1) State of Agriculture in Somalia


Agriculture is a crucial economic activity, providing employment and livelihoods for many and serving as the basis for many industries. About 203 million people, or 56.6 percent of the total labor force, were engaged in agricultural labor in 2002. In most African countries, agriculture supports the survival and well-being of up to 70 percent of the population. Thus, for many, their livelihoods are directly affected by environmental changes, both sudden and gradual, which impact on agricultural productivity.  Livestock and environmental goods offer some security from such shocks. About 70 percent of the rural poor in Africa own livestock, contributing significantly to household and community resilience to disasters, particularly in arid and semi-arid zones. More than 200 million people rely on their livestock for income (sales of milk, meat, skins) and draught power. Overall, livestock contributes about 30 percent of the gross value of agricultural production in Africa. According to the International Livestock Research Centre (ILRI), opportunities exist to commercialize livestock production to target regional deficits in livestock products where they can be produced competitively.

Agriculture is the art or science of cultivating the ground, including the harvesting of crops, and the rearing and management of live stock; tillage; husbandry; farming.


Agriculture is a major activity in the livelihoods of Somalia, providing food requirements for domestic consumption and generating income through sale of crop and animal products. According to UN statistics, agriculture contributed 60% of Somalia’s US$2.1 billion GDP in 2004. Livestock production is predominant in the country, especially the arid lands of northern and central Somalia. Livestock exports are a major source of foreign exchange and revenues. In 2008 more than 3 million sheep and goats were exported through the northern ports of Berbera and Bossaso, and in the south, although official statistics are not available, informal cross border cattle trade to Kenya is significant. It is estimated that 67% of the population obtain their subsistence needs from camels, cattle, sheep and goats. In the riverine areas of Juba and Shabelle, and parts of north-west Somalia agro-pastoralism is practiced. Rain fed agriculture is only practiced in small areas in north-west and southern Somalia where annual rainfall is between 400 – 600mm.

Before the collapse of the Somali government in 1990, crop production at large scale was practiced, mainly in the south. Extensive irrigation schemes existed in the Juba and Shabelle river basins growing mainly bananas, sugar cane, rice and cotton for domestic use and export. The schemes have however collapsed at the civil strife, and only a small percentage of the land is currently under cultivation after donor rehabilitation efforts. Agricultural production changed from commercial large scale to subsistence farming which hardly meets the local demand. A majority of Somalis depend on a narrow range of livelihoods, in particular livestock and farming. These are vulnerable in particular to climatic factors (floods and droughts), environmental factors, and politico-economic factors, such as foreign bans on livestock imports, and local conflict.


Agriculture in Somalia is divided into Four sub-sectors.

1)      The first is nomadic pastoralism, which is practiced outside the cultivation areas. This sector, focused on raising goats, sheep, camels, and cattle, has become increasingly market-oriented.

2)      The second sector is the traditional, chiefly subsistence, agriculture practiced by small farmers. This traditional sector takes two forms: rain-fed farming in the south and northwest, which raises sorghum, often with considerable head of livestock.

3)      The third one is export and market-oriented farming on large irrigated plantations along the lower Jubba and Shabelle rivers.

4)      Lastly, the fourth one is fishing farming which is mainly concentrate Artisanal Fishing system; most of the system is practice by coastal living people.


The Geo-climatic characteristics of Somalia contributed to the country’s suitability for pastoralism more than crop cultivation. History illustrates that nomadic pastoralists have been the main users of these resources, from times which probably preceded any settlement by sedentary people.

The livestock held by pastoralists in Somalia vary in bred and species depending on climate and culture, but, camels, goats and sheep and some parts cattle such as southern part are generally the species kept for subsistence. To maintain a herd of cattle they must be led to water at least every couple of days depending on their condition, any longer and they may risk overly stressing the animal, particularly in the dry month’s .Cattle are mainly grazers, but will occasionally browse under story shrubs if grasses are in short supply. This means there is a need to provide ample grazing for the cattle to survive. Camels are used mainly in dryer regions and are capable of going months without water after a rainy spell. They are able to use the desert vegetation not only for nutrition, but also as their predominant source of water as long as it remains lush. Unlike cattle, camels are excellent browsers having a preference for acacia trees. One problem in particular that pastoralists may encounter with the raising of camels is including salt in their diet. Sheep have been observed to be mostly grazers, occasionally browsing on shrubs, while goat’s diets seem to have an even mix of the two feeding strategies. Because of the differing approaches to feeding, mixing of livestock into a common herd and keeping a variety of animals allows for maximum vegetation utilization.

