Somali Environmental and Rural Development Agency: Clean Energy Forum

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Introduction

Somalia has been suffering from both the wet and dry effects of climate change. From famines caused by persistent droughts in 2011 to cyclones on its long Indian Ocean coast in 2014, the Horn of Africa country is a testament to the effects of global warming. Because of its natural dispositions, such as aridity, Somalia is susceptible to disasters caused by atmospheric irregularities due to global warming. Another major cause factor to these disasters is the rampant,
widespread, and illegal logging taking place in Somalia. Entire forests have disappeared as private merchants continue to pillage for the sake of charcoal production. Ecosystems and ecological communities have been wiped out in the pursuit of profits. Somali charcoal is subject to a United Nations resolution banning its trade.

Somalia’s more than two decade long civil strife had debilitating effects on both human and environmental levels. In the absence of a strong central authority, private companies and businessmen turned to the forests to generate profits. They found charcoal production to be lucrative business with high demand in the Gulf States. These businessmen were later joined by armed groups who had access to large swaths of open forests and the means to maneuver and
finance large operations. These armed groups now had control over vast forests and began to consolidate their power in order to finance their schemes.

The combined effects of global warming and the extensive clear cutting of Somali forests for charcoal production have taken their toll on the Somali environment. The frequency of droughts and famines has increased, agricultural yields are a fraction of what they used to be, and when rains do come they are usually torrential and cause more damage than benefit. These phenomena are taking place right under our nose and yet only so few take notice. The environmental landscape in Somalia today is the perfect scenario or classroom in which to study environmental degradation.

The Federal Government of Somalia which has only been officially inaugurated in 2012 is weak and its authority does not extend to all parts of the country. There are still large areas where Al-Shabab, the Islamic militant group and ally of al Qaeda, operate with impunity. There is no concerted effort on behalf of the government to bring environmental issues to the top of its agenda currently. Although the government is weak and limited in scope, this does not console the fact that urgent action must be taken to reverse some of the damage perpetrated against the environment. An important place to begin is public mobilization in terms of public awareness campaigns. Most Somalis are not aware of the state of the environment. This can be tackled with a robust and informative media campaign.

Objectives

In order to shed light on these pressing environmental problems and offer alternatives as to charcoal production and use, the Somali Environmental and Rural Development Agency (SERDA) has decided to launch an awareness campaign. The first phase of this campaign was to hold a clean energy forum. The objectives of the forum were to:

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