Why Sub-sequence Droughts in Somaliland?

Drought is a sustained and regionally extensive occurrence of below average natural water availability. It is mainly caused by low precipitation and high evaporation rates, but in regions with a cold climate, temperatures below zero can also give rise to a winter drought. Drought can be characterized as a deviation from normal conditions in the physical system (climate and hydrology), which is reflected in variables such as precipitation, soil water, groundwater and stream flow. Drought is a recurring and worldwide phenomenon having spatial and temporal characteristics that vary significantly from one region to another (Tallaksen & van Lanen, 2004). Drought should not be confused with aridity, which is a long-term average feature of a dry climate, or with water scarcity, which reflects conditions of long-term imbalances between available water resources and demands (Tallaksen & van Lanen, 2004; Working Group on Water Scarcity and Drought, 2006). It is important, however, to note that the most severe human consequences of drought are often found in arid or semi-arid regions where water availability is already low under normal conditions (aridity), demand is close to, or exceeds, natural availability and society seldom lacks the capacity to mitigate or adapt to drought.

Drought is a recurring reality in many parts of the Sub-Saharan Africa, where agriculture continues to be a major sector of most economies, and being predominantly rain-fed, is highly prone to drought. Drought thus gives challenges to economic management at all levels, from households, to governments at all levels, other concerned agencies, local NGOs, external donors, and international organizations involved in disaster relief provision.Dealing with drought has long been a key element of policy making in Sub-Saharan Africa but the poor outcomes of drought experience in many situations mean that there is yet far to go in refining drought management to avoid the suffering from hunger and starvation. Much contemporary effort is being focused novel instruments that may enrich the policy agenda and mainstream drought preparedness in the broader development strategy. It is important to adopt a comprehensive drought risk management strategy, and shift from a crisis management mode to ex-ante strategic interventions.

The vast majority of the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are dependent on agriculture, with 85% deriving at least a part of their livelihood from the sector. Poverty is also largely a rural phenomenon, with 83% of the poor living in rural areas. With only 4% of the farmed area having access to irrigation (World Bank 2006a), the poor are particularly subject to the vagaries of weather. Rainfall variability thus has a large impact on the livelihoods of the poor as well as the economies of most of the countries that still heavily depend on agriculture for a large part of their economy.

Somalia is no exception to the situation and problems of drought, in Somalia almost every year a wide drought is been experienced which always left more pains both rural and urban areas of the country.

Somali National Movement (SNM) captured northern regions after the collapse of central Somali government in 1991. In a conference held in Burao in May 1991 SNM announced establishment of Republic of Somaliland and independence from Somalia in the former British Somaliland or northwest regions. Although the new republic is not yet recognized by the international community, there is unlike stability and democratically elected. The total population of the country is estimated 3.5 million and administratively divided into 12 regions.

The area is drought prone semi arid with temperature ranging between 15 – 32°C throughout the year. The annual average of rain fall is 500mm to 1000mm. However, there are four distinct seasons. The main rainy spring season from April to June, followed by a dry summer season from July to September. Then there is a short autumn rainy period from October to November, and finally a long dry winter from December to March. The latter is the most difficult for the animal herding rural population and to the farmers to a lesser scale. If the April-June rains fail the result is a drought that could kill most animals which have already been weakened by the December-March dry season, which also severely hits the country’s economy, as today’s one which in caused more than 5 civilian deaths and massive livestock death.

The situation in Somaliland is not better than other parties of sub-Saharan Africa or in another way round we can say it is worse off. The grip of the drought is very hard. In addition to the drought in the country there is no any clear policy which both government and population adapts in order to have a clear way out in the problems of droughts for the next years. Furthermore, we don’t have any environmental and disaster management organizations who can really give better solution when droughts affect our weak, uneducated agro pastoral society or in general our society. In February the government appealed for emergency, where they put an emergency condition to the west regions particularly Awdal and its districts. According to government the drought affected about 80 percent of Somaliland’s 3.5 million, which is equivalent to 2.80 million people.

Food security situation is worsening in all droughts affected areas. The prices of the food have risen up higher percent and people don’t have money to buy food. As a short clip which one of my social media friends posted on showing the first question people asking you is food and water, we are hungry and thurst. Similarly the price of water is sky rotating and out of reach for most of the poor. Livestock herds have been decimated, forcing destitute pastoralists to migrate to towns and villages in search of aid. Malnutrition in children under five and adults has escalated.

Water scarcity is the first problem in entire in the country and in particularly the affected areas. Almost all water points such as shallow wells, ponds and birkas (an underground cistern) dried up because of long time lack of rains. There is high over utilization of the still functioning bore holes. Some even have mechanical problems. A 200 liters of water is more than $ 10 in all over the country and in particularly the west and north regions of Somaliland which didn’t get sufficient rainfall in the last year. As situation is very desperate people are drinking very dirty if they get and stinking remained water at the bottom of the dried up wells and this will cause health problems to the children and elders. People migrated from north- west regions of the country to the urban centers of Borama, Gabilay and Hargeisa; they face a lot of problems like homeless and unemployment. Already 5 persons and uncountable livestock have died as reports declared in some areas in Awdal districts.