Positive impact of Nomadic Pastoralism on the environment

Pastoralism in a traditional economy is the most efficient means of utilizing a grassland environment. It arises in areas where conventional agriculture is difficult or impossible, but also in fertile areas.

Mobile pastoralist range management systems are among those most compatible with biodiversity conservation in Somali’s Environment.

Livestock stomping, gentle plowing, browsing, seed spreading and deposition of manure while grazing and along migration routes serve to maintain rangeland productivity and biodiversity. The removal or drastic reduction of grazing often results not only in lower productivity over the long term, but also in a landscape dominated by shrubs and with significantly lower biodiversity.

The highly diverse vegetation of the rangelands of Somalia has evolved together with the livestock and land management systems of the pastoralists. Wildlife has also evolved side by side with nomadism. Mobile pastoralists describe how throughout time, flocks of livestock and herds of wild ungulates have grazed side by side, and speak of “the brotherhood of livestock and wildlife,” which, they claim, has been weakened as a result of lack government up to 1991. In times of migration, scouts moved ahead of migratory groups to collect information (sahan) on the conditions of the destination rangelands. This information is used to regulate the size of flocks to migrate, the number of tent-holds of people who can move along, and the dates of entry and length of grazing period in each territory. The mobile pastoralists, therefore, have a traditional system of dynamic assessment of carrying capacity of rangelands.

Most Pastoralists know the name and properties of every single botanical species on the rangelands by using system known Sign (Sumad) and can give long descriptions of their medicinal, food, feed and industrial properties for animals and people, as well as their place in the ecosystem. Under the indigenous management systems of the Somali’s Pastoralism, the cutting of living trees, other than in extreme need and with sustainable use in mind, is prohibited and considered a sin. Sustainable use of non-timber products (gums, medicinal and veterinary plants, vegetable dyes, mushrooms and other edible herbs and fruits) are relied on for subsistence and only occasional commerce.

Negative impact of Nomadic Pastoralism on the environment

The nomadic pastoralists in Somalia had been able to achieve some sort of “balance” between their environment and their economy through a long-time co-adaptation. But this has changed over the recent decades as nomads are now being held liable for the significant degradation of the rangelands, over which they migrate with their livestock. Efforts to improve the natural resource status of rangelands have traditionally been attempted through the use of technology transfer and centralized top-down planning.

Many ecologists suggest that large herds, what a pastoralist strives for, are environmentally detrimental. However keeping a large herd of adult animals may be more ecologically viable than producing and selling young animals.

Water contamination; Inappropriate Pastoralism can cause harm to the water resources For example, when  livestock drinks water it introduced  wastes that may have got from grazing which  puts pressure on waterways, wetlands and water holes by increasing erosion and turbidity, compacting soils, damaging vegetation fringing water bodies, and causing contamination by waste products. In addition to that some places where water is scare, nomadic contaminate water in order to prevent their counterpart to use of water.

Soil erosion; Increased livestock numbers in arid regions cause overgrazing which results in reduced infiltration and accelerated runoff and soil erosion. Results of several studies  indicate that at the macro- and micro scales soil erosion can increase dramatically due to overgrazing, causing increases of 5 to 41 times over the control at the micro scale and 3 to 18 times at the macro scale.

Inappropriate cattle grazing practices, such as overgrazing harm the quality of natural pastures and soil properties. The soil structural degradation in the upper horizons are approved by high bulk density values, high dry mechanical resistance and low structural stability in comparison with the climax situation.

 Overgrazing; Ironically, Grazing by cattle or sheep may cause significant changes to the structure and composition of native vegetation. This habitat alteration in turn has impacts on native fauna because of changes in the availability of resources such as food and shelter. In areas of heavy use, the effects of trampling, localized erosion and nutrient concentration (through urine and faeces) may also be important. The impacts of grazing on vegetation arise because of selective grazing by stock (where “preferred” species are selected and may be eaten out) and differential sensitivity to grazing between plant species. A typical response to heavy grazing is a decrease in the frequency and cover of palatable perennial species and an increase in unpalatable perennials or annual species. Prolonged overgrazing may result in the removal of most perennial grass species and a dominance of annuals, making the area susceptible to drought and erosion. Changes in the structure and composition of the ground layer due to grazing may be temporary and readily reversed following good rainfall, or by reduction in grazing pressure. However, prolonged overgrazing may result in a transition to another vegetation ‘state’, from which a return to the desired land condition is difficult to achieve. There may also be gross changes in vegetation structure in some pastoral areas due to tree-clearing, increased density of native trees and shrubs (“woody thickening”) or the proliferation of weeds, and this is likely to have substantial effects on biodiversity in the affected area.

