Somaliland struggles to diversify economy amid climate change crisis

18 Sep 2019

Photo credit: Abdigeedi village, 100 miles northwest of Hargeisa in Somaliland and near the border with Djibouti, was hit by Cyclone Sagar in 2018. The strongest-ever tropical cyclone to make landfall in Somalia decimated the population’s herd, leaving the survivors in dire conditions. Picture taken on July 6, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Claudio Accheri

An estimated 600,000 people in Somaliland have been forced from their homes , driven by pressures linked to climate change, according to an exclusive news report by Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF).

Climate change has worsened a humanitarian crisis in Somaliland sparked by years of civil war and a famine that swept much of East Africa in 2011, claiming 260,000 lives. At least 13 million people went hungry and many fled their homes during the brutal drought, the report says.

“Climate change is real in Somaliland . . . and it’s becoming a disaster,” said Shukri Ismail Bandari, Somaliland’s minister for the environment and rural development.

The semi-autonomous region in the Horn of Africa wants independence from Somalia but is not recognized internationally as a country, which rules out direct aid or loans from most global institutions.

Droughts in 2016 and 2017 killed 80 percent of livestock, its major export and the basis of Somaliland’s economy.

The region was hit in May 2018 by tropical Cyclone Sagar – a devastating cyclone – the most powerful to make landfall in that part of the world – forcing thousands more from their homes.

Now, with little foreign investment, job creation for youth, who make up 70 percent of the population, is a priority, the TRF report states.

Initiatives are under development to try to help rural people adapt and remain on their land. Drought early warning systems are being put in place to help pastoral communities sell livestock before conditions turn threatening, avoiding economic losses, according to TRF.

Learn more about the impact of climate change on Somaliland:

Read the full TRF report, here.

Watch the TRF video, here.

An earlier version of this story included incorrect numbers, which said that by 2050, 180 million people will be forced from their homes in Somaliland due to land degradation caused by climate change. That statistic refers to the World Bank’s estimation of the total number of people that could be forced to migrate from three of the world’s poorest regions, not Somaliland. The story has been corrected.

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