It is a wakeup call that the new Somalia’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change points out that indeed the impacts of climate change in Somalia are far greater compared to the much-publicized insecurity in the country. The Generation for Change and Growth, GCG, agrees with that argument, noting that many local people in Somalia, and those that fund programs in Somalia do not realize that climate change is ‘the elephant in the house’ in Somalia. Why do we say so? It is because everybody is impacted by climate change as the phenomenon threatens present and future generations, our livelihoods, water, the ecosystems, biodiversity and our social fabric.
It is therefore important that both the local people and our well-wishers begin treating climate change with the seriousness it deserves in Somalia.
Some impacts of climate change
The Impacts of climate change in Somalia include frequent and severe droughts, water scarcity, reduction of animal grasses and fodder, loss of livelihoods, loss of flora and fauna, conflicts due to fight over natural resources, more suffering for women and youth and the marginalized groups, among others. These impacts are more pronounced in the rural areas compared to urban centers where the big organizations work due insecurity in Somalia. However, GCG, being a local organization, can work in several rural targeted areas.
Forest degradation, due to charcoal burning and local uses leading to deforestation, is one of the non-climate actions resulting in biodiversity and ecosystems loss. This increases the impacts of climate change due to drying up of water sources and soil degradation.
According to UNEP, ‘Somalia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world and as such present’s unique challenges in terms of natural resource management. As a result of more than 25 years of civil unrest, Somalia’s governance structures have fallen apart, and militias control different parts of the country. In addition, the regions of Somaliland and Puntland have unilaterally declared autonomy’.
‘Land degradation is a key environmental issue in Somalia, closely linked to desertification, drought and unsustainable livestock and agricultural practices. Food insecurity and livelihoods, possible hazardous waste, lack of marine and coastal management, and the mitigation and management of natural disasters are other environmental concerns.
UNEP also completed a National Environmental Action Plan Study to guide the action planning process.
Studies by IOM/UNEP, especially the Climate Displacement Study, led to the formation of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change. These studies will provide the needed information for planning, policy and local actions.
Positive steps by Somalia’s government
When Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was sworn into office in May, one of his first acts was to formally create a federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
He chose Khadija Mohamed al-Makhzoumi, Somalia’s former ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan, to head the department.
The creation of this ministry comes amid Somalia’s worst drought in more than 40 years, and as the United Nations warns that famine is at the door.
“The reason that the president has established this ministry is because of the problem and the situation that people are suffering in Somalia,” she said.
“Humanitarian issues and disaster — it’s climate change. It’s affecting so many areas in Somalia.” She continued.
Environmental disasters like drought are not new to Somalia. But some experts are saying a combination of climate change and widespread deforestation is leading to extreme climate events with more frequency.
“The world, they think [the] only problem that Somalia has is security issues,” Makhzoumi said.
‘’But the biggest problem in the country now is climate change’’, she said: “We need to take climate change issues seriously.”
One of the first things on Makhzoumi’s to-do list is a fact-finding trip around the country to areas that have been hit worst by environmental crisis, including the current drought, and to raise international awareness.
“Globally, everyone is talking about climate change, but nobody is talking about how Somalia is impacted,” she said.
“We need to have support in that area,” she said, pointing to financing infrastructure projects and overall climate financing that can help Somalis adapt to their changing environment.
“If we don’t respond now there will be more disasters and more issues will come up later,” she said.
How Kenyan’s did it
This call by the Minister gives us the needed prompt to come in and play our role in originating and implementing climate change initiatives, based on our experience working in Kenya.
In the 1990’s Kenya did not have the needed focus to confront environmental and climate change issues. The local people were not sensitized neither were they aware of the actions they needed to take at their level to address climate change. There were no policies and legal frameworks to help sustain environment and climate change initiatives.
Then in 1999, Kenya came up with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999. This established the National Management Authority in 2000. This authority eased Government Interventions on Environment and Climate Change in Kenya. It had departments on awareness and capacity building, environmental Compliance, Climate Change Unit, among others.
The profiling of Climate Change in Kenya, its mainstreaming in all ministries, and fundraising was made possible through that coordination.
The Act was revised in 2012, 2015 and 2019, to focus it more to the realities of the day and for better coordination of matters environment and climate change.
Way Forward in Somalia
There must be widespread awareness and sensitization on the impacts of climate change in Somalia.
There also needs to be development of Policy and legal frameworks to help in coordination and management of environment and climate change in Somalia.
For that to happen, we propose a committed department on climate change in the federal Ministry of environment and climate change. This will undertake sustained climate change sensitization and awareness creation in Somalia. This will be coupled with coming up with relevant policy and legal frameworks to ease coordination and actions, as well as fundraising for climate change. There needs to be established an environment and climate change authority in Somalia. This authority will be the governments’ executive arm in maters environment and climate change.
The civil Society Organizations must be funded to create awareness and sensitization on the impacts of climate change, and the needed actions, in the rural areas of Somalia, starting with the safe to go places.
Written by: Eng. Joseph M. Ngondi, Program Manager, Generation for Change and Growth, GCG
Reviewed by: Abdullahi Mohamed, Executive Director, Generation for Change and Growth.
The Generation for Change and Growth is an NGO, registered in Kenya.