Deforestation; this is causes by the nature of the pastoralism which is moving from place to other place for purpose searching pasture on their livestock, as they settle new place they cut down the trees for sake of shelter in their animals and themselves that the phenomena called Deforestation, hence high possibility of soil erosion. They are not stable that means the more they move the higher level of deforestation.


The Shabelle and Jubba River Basins are international river basins in the Horn of Africa occupied by Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In contrary to previous estimations, the total drainage area of the two basins, which is geographically considered as one basin unit, was recently estimated to 805 100 km2 (Wolf et al., 1999).The two rivers originate from the Bale mountain ranges at an altitude of about 4 000 m in the Ethiopian highlands flowing towards the Indian Ocean crossing the border between Somalia and Ethiopia.

The Juba region is a fertile agricultural land mass stretching between the Kenyan border to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. Unlike the Shabelle River, which usually dries up from January to March, the Juba River is permanent and is capable of irrigating about 150,000 ha (370,500 acres) of land. Land, particularly farmland, is the one of the most important possessions in the river valley and its environs. Farmland, known locally as dhooboy (muddy land), is the most arable land in Somalia.

On the other hand, Irrigation along the Shabelle River is by gravity, downstream of Genale and in a small area around Jowhar where water barrages were constructed during the 1920s. Along the remaining zones of the Shabelle River and all along the Jubba River, diesel pumps are used to extract water. Land is irrigated under controlled and flooding conditions.

In small-scale irrigation, crops grown include maize, sesame, fruit trees and vegetables, while large scale plantations include sugarcane, bananas and fruit trees such as guavas, lemons, mangos, papaya, etc.

Farmers in these two river valleys are also settled, and practice animal husbandry in conjunction with crop production. They tend to keep lactating cattle, a few sheep and goats near their homes, while non-lactating animals are herded further away in a manner similar to the herding of nomadic stock. However, rainfed and irrigation-dependent farmers keep relatively small numbers of livestock, mainly cattle and small ruminants.

Animal feed is obtained from natural vegetation and crop residues, while watering of animals is from rivers during the the dry season. Crop residues are used to provide forage to non browsers, such as cattle and sheep. Numerous reservoirs provide water in the wet season and also serve as alternative water sources to rivers. Groundwater is also an important source of water for livestock, other sources including hand-dug wells, swamps and creeks and boreholes.

Positive impacts of irrigation agricultural system to the environment

ü  Irrigation water supplied by the two rivers in flood time often carries much silt, which adds to the fields increasing on the fertility of soil. With increased soil fertility will mean increased crop yields.

ü  Double cropping is made possible. Farmers in this case are able to produce more than one crop a year and this increases farmer’s income because irrigation system will give to good crop yields.

ü  There is significant amount on nitrogen which is fixed in most water logged fields by algae, which may float on the surface of irrigation water. With the fixation of nitrogen the fertility of the soil and crop yields are maintained.

ü  Provision of water: The practice has generated constant water supply not only to the farmers but also to other community members. Water is also used for domestic purposes like for animal to drink.

ü  Irrigation agriculture as a system has improved quality of food supplied to the farmers and the community around. Due to double cropping there is constant supply of food season after season. Constant supply of food has helped to check some mulnutritional deficiencies like kwashiorkor.

Negative impacts of irrigation agriculture system on the environment

The development of irrigation system has lead to the spread of diseases such as Bilharzia.since fast moving water cannot make the snails to survive in such conditions; irrigation canals provide an ideal habitat for it.

ü  Irrigation system has mostly engaged in the production of agricultural products for example, bananas sugarcane, wheat and other products whose prices at the world market keep on fluctuating. With constant price fluctuations the farmers and government income is affected.

ü  Pollution of water: Due to siltation of rivers, erosion problems affects water quality thus rendering it unhealthy for consumption (man) and indirectly when used by plants. This affects the environmental health conditions as it can cause some diseases like diarrhea (got from taking unclean water).It also increases on soil salinity due to higher rates of evaporation.

