Qaamqaam: The Somali village where anyone who cuts trees is expelled and fined

Published: September 7, 2021

A village in Somalia has banned tree cutting as a way of protecting the environment, and anyone found cutting down any tree is expelled from the community immediately.

Qaamqaam village, located near the southern port city of Kismayo, was formerly a military training camp.

Like many regions in southern Somalia, Qaamqaam experienced widespread destruction of trees amid a colossal charcoal trade.

Areas that were initially covered in thick tree cover quickly turned into bare land, exposing the regions to the full brunt of heat and other weather changes.

In efforts to contain the situation, elders in Qaamqaam village issued a strict ban on tee cutting.

Anyone found cutting a tree is not only expelled from the community, but they also have to pay a hefty fine of about $1,500.

Trees are held in the same regard as human lives in Qaamqaam.

Not only does the ban help restore Somalia’s battered environment, but it also helps the Horn of African country tackle climate change.

According to the United Nations (U.N.), unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change are worsening conditions in Somalia, especially for the already vulnerable and displaced people.

The country has experienced a see-saw of extreme weather conditions in recent years, often swinging from drought to floods.

Last year, cyclones and floods displaced more than 1.3 million Somalis, according to UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, outnumbering those displaced by drought or conflict. This year, many areas of the country are experiencing extreme dry conditions and water shortages while others have been hit by heavy rains and flash floods.  Between January and June, 68,000 people were displaced by drought and another 56,500 by floods. This was in addition to 359,000 forced to flee conflict and insecurity, according to U.N. figures.

The U.N. last year appointed Christophe Hodder, a climate and security adviser, to Somalia’s peacekeeping mission (UNSOM), a global first. Hodder’s role is to make conflict analysis and interventions more “climate smart” while ensuring that approaches to climate change are more conflict sensitive.

Such efforts, added to those undertaken by local communities such as Qaamqaam, are expected to limit the impact of climate change on Somalia.

In the short-term, the village can boast of having an enviable tree cover in the country and a better environment for residents.

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