The self-declared republic of Somaliland is exporting millions of sheep and goats to Saudi Arabia for use as sacrificial offerings.
These offerings are very important for the millions of Muslims going to Mecca for religious reasons. Their trip, a religious requirement, is called the Hajj.
Sixty percent of Somaliland’s gross domestic product — the value of all its goods and services — come from livestock sales to the Middle East. So do 70 percent of its jobs.
Mowlid Hassan Jama has worked at a livestock market in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, for 10 years.
He says “I earn my livelihood from this livestock, and, secondly, I feel I am supporting the Islamic community in having a good Hajj festival.”
The animals, once sold in the markets, are taken by truck to the Red Sea port of Berbera. There, they wait in quarantine for weeks while they receive blood tests and vaccinations.
In the past, accusations of disease among Somaliland livestock led Saudi Arabia to temporarily ban imports of its animals.
Ali Mahamud Gulled is an expert on animal health. He says the Berbera quarantine holds over a million animals at the height of the Hajj. He says Somaliland takes the health of its livestock seriously.
“It [exporting sick livestock] could result in a ban of our livestock, so we make sure that each and every animal leaving here is free of diseases.”
After the restrictions are lifted, sheep and goats are loaded onto ships, often at night when the air is cooler. A single ship can hold between 20,000 and 120,000 animals.
Somaliland now faces competition from Sudan, Australia, and other countries that also export livestock to Saudi Arabia.
Abdi Osman Haji is a researcher with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. He says Somaliland must modernize its industry to stay ahead.
He adds that Somaliland needs to treat its animals better, too.
“Animal welfare is not on the agenda here, and that has to be introduced. Also, animals, when they are being exported via ships and also trucks, they are not according to international standards.”
Even so, the export of animals from Somaliland to Saudi Arabia remains important for both countries.
I’m John Russell.
Jason Patinkin wrote this story for VOANews.com. John Russell adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. ________________________________________________________