Massive deforestation is contributing to an extreme drought in Somalia. Areas that used to be savannah are now dusty and littered with tree stumps. Deforestation can cause drought by removing soil cover and allowing soil moisture to evaporate, or it can cause floods by reducing soil’s ability to absorb moisture. If deforestation continues at the current rate, large parts of the country will be desert within twenty years, according to Ahmed Derie Elmi, director of forests in Somaliland’s environment ministry.
The people of Somalia know they have a problem. They understand that cutting the trees is turning vibrant savannah into desert, but they have no other way of making a living. Many of those cutting down the forests were former herders. Several years back, drought and disease took its toll on the livestock, leaving many families with no source of income.
Newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has taken steps to curb the deforestation, but much remains to be done to combat the poverty which is at the root of the problem.
Massive deforestation risks turning Somalia into desert (via AFP)
Hassan Hussein cuts down 40 trees every month to fuel his charcoal business, fully aware of the impact his action has on the environment. But for the livestock keeper, the forests are the last remaining resource. And he is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Somalia’s traditional pastoralist herders…
Camels in the Somali Desert photo via Shutterstock