Agriculture in Somalia

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Graphical depiction of Somalia's product exports in 28 color-coded categories.

Agriculture in Somalia (Somali: Beeraha Soomaaliya) is a major employment activity and is the largest economic sector in the country. It contributes more than 65% to the national GDP from domestic distribution and exports to other parts of the continent, the Middle East and Europe.


Somalia's economy consists of both traditional and modern production, with a gradual shift in favor of modern industrial techniques taking root.[1] Agriculture is the most important economic sector. It accounts for about 65% of the GDP and employs 65% of the workforce.[2] Livestock alone contributes about 40% to GDP and more than 50% of export earnings.[3]

A camel trader in Hargeisa, Somalia.

According to the Central Bank of Somalia, about 80% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists, who keep camels, goats, sheep and cattle. The herders also gather resins and gums to supplement their income.[1]

Camel, sheep and goat herding are the main types of local pastoralism, particularly in the northern part of the country.[4] Livestock include the Somali goat and Somali sheep. The Somali goat is used primarily for the production of meat.[5] Both males and females have horns, although females are often polled.[5] The goats are drought tolerant and, when milked, can each yield one to three kilograms of milk daily, even when access to water is limited.[6] The Somali sheep is the direct forebear of the Blackhead Persian, the latter of which was bred in South Africa between the late 19th century to early 20th century and has been extensively used for crossbreeding in many tropical areas.[7] It belongs to the fat-tail type, and both of the breed's genders are polled.[7][8] The animal is mainly reared for meat production,[7][9] and is a major export of the Somalian economy, particularly to the Arabian peninsula.[1]

With the advantage of being located near the Arabian peninsula, Somali traders have increasingly begun to challenge Australia's traditional dominance over the Gulf Arab livestock and meat market, offering quality animals at very low prices. In response, Gulf Arab states have started to make strategic investments in the country, with Saudi Arabia building livestock export infrastructure and the United Arab Emirates purchasing large farmlands.[10] Most livestock is exported through the northern ports of Bosaso and Berbera. In March 2013, livestock traders also resumed exports from the southern Port of Mogadishu. After inspection at a newly constructed animal quarantine facility in Mogadishu, 13,000 goats and 2,435 camels were sent to markets in Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.[11]

A flock of Somali sheep.

A ten-year-old manufacturing, distributing, wholesale and import/export company, the Bosaso Tannery processes wet salted, dry salted, wet blue, limed, pickled, and air/frame dried sheep and goat hides and skin. It has some of the highest quality natural skins on the continent.[12][13] The firm exports a little over 90,000 tonnes of hides and skins every year from Bosaso to Ethiopia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, China and Italy.[12][14] Raw camel hides and sheep and goat skin are also dispatched to the United Arab Emirates.[15] The wet blue type is exported to the Middle East and various parts of Europe. As of 2012, the company is moving toward ready-made leather production for eventual exportation to consumer markets in the Middle East and other areas.[14]

In 2007, the Burao city authority in collaboration with development organizations and local traders opened the Burco Meat and Produce complex. One year in the making, the market has two main halls and can accommodate more than 2,000 merchants.[16] In conjunction with the Italian government, the Puntland authorities are also slated to open a new livestock market in Galkayo.[17]

Machines at a Bosaso Tannery workshop.

In June 2014, the European Union (EU) and African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) jointly launched the new Reinforcing Animal Health Services in Somalia (RAHS) project in Mogadishu. A 4 million EUR (US$5.4 million) program, it aims to promote livestock production for over 250,000 local pastoralists, further strengthen the capacity, quality, access and sustainability of national animal health services delivery, and sustain exportation. RAHS is also expected to support private sector development initiatives in the livestock industry, and to enhance public-private partnerships.[18]

According to the FAO, Somalia exported a record 5 million units of livestock to markets in the Gulf region in 2014. Valued at US$300 million, the exports included 4.6 million sheep and goats, 340,000 cattle and 77,000 camels. The enhanced trade was facilitated by greater sectoral investment by the Somali government in conjunction with the FAO, which centered on livestock infrastructure, livestock vaccination and treatment services, and fodder production. Additionally, modern slaughterhouses, meat and animal husbandry markets have buttressed the livestock commerce. In order to tap into value added livestock products, a program aimed at ameliorating the quality of milk production was also launched in the country's northwestern region, with assistance provided by the EU. In May 2015, 150 local workers are slated to receive further training by the FAO in leather curing.[19]


Farmland along the Juba River in the southern Lower Juba region, a local agricultural center.

