land can't be expanded. Only its use, its productivity can be "improved". The changing land-use, from range to agriculture, from an extensive to an intensive cultivation, embodies the chance for an improved soil protection. As there is much more work invested the land gets more valuable and so more "protectworthy". But it is a cultural innovation and will need some time and learning.
Some concentrated destruction happened around the refugee camps. Somalia and its neighbouring countries have an extended history of wars and civil unrest. Many camps sprouted as a result of the Ogaden war, others during the Ethiopian civil strive and later on during the secession of Somaliland. FAO (p 39) reports:
"There have been a number of subjective reports of a rapid depletion in tree cover in Somalia. Refugees were said to have resorted to charcoal burning as an income earning activity, and to have cut trees for fuel."
The result is, that nowadays there is an extensive list of sites of ex‑refugee camps to be replanted:
Berbera: Batalale / Bihin / Biyoole
To control those destructive processes seems impossible at the time, it would need a powerful and active organisation - But - there is none! There is at present a common disregard for traditional as well as for legal rules.
What would be needed to re-establish some order?
Caritas, as probably other development agencies, might think about "transfer of knowledge and expertise", while for the Somali-Landers the case is quite clear and can be expressed by the following two topics:
SL has been neglected by the south.
People we have, we need resources!
UNESCO summarizes as base of the problems women and children encounter: "... the environment, with its fragile base for agriculture, subject to recurrent drought: they are linked to the economy, burdened by insufficiency of public revenues, crippling external dept, and donor dependency; finally ‑ the most significant ‑ they are linked to the general weakness of the social sector, which is underfinanced in physical infrastructure, and limited by a reduced institutional capacity for management, planning, or research, particularly across sectoral domains."
So we find all the three: Lack of structures and funds - what is no wonder, due to the recent development and the actual political situation, and lack of capacity in several fields, what again is often not a lack of capacity, but rather a different way of thinking originating from a different environmental (highly insecure), social ("pastoral democracy" ) and political (dictatorial communism) background.