Somalia is in trouble. Already an impoverished and war-torn country, Somalia is experiencing massive country-wide deforestation at an alarming rate. Population explosion and urbanization are the primary threats to the country’s environmental health. However, rampant deforestation is quickly exacerbating these environmental issues.
Electricity is not an option for many Somalis since it is prohibitively expensive, so charcoal has become the main source of energy. As a result, the charcoal industry has grown by leaps and bounds, and in 2011 Al Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents made approximately $25 million from the charcoal trade.
While the charcoal industry has grown by exponentially, the trees from which the charcoal is made are being decimated in the process. Mature trees have disappeared from the Somali landscape, leading to a decline in livestock herds and consequently affecting the general population by creating extensive poverty and famine.
There are those who want to end deforestation as soon as possible, but in a country with so many other critical issues, the subject is not high on the list of priorities. The Ministry of Environment has such a small budget that it only covers the salaries of 187 employees, making community awareness difficult, if not impossible, let alone trying to halt the rate of deforestation.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia’s new President, banned charcoal export in an attempt to reduce deforestation. But it will take much more than a ban to limit the decimation of forests since so many Somalis cut down trees to create and sell charcoal simply as a way to survive and feed their families.