Drought is endemic to the Horn and no one has known it otherwise. The fluctuations of rainfall have been noted for as long as records have been kept, and pastoralist communities have lived and thrived through peaks and troughs of precipitation for centuries. So to understand why intense dry seasons turn into the biggest tragedy, we need to look beyond the shortage of rain. It is wrong to blame it all on climate change. Ways of life must adapt to new challenges. In every year we have a rain fall seasons although they are in sufficient, but what do we do on that rain. The rain falls as it is usual and passes away us, every drop from the sky automatically goes to the red sea through our dry reveres and there is no water conservation systems adopted by both the government and the populations of the country. In addition to that heavy water running on the ground always causes soil erosions and we don’t aware of that.

It is the Somaliland communities who are worth to be blamed because of the destructive activities. Furthermore, there is no anyone planting a tree. Every one of us is so crazy to cut a tree and that is what drought is subsequently occurring in our land.

Trees are the most useful in the ecological systems on the earth, trees always regulate gaseous exchanges in the atmosphere and it regulates fresh air to be in the atmosphere in order both people and other living things to live properly. Trees are the only thing that converses soil and protects it from erosion, because the roots of every tree encourages soil particles to come to gather and it anchors soil particles to one another. Trees are the only ecosystem which takes a lion’s share for cloud creation as well as trapping rain fall to the ground. The benefits of trees can be grouped into social, communal, environmental, and economic categories in general:

Social Benefits

Human response to trees goes well beyond simply observing their beauty. We feel serene, peaceful, restful, and tranquil in a grove of trees. We are “at home” there. The calming effect of nearby trees and urban greening can significantly reduce workplace stress levels and fatigue, calm traffic, and even decrease the recovery time needed after surgery. Trees can also reduce crime. Apartment buildings with high levels of green space have lower crime rates than nearby apartments without trees. The stature, strength, and endurance of trees give them a cathedral-like quality. Because of their potential for long life, trees are frequently planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we, or those we love, have planted. The strong tie between people and trees is often evident when community residents speak out against the removal of trees to widen streets or rally to save a particularly large or historic tree.

Communal Benefits

Even when located on a private lot, the benefits provided by trees can reach well out into the surrounding community. Likewise, large growing trees can come in conflict with utilities, views, and structures that are beyond the bounds of the owner’s property. With proper selection and maintenance, trees can enhance and function on one property without infringing on the rights and privileges of neighbors. City trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. Trees also provide background to and soften, complement, or enhance architecture. Trees bring natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban surroundings, all of which increase the quality of life for residents of the community.

Environmental Benefits

Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, reducing storm water runoff, and harboring wildlife. Local climates are moderated from extreme sun, wind, and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling effect. By using trees in the cities, we can moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas. Wind speed and direction is affected by trees. The more compact the foliage on the tree or group of trees, the more effective the windbreak. Rainfall, sleet, and hail are absorbed or slowed by trees, providing some protection for people, pets, and buildings. Trees intercept water, store some of it, and reduce storm water runoff. Air quality is improved through the use of trees, shrubs, and turf. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and store carbon as growth. Leaves also absorb other air pollutants – such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide – and release oxygen. By planting trees and shrubs, we return developed areas to a more natural environment that is attractive to birds and wildlife. Ecological cycles of plant growth, reproduction, and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.

Economic Benefits

Property values of landscaped homes are 5 to 20 percent higher than those of non-landscaped homes. Individual trees and shrubs have value, but the variability of species, size, condition, and function makes determining their economic value difficult. The economic benefits of trees are both direct and indirect. Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees increase in value as they grow. Trees, as part of a well maintained landscape, can add value to your home. The indirect economic benefits of trees within a community are even greater. Customers pay lower electricity bills when power companies build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and use fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities can also save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual, these savings may seem small, but to the community as a whole, reductions in these expenses are often substantial.

Although trees have the above mentioned values to the environment, social and their system of life that the society is pursuing, our community cuts down trees instead of planting and there are millions of charcoal which useless individuals put the biggest markets in our cities in search of profits. On the other hand, there are no afro station programs that these people or even government is doing on the environment they cut from the trees.

Lastly what happed had happed, if we are people who one time feeling the pains of this drought in our environment, I would have suggested the following points to be considered:

  • Government should have clear mandates for any emergency problems and in particularly the Ministry of Environment should have an environmental policies which they are conserving environment and sustaining the availability of water and pasture for our agro-pastoral society.
  • Educated groups of the society should establish environmental and natural disaster management organizations, under these organizations we would have and organize public awareness to our society that environment is our life and it deserves to conserve and put all our financial resource, in order these subsequence droughts to be avoided.
  • Ministry of Education and Higher education should put environmental science as a course of study in our primary/intermediate and secondary syllabus. Because education is the first place which a society can grow up and understand the value of different things in the earth and what deserves to conserved what. On the other side, different universities in the country should also add Environmental Science and Management as course as they over Engineering, Medicine, Business etc, since Environmental Science and Management department will over us environmental experts and activists who can really teach and frame an environmental policies.


Mohamed Suleiman Tarabi

Bachelor of Economics and Policy

Admas University

Ms in Environmental Science and Management

North South University

Dhaka, Bangladesh.

E-mail: mohamedsnm@hotmail.com