The Goldman Environmental Prize Blog, 16 March 2016, Muna Ali.
Although Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, the country is better known for its decades of conflict than for the quality and variety of its marine resources. After years of civil war and lawlessness, it should come as no surprise that the country’s coastal resources have fallen prey to illegal fishing, hazardous waste dumping, and dynamite and cyanide fishing. Unfortunately, Somalia is now better known for its piracy than its fishing exports, as portrayed by Adeso’s Goodwill Ambassador Barkhad Abdi in the 2014 blockbuster Captain Philips.
The destruction of mangroves for charcoal has further destabilized the coastal environment and destroyed fish habitat, as recently highlighted in a situational analysis commissioned by UNEP.
Despite the ban on the export of charcoal in the Puntland region of Somalia which I helped push through in 2002, charcoal production and export have devastated mangroves along with coastal towns in the region. The consequences of this destruction are enormous and range from harming human livelihoods and food security to intensifying the destruction of the coastal environment and fisheries. Charcoal production and trafficking are also the main drivers of conflict between communities in Somalia, and since it provides cash to insurgents, it has also become a security threat and a major impediment to peace processes at the village, national, and regional level.
The fruits of much determination
When I founded Adeso 25 years ago, I knew that the only way to tackle my country’s problems was to get people to understand the connection between environmental and socio-economic issues. This was not an easy journey, but I believe my determination has paid off.
Last year, Adeso partnered with the Goldman Environmental Foundation to restore mangrove trees and plant date palm saplings and other indigenous trees in Durduri, a small town off the coast of northern Somalia that I have been working hard to revive. Not only does this work help stabilize the coastal ecosystem, but it also serves to improve food security and the prospects for peace, and builds on one of Adeso’s largest projects funded by the European Commission.
Community-owned and community-led
Thanks to the Foundation’s support, Adeso was able to establish two nurseries that now supply Durduri’s need for mangrove and date palm seedlings. And in keeping with the organization’s ethos, those nurseries were established by, and for, local communities.
Ali Salad, a local resident and farmer, who I recently spoke to explained to me how the establishment of the community nurseries was a blessing.
“We used to get mangrove seedlings and other seeds from as far as 20-35 Km away from the village. Now it’s right at our disposal,” says Ali.
In late 2014, Ali had planted approximately 1,000 mangroves on the riverbed by the inlet in Durduri, but animals such as goats, camels, and dik-diks (a kind of small antelope), as well as floods that hit the riverbed and wash them away, often destroyed the new shoots.
“Adeso taught us how to overcome these challenges by identifying more favorable locations for planting the mangrove, which will provide the trees with ideal conditions for growth and protection from animals,” he explained.
The mangrove and date palms that the local residents have been planting are helping reduce soil erosion by holding the soil together. And once they have matured enough, they also become a source of food for the camels, goats, and crustacea and a breeding ground for fish.
“We have noticed the increase in fish yield after planting it along the coastline. This means more fish for our families to eat and surplus to sell in the village market,” Ali told me.
A large part of Adeso’s work is focusing on increasing awareness among local communities about the importance of coastal habitats and sustainable fishing, including the damaging effects of the charcoal trade. The campaign has reinforced Ali’s belief in the importance of planting mangrove and palm trees for both economic and environmental benefits.
But as such a significant portion of the coastline is in need of rehabilitation and restoration, in order for transformative change to take place in Somalia, thousands of more people need to participate in the process.
Adeso cannot achieve this alone. We rely on the generous support of our partners to make our work possible. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to stay informed about our most recent progress and find how you can be part of the change.