Somalia's farming areas are concentrated in the southern part of the country, in the Gedo, Middle Juba, Lower Juba, Lower Shebelle, Middle Shebelle and Hiran regions. The Juba River and Shabelle River pass through these provinces, rendering the soil more conducive to crop cultivation than the comparatively arid north, where pastoralism has instead traditionally been practiced.[4]

Principal crop exports include bananas; sugar, sorghum and corn are products for the domestic market.[20] According to the Central Bank of Somalia, imports of goods total about $460 million per year, and have recovered and even surpassed aggregate imports prior to the start of the civil war in 1991. Exports, which total about $270 million annually, have also surpassed pre-war aggregate export levels but still lead to a trade account deficit of about $190 million US dollars per year. However, this trade deficit is far exceeded by remittances sent by Somalis in the diaspora, which have helped sustain the import level.[1]

In mid-2010, Somalia's business community also pledged to invest $1 billion in the national economy industries over the following five years. Abdullahi Hussein, the director of the just-formed Trans-National Industrial Electricity and Gas Company, predicted that the investment strategy would create 100,000 jobs. The new firm was established through the merger of five Somali companies from the trade, finance, security and telecommunications sectors. The second phase of the project, which began in mid-to-late 2011, saw the construction of factories in specially designated economic zones for the farming, livestock, fishing and mining industries.[21][22]

A maize field in the south.

In 2014, local farmers completed a program enabling them to begin selling for the first time high quality grain to the UN's WFP. Under the initiative, the cultivators received training from FAO and WFP experts on grading their grain, post-harvest handling, and warehouse and storage management. The aim was to strengthen the farmers' knowledge base and production capacity to meet international supply standards. By March of the year, cultivators from south-central Somalia had through the program sold 200 metric tons of high quality maize grain. According to Minister of Agriculture Abdi Ahmed Mohamed, the government is working to further rehabilitate the farming sector through both agricultural production and stabilization efforts. Farmers ultimately aim to move beyond local distribution and become a major grain supplier for the broader region.[23]

In March 2014, the Somali Producers' Conference and Exhibition (SOPEC) was held at Dubai's World Trade Center as part of an initiative by the federal government to promote Somali products from the farming, livestock and fisheries sectors in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf state markets. In May of the year, commercial farmers also resumed banana exports to the Arabian peninsula. Additionally, they began exploring newer markets for their agricultural products in Kuwait and Dubai.[24]

In December 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that it would commence a new water management project on the Shabelle River in 2015 in order to assist small scale cultivators. The initiative will in part see additional water channels dug so as to more effectively control river flows on farms.[25]


Somalia has the longest coastline on the mainland.[26] Prior to the start of the civil war in 1991, the country had a number of fishing hubs. Tuna, lobster, and other high value marine stock were harvested locally for the domestic and international seafood markets. The government has since endeavoured to work with local communities to rebuild the fisheries industry and normalize trade.[27] To this end, fishing fleets from Europe and Asia have reached commercial fishing agreements in the northeastern Puntland region.[28]

Cans of Las Qoray brand tuna fish made in Las Khorey.

