Now that we fasted during the holy month of Ramadan and the dust of the drought settled, a dialogue that aims to discuss how to prepare for future drought is imperative in the mainstream discourse. Somaliland is geographically positioned in areas prone to insufficient rainfall. Due to the magnitude of the drought, coupled with our dependence on rain water, a prolonged severity will not only affect rural communities but also the urban population.
Amid the pluralistic tribe politics in Somaliland, the government and its parent party, Kulmiye, so far have failed to put forward a credible strategy to tackle the drought. What has really irked me and many others is the lack of planning by the authority in confronting the annual sequences of drought the country. In democratic societies, political parties are notoriously known for their campaign promises; however, the opposition parties failed to exploit the vacuum left by the government. Particularly, regarding the main opposition party, Wadani, the people were expecting Chairman of Parliament Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Ciro to articulate extravagant campaign promises on how he would prioritise rural communities that are devastated by drought. This is the time the civil societies, the intellectual and business communities articulate a debate that stimulates a solution to the challenges of drought.
Pastoralism in Somaliland is regarded as an important economic activity from which a clear majority of citizens derive their livelihoods. The sector is the bedrock of the national budget. According to Somaliland National Livestock Policy, livestock production contributes about 60% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and the sector is predominately the main source of foreign export earnings of the country with a staggering 85%. Somaliland’s security spending comprises closer to 50% of the national expenditures; given the turbulent region, that split is justifiable. However, one would expect the second in line regarding spending would be rural development, given the importance of livestock, which contributes to the overall economic activities enormously. Thus, Ministry of Rural Development budgetary allocations when compared to other less important ministries to the economy, is inexcusably minuscule. What is more, the overall level of quiescence from the public, considering the infinitesimal allocation in the budget for such an important sector.
Recent publications in Kenya Markets Trust (KMT) Somaliland are not unique, as many countries whose economies are based on the livestock sector allocate less than 5% to the overall budget. The study shows that 14 pastoral countries provide low budgetary allocation to the livestock sector. However, Somaliland cannot follow suit, as these countries are recognised and connected with international financial institutions, such the International Monetary Fund (IMF),World Bank, and bilateral aid and budget support.
It therefore makes sense for the government to propose programmes that recognise the necessity of a contingency plan for the inevitable drought in the future. Mohammed Hashi Elmi, former finance minister of Somaliland, explained the recent interview with HCTV; he stated unequivocally that we are financially more than capable of meeting the investments needed to put in place development programmes to minimise the chronic drought and the repercussions that follows. With this, the government, especially the incoming government, must take clear steps to rectify the current situation of insufficient resource allocation.
The overarching policy framework for drought management should be proactive rather than reactive to the aftermath to minimise the effect on livelihoods and the general social and economic effects that drought causes. One of the recommendations I would like to make is the introduction of agricultural grazing land; a preeminent strategy can be included to lease the fertile land for agricultural and pasture as a commercial grazing zone by growing grass and fodders as reserve to feed livestock during the drought seasons. The project should be under the umbrella of the public private partnership. The idea is that, when drought occurs, the pastoralist community will get grass for their livestock either free, thanks to government subsidy, or they will pay knockdown prices, and as a result, millions of livestock can be protected.
Conversely, there are several barriers to the implementation of creating commercial agriculture. Investors may be reluctant to spend the considerable sum of capital to produce pasture for the dry seasons for livestock during the drought season. One way to lure investors is the government guaranteeing to cover any losses of revenues.
.The Ministry of Rural Development should be relocated to the eastern regions, as most Somaliland Pastoralists are based in these regions. This can be considered a sign of the earnestness of the government in making headway on this issue.
Some may argue the financial side of the equation; if the government is serious about cracking down on drought, it can fund its programmes using a combination of three sources: first, an increase in rural development overall national budget of 25% to 30%, second, the entire Somaliland Development Fund (SDF) should be directly channelled to the Ministry of Rural Development, and third, the government should encourage private investment in agriculture and farming, cultivating grazing for our livestock. A sector that contributes to 60% of the GDP of the nation should be earmarked as the second expenditure sector after the security apparatus. However, these steps requires political will to divert funds from less productive areas.
Failure to confront drought will likely have serious repercussions far beyond our imagination and will likely lead to the extermination of the rural community. Thus, it is imperative that different layers of societies demand action from policymakers. If we do not demand tangible action and in-depth discussion from the government on how to best tackle the ever-present endemic sequence of drought, we are eradicating our pastoral communities.
Finally, a thriving livestock sector in Somaliland requires substantial improvement by increasing the budget, building capacity, and recruiting expertise, and by designing policies to tackle the annual drought crisis. It is imperative to apply three pillars when implementing these projects. First, there must be the political will to allocate the resources needed to fight drought so that we can proceed on projects that will yield graze reserves. Second, creating a conducive environment for foreign and domestic investment is crucial for wider participation in accumulating enough investments in the livestock sector. Third, concerning ‘efficiency’, the government, led by president Ahmed M.Silanyo, deserves credit in its efforts regarding ‘revenue mobilisation’; however, there are question marks on efficiency and transparency. Thus, national projects require the necessary funds as well as efficiency, transparency and accountability.
Saleban Abdi Ahmed
MA International Politics & Economics
The views expressed in this Article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat’s editorial policy.