(ERGO) – Drought-hit families living on the outskirts of El-waq, in southern Somalia’s Gedo region, have been turning to cutting forests for charcoal production after their traditional sources of livelihood have failed.
Since January, there has been a surge in charcoal production in nine villages in the district. Whilst those making the charcoal are trying to survive the drought, locals are concerned that the uncontrolled business is going to lead to further drought in future.
Hussein Mohamed Ali, a resident of Kadado, nine km from El-waq, said he observes regular groups of up to 30 people cutting and transporting wood by donkey carts.
“These trees are beneficial to the people and the environment. The charcoal traders are not concerned about the implications of this deforestation,” he said.
Aadan Mohamed lost all his 65 goats and 23 cows in the drought last year and has turned to charcoal production for a living. He told Radio Ergo this new work was the only chance he had to earn a small income for his family of nine in Laan-qurac, eight km from El-waq.
He and three partners work together to prepare five sacks of charcoal every four days. They hire a donkey to take the charcoal to El-waq town and even across the border to sell in Kenya. One sack fetches 500 Kenya shillings or 100,000 Somali shillings – roughly $4.5.
The areas where the charcoal trade is increasing include Kadado Buulo-ba’ad, Sandacar, Weel-u-weer, Kamorojawey, Laan-qurac, Budada, Garsaal and Samaroole. These places have not received good rainfall for the past three years. The residents used to depend on the sale of meat and milk, but large numbers of animals have died in the drought and those remaining are too thin for sale.
Abdullahi Diriye, an environmentalist in El-waq, said the widespread practice could lead to desertification and lack of grazing for livestock. “Cutting down trees and the sudden changes this brings to the grazing lands leads to the recurring droughts that prevail in the area,” he warned.
Sahal Moalim Adan, the vice-commissioner of El-waq administration, told Radio Ergo’s local correspondent he was aware of the growth in tree-cutting for charcoal in the rural areas, although he could not give any precise details of the numbers of people involved nor the size of the areas already deforested. However, he said the authority was in discussion with the local elders to reach a consensus about how to deal with the issue.