In 2012, a team of engineers was also enlisted by the Puntland authorities to assess the ongoing renovations taking place at the Las Khorey port.[29] According to the Minister of Ports, Said Mohamed Rage, the Puntland government intends to launch more such development projects in the town.[30]

In April 2013, the Puntland Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources officially inaugurated a new fish market in Garowe. Constructed in conjunction with the UK authorities and the UNDP, it is part of a larger regional development plan which will see two other similar marketplaces launched within the year in Galkayo and Qardho.[31]

In September 2013, Puntland Minister of Fisheries Mohamed Farah Adan also announced that the Puntland government plans to open two new marine training schools in Eyl and Bandar Siyada (Qaw), another northeastern coastal town. The institutes are intended to buttress the regional fisheries industry and enhance the skill set of the Ministry's personnel and local fishermen.[32] Adan also indicated that the Ministry in conjunction with the FAO would open a new fish market in Bosaso, complete with modern refrigators.[32]

In March 2014, Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali in conjunction with representatives from the EU and FAO officially launched a new database for registering local fishermen.[33] Referred to as the Fishermen Identification Database System, it is a $400,000 project financed by a Trust Fund from seven EU Member States. The database will provide fishermen in the region with a unique identification card.[34] It uses biometric data, which can differentiate between the identities of individuals.[33] Registering fishermen will allow the Puntland government to identify who fishes in its waters, and to ensure efficacious management of fisheries and sustainable resource use through the gathering of vital data.[34] More than 3,100 fishermen already registered in the new biometric database over the previous 12 months.[33]

Tuna-processing factory in Las Khorey.

In April 2014, a Somali federal government delegation including President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Mohamed Olow Barrow, Minister of Finance Hussein Abdi Halane, and Minister of Planning Said Abdullahi Mohamed met in Brussels with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki to discuss bilateral relations. The talks were brokered by the Scottish Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson, with the aim of securing international funding for reconstruction of Somalia's fishing industry infrastructure. According to Stevenson, the EU's long-term objective is to set up a fisheries partnership agreement with the Somali authorities in order to tap into the country's abundant marine stocks.[35]

In June 2014, the Fisheries Minister of the Puntland State of Somalia Hasan Mahmoud announced that the Somali and Yemeni governments are slated to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to regulate fishing within Somalia's territorial waters by Yemeni fishermen. The Puntland and Yemeni Fisheries ministries are also scheduled to hold talks on bilateral cooperation, with the aim of preserving and effectively exploiting marine resources.[36]

In October 2014, in an extraordinary meeting in Mogadishu chaired by Second Deputy Speaker Mahad Abdalle Awad, the Federal Parliament passed a new Fishing Act. The law was forwarded to the legislature by the federal Ministry of Fisheries. Of the 140 lawmakers present at the parliamentary session, 135 MPs voted in favor of the bill, 2 voted against it, and 3 abstained.[37]

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ "Somalia". World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
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  6. ^ Chatty, Dawn (1996). Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman. Columbia University Press. p. 84. ISBN 9780231105491.
  7. ^ a b c "Somali". Sheep Breeds-S-St. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  8. ^ "Brazilian Somali". Breeds of Livestock. Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Animal Science. Archived from the original on 2008-11-04. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
  9. ^ A. Nyanjom & J. Konyango, Certificate Agriculture Form 1, (East African Publishers), p.133.
  10. ^ The Arab countries demand Australian sheep and lamb Archived 2011-05-15 at the Wayback Machine - Farmonline
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  14. ^ a b "Bosaso Tannery". Mohamed Diriye Hussein. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  15. ^ "Bosaso Tannery". Gulf Business. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  16. ^ A New Market Complex for Burco, Togdheer
  17. ^ "Somalia: Italy pledges revival of stalled projects to Puntland". Garowe Online. 27 October 2013. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  18. ^ "EU, AU help promote Somalia's livestock health, export". Xinhua. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Livestock export in Somalia hits record in 2014: UN agency". Xinhua. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  20. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Somalia (2008)
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  28. ^ Better Off Stateless: Somalia Before and After Government Collapse
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  33. ^ a b c "Somalia: Puntland and FAO launch a new safe database for Somali Fishermen". Horseed Media. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
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