Empowering pastoralists to manage climate change

© FAO/Frank Nyakairu

Nearly 70 % of Somalia’s population depend on agricultural and pastoralist livelihoods. Livestock accounts for around 40% of GDP and more than 50% of export earnings for Somalia. That means nearly 8 million Somalis are dependent on livestock production to survive. Livestock production and animal husbandry requires reliable supplies of water and pasture land. However, farmers and pastoralists in Somalia are becoming increasingly sensitive to the intense droughts, residual flooding, and loss of grazing land caused by climate change.

In Somaliland’s BanAwl region, pastoralists are grappling with frequent and severe droughts, affecting their herds and their livelihoods. Large numbers of livestock in this area have died, putting more pressure on an already weak economy. Climate change and resource scarcity are exacerbated by a lack of policies on land-use and disaster risk management at the national level.

UNDP’s Environment Project has been working with government institutions, district authorities and local communities to ensure that Somali men and women have the resources and support needed to deal with the environmental and economic impact of climate change.

To build Somali capacity for environment protection and natural resource management, UNDP worked with Somaliland’s Ministry of Environment and Rural Development and the Burao district authorities to support the highly vulnerable BanAwl pastoralist communities (roughly 50,000 people) living outside Burao to better manage the risks induced by climate change – particularly drought.

Local authorities must be empowered to analyse and understand the environmental risks to their communities and economies. This includes the tools and knowledge to design projects and interventions which help alleviate the impact of seasonal droughts and floods on local herders and livestock. In BanAwl, this meant implementing joint projects to rehabilitate and regenerate 2000 hectares of land with soil conservation inputs, and build the Waambo earth dam, which harvests rainwater and can hold 17,000 cubic meters of clean water.  Thanks to the increased availability of water throughout the year (reducing livestock deaths), food security of BanAwl households has drastically improved. The regenerated land doubled pasture lands for the communities’ livestock.

“The BanAwl environment project is making a real difference, benefitting the community through employment and land revival,” said Mr Abdillahi Hussein, the Burao District Coordinator for the Ministry of Environment and Rural Development. ”The speed at which water runs off the land has slowed down – allowing time for the land to rejuvenate and the chance for seeds to germinate. Long forgotten edible trees have re-emerged in the rainy season.  Pastures for livestock are far more plentiful now.”

The community managed the water supply through the Village Development Committee, who charge a small fee which pays for maintenance and security guards. The improved management of land and water means that the BanAwl pastoralists are less likely to become environmental refugees and the community can extend some support to other displaced populations of their clans/sub-clans during droughts. When drought occurs there is less tension over competition for land and water resources.

The Director General at the Ministry of Environment and Rural Development Mr Mohamed Farah Hersi is optimistic about the investment he has seen. “This is one the most successful projects we have implemented and we are proud of it,” he said. “It is really positive that pasture can span the entire dry season without drying out. Our Ministry highly appreciates assistance that supports similar interventions, which addresses land degradation and water issues.”