By: Abdirashid Ahmed Guleid
Somalilandsun – Somaliland’s rural community is almost entirely pastoralist practicing livestock production in a traditional manner. The livestock produced by these pastoralists contribute 70% of the country’s GDP according to officials in the ministry of livestock development.
Moreover, livestock trading is a lucrative business which generates significant profits for the pastoralists and for the traders, while the government obtains the most tax revenues out of this trade. In this writing, I would like to point out the shortcomings in the existing livestock production system and at the same time try to suggest some technological innovations that need to be promoted by the relevant actors.
FRAGILITY OF THE EXISTING LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEM
The current livestock production mode can be described as extremely backward and unsustainable. In the past, the pastoralists had plenty of grazing lands on which they could raise as many livestock as they pleased.
They were not constrained by any factor except by their labour and by their financial capacity. Land was abundantly at their disposal. Droughts affected the pastoralists once in 20 years. In those days, there were many wealthy pastoralists who were rich even by today’s standards. Owning more than 500 sheep/goats and over 200 camels with two BIRKAs in different locations constituted a wealth as large as owning a multi-storey building in today’s modern cities.
Recently, the situation changed and the pastoralists now face insurmountable problems.
First, due to the human population increase,the seasonal grazing custom of the pastoralists changed in such a way that range lands lost the resting periods that were necessary for the grass to grow to maturity. Village settlements were introduced without any plan. The result is that range lands are no longer productive enough to sustain large livestock herds. Similarly, droughts that recur almost every 2 years compounded the problems of the pastoralists. The situation has become so alarming to the point that almost every pastoralist family can now be categorized as poor.
Livestock holding per family is reduced to around 50 sheep/goats and 2-3 camel on the average. The policy makers in Hargeisa do not seem to be heeding the alarm bells since they are satisfied with the millions of livestock that are exported through Berbera every year, thereby, collecting hefty tax revenues. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that entrepreneurial livestock traders bring in livestock all the way from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Southern Somalia. Once these countries implement programs for the utilization of their livestock, Somaliland might find itself loosing huge tax revenues all of a sudden.
So what is the way out? I try to come up with some suggestions in the following lines.
THE NEED FOR INTRODUCING NEW TECHNOLOGIES
As a result of the recurrent droughts, the Somaliland livestock population is reduced drastically. Parallel to this livelihood erosion, the human population continues to multiply. The pastoralists became so desperate and many of them ended up as internally Displaced
Persons (IDP) settling around the main towns in expectation of food hand-outs from the relevant authorities. The pastoralists’ status has changed from “surplus producers to aid dependents”. As a result, it is abundantly clear that the current livestock production is not sustainable. In a nutshell, Somaliland’s livestock production system needs to be overhauled. The answer, in my opinion, is the fattening approach. The basic elements of the fattening production mode are the land, the water supplied, and the animal feed produced.
The land is available in plenty, even though the pastoralists might demand payment for the land in their area; the water is obtained either from the harvesting of the rain-water or digging the underground water through rigs; the feed production is the most challenging part of this production mode. Once the investing company arranges these three components of the system, the next step is to buy weak drought-affected livestock from the pastoralists for fattening.
Additionally, the fattening company can buy the young animals and fatten them for a short period of time. This production system contributes two important dimensions to the existing traditional production mode: one, livestock will not be lost due to drought-related deaths, and second, the marketability age is reduced since the animal gains weight within a short time. The question is what types of fodder species will have to be grown so that the fattening process becomes successful and fruitful. The answer lies in
the need for research into the fodder species that can be adapted to the specific soil types of the selected project sites.
The livestock fattening business is a capital intensive business and it might not be easy for the average business person in Somaliland.
The middle-sized fattening projects might require hundreds of thousands of dollars as initial investment costs. It might even run into the millions. Strong technical and managerial capacities are also required. In principle, like any other investments, the more the input the more you get as output. In my opinion, mobilizing financial capital should not a serious constraint for two reasons: one, Somalis in general have recently adopted the culture of common ownership and sharing investment capital; and second, every Somali business person knows that investing in livestock production and trading is profitable beyond any doubt. The only prerequisite before investing into this business is the need to conduct feasibility studies by professional
people which is not a headache under the existing circumstances in Somaliland.
The Somaliland government must take the lead in the adoption and realization of the above-described livestock production mode. If the government does not take a leading role in the process, it will soon realize that it is the biggest loser in the end.
The government shall immediately take two steps that are crucially important towards the fruitful realization of this production mode: one, it should take the lead in the feasibility preparation process; and two, the government shall identify potential foreign creditors for the financial capital needed for this project. The government can receive the loan on behalf of the traders and distribute it to few reliable companies who will repay the loan. The repaid loan can then be used as revolving fund and can be extended to other traders who will also repay to the government. The sooner the government shoulders this top national responsibility the better.
By: Abdirashid Ahmed Guled, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org