How Farming Is Making A Comeback In Somalia
In Somalia, a country that went 18 years without a government, farmers are leading an astonishing recovery of Somalia’s agriculture, GeeskaAfrica reports.
Before 1991, when President Mohammed Said Barre was deposed, Somalia was famous for its drought-resistant goats, camels, sheep, bananas, sorghum and corn.
At the time, Somalia was the largest banana exporter in all of east East Africa. Its greatest output was 110 tons in 1990 just before the onset of war.
Even today after much mayhem, Somali is the world’s largest producer of frankincense.
In 2015, relative calm has returned. Al Qaeda-linked insurgents have been neutralized, ocean pirates have been stamped out and a U.N.-backed government controls much of the country.
The Somalia Central Bank is leading the way, distributing loans, tractors and land ownership certificates to committed farmers.
Before the war’s onset all of the country’s land was nationalised. Now, financial remittances from Somalis working in Dubai, Europe and America swell up to $1.2 billion per year, support 41 percent of the population and oil the country’s vital agriculture sector.
Even traditional donors like Kuwait and Dubai are coming on board, constructing ports to export Somalia’s oranges, plums, groundnuts and camels. Once again the main cash crop, bananas, are thriving.
Somalian agriculture on its own has distinct natural advantages. Somalia’s main export port of Mogadishu is a five-hour flight to the Arabian Gulf, which is one of the world’s most lucrative agriculture markets.
Only 1.6-percent of Somalia is farmed. The other 69 percent is reserved for pasture. It’s not surprising that livestock farming makes up 40 percent of Somalia’s gross domestic income and 50 percent of its yearly exports.
Even the fearsome Al Shabaab Islamist militia has in some way positively impacted on this impressive resurgence of Somalia’s agriculture.
In South and Central Somalia where they once ruled, the militias dug deeper and wider water canals that turned a dry province into a lush green belt of rice and banana fields. Local restaurant owners who cooked local produce were exempt from the militia’s punitive taxes.
“We want our people to be free of NGO and foreign hands. We want them to depend on each other and stand free of outsiders,” said Abu Abdullah, militia head of the Lower Shabelle region, in comments to Al Jazeera at the time.
…But this agriculture success is still fragile. Somalia is still categorized as the world’s most failed state by the Global Fund For Peace. Hardly a week goes without a suicide bomber rummaging through a crowd, hotel, cafe or airport in the capital Mogadishu.
Rival warlords and outright criminal gangs still wrestle farmers to seize lucrative plots of banana fields…Irrigation equipment is often burned or looted for resale. Transport links to move grain and fruits from farms to ports are still broken after years of neglect.
…The whole of Somalia, after civil war, does not have even one agriculture research college. Indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes from U.S. drones and neighboring armies who pursue jihad groups sometimes kill innocent farmers. Important Somali money transfer unions in Kenya and Europe are being shut down over fears that money laundered by terrorists move through these channels. Many Somalis with families in the diaspora depend on these money transfer services to purchase everyday necessities.
…Even in the face of obstacles farms continue to flourish in Somalia. “Crops, fish, cattle exports can be the big the break that’ll secure peace in this country. If more income flows into people’s pockets less people will be attracted to guns,” said Aned Wismail, a secretary in the Somali agriculture ministry.
Read more at GeeskaAfrica.