Somaliland’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture comprising both livestock and crops. While pastoral communities in the country rely on livestock keeping to earn their basic livelihoods, agro pastoral communities in all regions of the country grow crops and simultaneously raise livestock to reduce vulnerability to environmental shocks such as droughts or even flash floods which have become more frequent during the last two decades, due in part to perhaps climate change. A large proportion of urban residents also derive their income indirectly from the agriculture sector as traders of agricultural products or by service providers to rural communities. Additionally, agriculture is a major source of government revenue.
The main crops grown in the country are sorghum, maize, cowpea, sesame, and millet (field crops) as well as many horticultural crops including tomatoes, onions, lettuce. Production of field crops is predominantly based on subsistence farming. Fresh vegetables and fruits are produced, on the other hand, for the domestic market. Agriculture in Somaliland is primarily a low-input low-output production system with major inputs being labor, fuel, and seed. Crop yields are relatively low compared to other developing countries with similar climatic conditions. A summary of the most pertinent factors limiting crop production and yield are indicated below:
- Low rainfall characterized by high variability both spatially and temporally
- Rapidly declining soil fertility because of overgrazing, tree cutting, proliferation of rural roads, numerous livestock water points, formation of numerous and scattered human settlements, increasing human population pressure, and unsustainable farming practices.
- Poor agronomic practices
- Lack of improved crop varieties
- Lack of reliable seed services
- Inadequate pest and disease management
- Lack of agricultural credit
- Poor rural infrastructure
- Lack of food processing and value-adding industries
Interventions to address the above constraints are critically needed to advance agricultural productivity in general, and crop productivity in particular.
Aburin Research and Extension Centre was established as a center of Dry land Agricultural Research and training during the British rule of Somaliland. Somaliland Development Fund (SDF) and Ministry of agriculture (MOA) have resumed the Agriculture Research Center at Auburn with the aim not only to train graduate students, but also the farmers and the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture to enhance their profession in the field of Dryland Agriculture and Research. A team of Researchers was appointed with the mandate to start the research program at Aburin Research &Extension Centre (AREC) and train ministry staff on crop production, crop protection, soil science, and extension methods.
The objectives of the Dry land Agricultural Research are:
- To resume the crop research work
- To investigate the performance of improved crop varieties under Rainfed conditions of Aburin
- To demonstrate the effects of improved production practices on crop yields
- To investigate the effect of improved plant protection practices on crop yields
- To investigate the effects of improved soil management practices on crop yields and soil fertility
The first batch of these students have completed the required field work and credit hours for post of graduate Diploma in Dryland Agriculture and Research. The programme concentrates both theory and Research.
In this context, the students together with their supervisors are working with different crop variety evaluation. The objective of these trials are to evaluate the performance of different varieties of Sorghum, cowpea, pigeon pea and Millet under Rainfed. Local varieties (if available) was included to serve as checks. The aim is to identify and select the best varieties for each crop under research for adoption by farmers. The new varieties will be sourced from national and international research centers in Eastern Africa. There are also ongoing Research projects in soil science and plant protection mainly into the following:
- Integrated Pest Management on Sorghum Stem borer
- Integrated Disease Management (IDM) on sorghum
- Sustainable Soil Management on Sorghum Intercropping with Cowpea
Currently, Aburin Research and Extension Centre is funded by Somaliland Development Fund (SDF) but in order to strengthen and sustain the center, grant providers for agri research and extension are required to support mainly in the areas of policy, capacity building and projects to realize the very idea of its establishment.
Abdirahman Ibrahim Abdilahi