Charcoal exports at the port of Kismayo in southern Somalia. The area was recently occupied by the US-backed Kenyan Defense Forces in an effort to destroy the economic base for the Al-Shabab resistance movement., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sabahi (Washington, DC)
Somalia: Galgadud Fights Deforestation With Charcoal Production Ban
BY ABDI MOALIM, 26 AUGUST 2013
Mogadishu — Five districts in Somalia's Galgadud region have joined forces to stop residents from indiscriminately cutting trees to make charcoal, a practice that threatens to turn the landscape into a desert.
The administrations of Abudwaq, Harale, Hananbur, Guri El and Dhusamareb districts have formed a new unit to combat charcoal production and established penalties for non-compliance, Hananbur District Commissioner Aideed Dhagajun told Sabahi.
"We are fighting the charcoal makers ... and this work will be undertaken by a special force," he said.
The new operations are part of a deal signed by the five districts in February to jointly tackle deforestation caused by local charcoal production. The districts recently finalised the details of that agreement detailing how operations would be carried out and what punishments would be enforced, Dhagajun said.
According to their agreement, anyone caught within their jurisdictions chopping down trees to make charcoal would face six months in jail and a $300 fine, he said.
Lorry drivers who transport charcoal also face punishment. Under the agreement, vehicles are to be confiscated and drivers, their assistants and lorry owners would also face jail time and fines of up to $1,000, Harale District Commissioner Bashir Dahir Yusuf said.
The districts agreed to co-operate on the issue because deforestation is a persistent threat, Yusuf told Sabahi.
Because the district governments are too weak to fight the problem individually, they are now stronger by taking such collective action, he said, adding that the new unit will operate under the Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa militia.
Deforestation threatens livelihoods:
Galgadud is a region in central Somalia whose population mainly depends on livestock -- especially camel and goat herding -- for their livelihoods.
Residents told Sabahi they feared that they would lose their livestock and become impoverished if deforestation continues.
"The charcoal makers cut both big and small trees and this will finally turn the region into a desert," said Farey Omar, a 45-year-old traditional elder who lives in Dhusamareb and was a signatory to the agreement.
Aside from desertification, cutting trees threatens the region's security, he said.
Omar said that clashes between animal herders, who opposed tree cutting, and gangs that chop down trees for charcoal, can be deadly and at times result in tribal conflict.
For months, the Dhusamareb district administration and area residents have tried to stop the charcoal makers, but they keep cutting down trees, he said.
"The work the districts have undertaken to stop deforestation has decreased the practice of tree cutting, but it has not stopped it completely," Omar said.
In order for the districts' joint effort to succeed, officials must launch a public awareness campaign as well as create new job opportunities for locals, he said, adding that international relief agencies should help in this.
Dhagajun even suggested that, instead of chopping trees for a living, charcoal makers could earn a salary by being drafted into the Somali armed forces.