Breaking the cycle of charcoal production in Somalia

Oct 1, 2013

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launches innovative charcoal use reduction programme to address land degradation, promote alternative energy and create sustainable livelihoods in Somalia with support of UN agencies 

Mogadishu, Somalia, 17 April 2013 – Every year, a staggering quarter of a million tonnes of charcoal is exported from Somalia to Gulf countries. To produce this amount, 4.4 million trees are cut down, and 72,900 hectares of land cleared. In a country already prone to natural disasters such as flooding and drought, the impact this has on the natural environment and the people who rely on it for their livelihoods has proven devastating. 

In addition, charcoal has become the most sought after commodity to fuel the conflict economy, with militia groups generating revenue in excess of USD15 million per annum from illegal exports, according to a 2011 UN Security Council Report. As such, the production of charcoal in Somalia has led to triple threats - irreversible environmental degradation, sustained conflict and widespread dependence on an unsustainable livelihood option. 

To address these issues, while at the same time promoting sustainable alternative livelihoods, three United Nations agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – have teamed up under the leadership of the Somali Federal Government to implement a charcoal use reduction programme, which was officially launched today by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and UN Resident Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini in Mogadishu. 

At the launch, President Sheikh Mohamed pledged his government’s commitment to completely halt charcoal exports and work towards alternative livelihoods and energy.

“The issue of law enforcement is very important from the Somali government side and the international community side. The UN is very clear that passing of the resolution is not enough, we need enforcement from the international community and the charcoal importing countries,” the President said.

Lazzarini reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to support the government to reduce the negative impacts of charcoal production in Somalia.  

“The United Nations and our national counterparts firmly believe that only an effective set of interventions that promote alternative sources of livelihoods, alternative energy, meaningful regional cooperation and institutional support to ban the export of charcoal in Somalia will be able to counter the destructive short-term logic of exploiting Somalia’s acacia groves for charcoal,” said Mr Lazzarini at the event.

Charcoal production accelerates the process of desertification, decreasing the amount of land useable for agriculture or grazing and pushing locals out of areas as they become uninhabitable after charcoal producers clear all the trees. This deforestation also decreases bio-diversity as species that relied on the acacia groves are unable to survive without them. 

Under the new charcoal programme UNEP, UNDP and FAO will support the Somali Government in a programme led by the Ministry of National Resources to enhance regional cooperation, establish regulatory instruments and enforcement mechanisms, introduce alternative sources of energy, and most importantly, help charcoal value chain beneficiaries to find alternative livelihoods. 

“These interventions will reduce conflict, trigger local economic opportunities - thus reduce poverty - halt environmental degradation, improve energy security, enhance climate and livelihood resilience, promote social equity amongst vulnerable groups, diversify energy sources and promote peace and development,” Mr Lazzarini said.  

Over 98 percent of urban households in Somalia use traditional charcoal stoves, while most of the rural and nomadic population uses firewood and inefficient biomass stoves. It is estimated that switching to the use of efficient stoves could reduce consumption of charcoal by 50 percent. Additionally, the use of efficient kilns for charcoal processing could increase production by 60 percent, resulting in an 80 percent total reduction in wood cutting.

The decrease in loss of the natural resource base throughout Somalia will also help to avoid humanitarian crises like the famine seen in 2011. Due to land degradation, the resilience and coping mechanisms of communities and their livestock have been reduced to a level where even a low-intensity drought cycle forces them to face huge losses and depend on external assistance. 

For more information contact:

Text Box:   
UNDP Communications Specialist Aimee Brown 
Nairobi: +254 731 859 413 	 
FAO Communications Specialist Frank Nyakairu Mogadishu : +252 2480 5677 	 
UNEP Regional Office for Africa- Information Officer 
Angele Luh 
Tel: +254-20 762 4292; Email:

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