ü  Generation of water weeds: water weeds have become a serious problem to the environment. Some water weeds like the water hyacinths tend to compete with crops for the soils nutrition and sometimes it chokes the canals

ü  Due to constant water generation: This has lead to continuous sedimentation which is a serious problem throughout river channels, overhead channels. With this there is destruction of water resources.

ü  Alternation of soil p.H:  Irrigation done with water containing a lot of sodium may damage soil structure owing to formation of alkaline soils which may hinder decomposition of some organic matter by the micro-organisms with in the soil.

ü  Irrigation agricultural system may involve use of some organic fertilizers in to small extent especially around Jubba river, such fertilizers may be a threat to the environment as it depletes the ground aquifers and this may be an affect to the water cycle.


This system is mainly divided into two;

Rain-Fed Farming

This is the type of an agricultural system that depends on rainfall. This agricultural system is meant for both subsistence and cash crops, and it does depend on rainfall.

Continuous rain fed agriculture is practiced in some parts of the country due the  climatic reason. In temperate regions (with relatively reliable rainfall and productive soils) and southwest regions, particularly in sub humid and humid zones, rain fed agriculture can have some of the highest yields. In contrast, in dry sub humid regions, as well as in temperate and tropical arid and semiarid regions, yields are commonly quite low. Due to highly variable rainfall, dry spells, and recurrent droughts, water management is a key challenge for agricultural production in this region. 

Rains fed crops are grown during the wetter winter period known in Somalia Deyr (Winter), while irrigated areas are cultivated year round. The main rain fed crops are wheat, legumes, olives, grapes, fruit and vegetables.

Positive impacts of continuous rain fed on the Environment

ü  There is proper utilization of land. This is because the land is used maximum during the rainy season. Most of the available piece of land is occupied most of time.

ü  It also acts as source of food security. This is because it is a source of food if it is meant for subsistence/domestic purpose.

ü  It also acts as a source of employment especially in the large scale areas where this form need plenty of workers and therefore increases in the job opportunity in the farm. For example, milk farm product (they use large scale farming system).

ü  The presence of cash crops meant that there is export of these crops. Therefore the country is able to earn foreign exchange from the export of these crops which in clued, tea. Coffee and pyrethrum.

ü  Improve soil fertility: Due to the planting of different crop of different planting season this helps to improve the soil fertility especially if there is presence of leguminous plants like beans and peas which tend to fix nitrogen into soil in the form of nitrate and nitrates.

Negative impacts of continuous rain fed on the Environment

ü  There is the deterioration in the soil productivity as most of the crop that are planted in the same piece of land. Therefore the nutrients that are needed by one crop is the same that is taken up by the other crops.

ü  Due to continue cultivation, there is reduction in the crop yields. This is because the land is infertile and unable to produce more yields.

ü  It causes Pollution, Due to continuous use of pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides. This ends up to the pollution of air, water and soil/land. The particulates/particular from the pesticides become airborne which pollutes the air and when this fertilizers are applied and later get in contact with water bodies tend to enrich the water bodies and cause eutrophication.

ü  Leaching of the nutrients- this is very common in areas with high amount of rain fall especially in the southwest. This is whereby the nutrients are in the soil become easily dissolved in the water and therefore most of these nutrients are soluble. The water containing the nutrients seep/infiltration down to underground water table. This therefore leads to the lost of nutrients in the soil.

ü  Compaction of the soil- the use of heavy machinery such as the tractors and also the use of the drafted animal tend to increase the chances of the soil becoming compacted. The compaction of this soil leads to the loss of soil structure and also the loss of soil capacity and therefore most of the air and water in the soil loss.

ü  Land fragmentation which refers to the increase subdivision of landholdings due to increased population- increased population leads to the increase in the demand for food and therefore the need increase the population of food. This has also lead to the change in the consumption patterns from the local cereals such as maize, millet and sorghum to wheat and rice.  This makes very had to produce more of this local cereal which are not being consumed by the local people.

