Somalia takes lessons from frequent drought
Source: The EastAfrican, By ABDULKADIR KHALIF
Saturday September 16, 2023
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud with Environment and Climate Change Minister Khadija Almakhzoumi launch a project to re-establish tree cover in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 2022. PHOTO | VILLA SOMALIA
Somalia may have been pummelled by drought for five straight seasons, but officials in Mogadishu say the people here won’t give up yet. And Khadija Mohamed Almakhzoumi, the Federal Minister for Environment and Climate Change said this week the three-year dry weather, sometimes punctuated with sudden floods, has forced her government to relook at its climate change policy.
Last month, the Federal Parliament passed the Environmental Management Bill, setting the stage for Somalia’s first ever policy on a ‘just transition’ in climate change. The idea, she argued, is to ensure all climate-related transitions in Somalia borrow from best practices around the world, but by basing on local realities.
And the first step is to tie down aid support for communities to environmental conservation, requiring that donors engage in projects that safeguard, not damage the environment.
The Bill was endorsed by a partisan support in parliament, signalling an undivided attention on a law that could guide how the Federal Government and Federal Member states government future projects on energy, mining and extraction of hydrocarbons as well as the blue economy.
On other days, however, Somalia worries about daily problems brought by Al Shabaab, the militant group that has remained a security threat every year.
“Securing victory against Al Shabaab remains the cornerstone of our national priority to safeguard Somalia’s future,” Ms Almakhzoumi said on Thursday, in a statement.
“Yet, combatting climate change holds the second spot on our national agenda—a battle we cannot afford to lose.” Donor funding, she argued, was no longer luxury, but a necessity that should bring tangible benefits to ordinary people.
“In this context, international climate finance serves as a catalyst, enabling Somalia to implement adaptive strategies that are essential for its long-term resilience and stability.”
According to a study by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, there has been a nexus between climate-related disasters in the Horn of Africa and the threat of violent extremism. And Al Shabaab have often picked on those vulnerabilities to recruit or sow their ideologies, often by providing aid to the displaced or extorting aid deliverers.
Almakhzoumi did admit there is existential threat posed by erratic weather patterns and rampant environmental degradation, which go beyond merely affecting livelihoods. She argues that the escalating impacts of climate change have the capacity to exacerbate existing social and economic disparities, thus compromising national and regional stability and security.
But Somalia wasn’t always united on climate fight. With institutions broken from years of war and insecurity, even drafting laws were problematic in the past. Which is why she sees small wins in the way the Bill being endorsed without a hassle.
Such a cohesive strategy, she argued can help united levels of governmental institutions and civil society organisations with the people against climate change.
“Our shared vision has become a strong, collective force against the climate crisis, delivering one country with one agenda…” then she added: “Without robust action on the climate crisis, our strides toward development and security will ring hollow.”
Somalia is among Africa’s most punished country when it comes to climate-related disasters. Droughts and floods have combined with insecurity to displaced more than 4 million people out of the estimated 17 million, the highest ratio in the Horn of Africa, according to figures by the United Nations agencies.
The new law may be a policy shift, but she argued it also represents a paradigm shift. It localises environmental justice, what she called socially equitable climate action.
Last year, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in his inauguration speech that counterterrorism and climate change will be at the centre of his rebuilding strategy.
“Climate change has shifted from being a remote possibility to a clear and immediate threat requiring swift, concentrated action,” Mohamud had said in his inaugural speech in May last year.