ü  Pests and diseases: Due to having the some type of crops on the same piece of land this will favour a high population pests and diseases.  This is because most of these crops are vulnerable to a particular type of the pest and disease. For example, rats, mosaic, 

ü  Soil erosion: Due to having different planting seasons most of the plants have shallow rooting system due to continuous cultivation. This is because the roots are weak and therefore cannot control soil erosion. more to that over grazing can also contribute to the soil erosion as a result of large herds of cattle occupying the same piece of land

Artisanal Fishing

Statistics on the annual landing from artisanal fishing fleet are incomplete, and only rough estimates are available. With the introduction of 500 mechanized boats in the early 1970s, the annual catch increased from about 5000 tone to a peak of 8000 tone in 1975. However, annual artisanal fishery production between 1980 and 1985 varied from a minimum of 4000 tone in the 1980 to a maximum of 7724 tone reported in 1984. At the same time, it is difficult to estimate to what extent the civil war affected annual artisanal fishery production. However, total catches and landings were estimated at about 14850 tones. The main fishery areas are divided into seven main zones, based on major cities and towns; Kismanyo, Mogadishu, Eyl, Bargal, Blimog, Laskorey, and Berbera.

Fishermen communities are largely made up of traditional fishermen, living in about 50 fishing villages and towns all along the coast from Kenya border to Djibouti. However, the largest concentrations are found along the southeast coast (Mogadishu and lower shabelle areas), where population density is highest. Fishermen fully engaged (primary sector) in artisanal and industrial fisheries are estimated at about 30000. In addition, part- time fishermen seasonally engaged in the fishery sector are estimated at about 60000. Also due to civil war, there have been internal displacements, which have affected some parts of the coastal fishery communities, especially along the Benadir, Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba regions, and most of the fishing communities have either fled across the Kenyan border or have fled and resettled in other regions of the country where they felt safe.

Negative Impact of the Environment

  • Artisanal fishing gear have impact on coral reef ecosystems, Levels of coral damage, proportion of juvenile fish and discards, size and maturity stage at first capture were quantified and compared amongst the gear types. Results indicate that fishers using beach seines, spears and gill nets cause the most direct physical damage to corals. They Collapse and exploited species‟ stocks and severe degradation of benthic communities from methods such as trawling and dredging are among the examples of the destructive impacts of Artisanal fishing boat on the coral reefs.
  • The sound from boat’s engine also causes migration of some species that leads the extinction of some keystone species or the amount available on given area. For example eyl town it has estimated that amount of catching of fishing have been decreased due to the migration of fishes caused by boats.
  • A comparative study of catches in eight types of net gear in Hafun Sea revealed that large meshed trammel nets yielded the biggest commercial catches as a proportion of total catches. In another study, the relative selectivity of trawlnets, bottom longlines and gillnets operating on slope bottoms which causes of small to decrease and eventually lead extinction.


  • Pastoral activities are a compatible activity provided best practice environmental management is used. Guidance on acceptable environmental management is given within this note, in specific Pastoral Lease conditions, in specific land use environmental guidelines or in regional natural resource management strategies by the NGO’S concern.
  • Rehabilitating essential irrigation infrastructure and roads to improve market access by the International Agencies and local NGOs.
  • improving agriculture practices through integrated pest management and storage techniques;
  • improving and diversifying agricultural production through the multiplication of quality seeds;
  •  Since livestock is the major activities in the country it necessary to supporting veterinary services to improve animal health surveillance and the treatment of animal diseases;
  • increasing the capacity of local institutions to cope with animal disease outbreaks, and promoting the meat livestock export sector as well as the quality of meat products for domestic and international markets;
  • Supporting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, including the internally displaced, and through the distribution of agriculture and livestock inputs and the rehabilitation of infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes.  
  • Providing awareness among the farmers about how effectively use their


In conclusion, Agriculture state in Somalia is very weak due to several combine factors which include lack of central government, in appropriate climate and land use for plantations. The Agriculture in Somalia have not kept pace with other their counterpart in east African, in addition, it also has an other external challenges such lack of marketing of their product, especially in south where most of the agricultural activities is going. Finally, it’s vey hard to me to project the state of agriculture in Somalia, because lack enough information to predict, but I can say that Recommendations is the best way to show the farmers especially and whole Somalis the way to avoid the activities that can impact the rate of production in the country.


Cassanelli, Lee V. (1995). Victims and Vulnerable Groups in Southern Somalia. Ottawa:        Research Directorate, Documentation, Information and ResearchBranch, Immigration and Refugee Board.

Abdalla, Ali Jamma’a (1994) Empowering pastoral organisations in the Sudan: The need for  

               Advocay. Pastoral Development Newsletter No. 36 ODI, London.



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