Somalia: Agricultural Power Lies in the Fertile Soils of the Land

Dhul beereedka Afgooye
Dhul beereedka Afgooye

While farming is hard to differentiate from agriculture and they are almost the same thing in many instances, farming is a part of agriculture because agriculture consists of farming and animal husbandry. Farming is all about plantation while husbandry is more about raising livestock. In this regard, Somalia is rich in livestock and this is not the subject. The subject is to focus on farming in Somalia and why we will need to get rid of or at least minimize farm import, if enough farming is harnessed in Somalia. Or maybe, why we don’t bother about it if Somalis sit idle and they don’t innovate in the field of farming and agriculture. But, as a matter of fact, Somalia is a country very good at farming if utilized.

Before I get to the main subject, which is farming, have you ever asked yourself what are the stuff Somalia really imports?

The stuff Somalia imports include but not limited to: food, fuel, construction materials, manufactured goods and khat. Have you noticed the magic word in the import list? food.

Why Farming is Important in Somalia

True human civilization begun with agriculture or farming as human ancestors begun to settle and grow their own food. And technological sciences followed the farming birth. Without farming is without food, and without food breeds starvation and famine whereby in any country where there is weak farming culture, people are susceptible to hunger related calamities, but many in the urban world rarely recognize the importance of this.

In Somalia’s 2011 famine, 170,000 Somalis poured into refugee camps in January of that year alone. Although the 2011 famine can be blamed on different factors, including civil war generated realities, poor and underdeveloped farming sector in Somalia is among factors for which to chide Somalia, because sooner or later, creating good farming system in Somalia with export capabilities will be a necessity in today’s modern economic world. If a country cannot feed its population with domestically grown foods, building tall buildings or good highways is not true economic development. In other words, the early 1990s famine in Somalia is worth remembering as a vehicle to accelerate the creation of a good farming sector in Somalia.

Somalia’s food import dependency is alarming and at least from the past ten years (before 1988), Somalia has been undergoing a drastically rising food deficit with a rapidly increasing per capita food consumption on the one hand, and a declining per capita food production on the other.

“In 2009, the agricultural or farming land percentage in Somalia was measured at 70.18 according to the World Bank. “Agricultural land refers to the share of land area that is arable, under permanent crops, and under permanent pastures. Arable land includes land defined by the FAO as land under temporary crops (double-cropping areas are counted once), temporary meadows for mowing or for pasture, land for market or kitchen gardens, and land for temporary fallow. Land abandoned as a result of shifting cultivation is excluded. Land under permanent crops is land cultivated with crops that occupy the land for longer periods and need not to be replanted after each harvest, such as, cocoa, coffee and rubber.”

Only 1.6% of Somalia’s total land area is cultivated, and 69% is permanent pasture. Somalis traditionally do rain-fed dry-land farming or in dry-land farming complemented by irrigation from the waters of the Shabelle and Juba rivers or from collected rainwater. Corn, sorghum, beans, rice, vegetables, cotton, and sesame are grown by both methods. Bananas constitute the nation’s major commercial crop with an output of 50,000 tons in 1999.

Somalia’s two rivers and projects attempted so far Irrigation projects implemented on the two rivers include:

. Juba Sugar Project known as Mareerey

. Mugaambo Rice Irrigation Project near Jamaame

. Fanole Dam Project located near Jilib

. Arare Banana Irrigation Project

. Bardere Dam Project

In actuality, all the benefits of those projects were not reaped , although some of the projects were for various purposes and incomplete at that time of the downfall of the Somalia’s central government in 1991. In a nutshell, when closely assessed, the farming in Somalia is pretty weak and underdeveloped.

Somalia’s Sanag Region Waterfalls

Lamadaya are waterfalls in Cal Madow mountain range in Northern Sanag region of Somalia. There are also huge ground water in Golis mountain range in Northern Somalia of which Cal Madow is part of. If this massive water resources are irrigated, the potential is equally massive for farming opportunities with the capacity to feed large population.

The main ration import types are rice, sugar and flour. Cooking oil is also in the top list of food imports. If you don’t see one of these food import types in the ordinary Somali family’s food shelf, then it is food crisis in the family….!

In 1970s, Somalia was grain-sufficient country. Then it is worth asking why Somalia became so dependent on food imports: The IMF’s intervention in 1980s contributed to Somali agriculture crisis: at that time, Somalia’s main economy was a pastoral economy based on exchange between nomadic herdsmen and small agriculturists. The structural adjustment program imposed on Somalia by the IMF reinforced Somalia’s dependency on imported grain. From 1970s to 1980s, food aid increased 15-fold, at the rate of 31% per annum. All this was coupled with increased commercial imports and cheap wheat and rice influx, which flooded the domestic market leading to the displacement of domestic producers: it also led to a major shift in food consumption patterns as people were preferring less of domestically grown crops.

In recent decades, however, especially from the past 20 years, compounding macro-economic crisis exacerbated by increased conflict and civil insecurity

pushed up food prices. The most devastating dimension of the macro-economic shock is the dramatic devaluation in the Somali Shilling, following unregulated and excessive printing of the Somali shilling, which flooded the market in 2007, sending the value of the currency into free-fall. The depreciation of the Somali shilling reached 145% against the US dollar in 2007 and 150% in 2008. This created more expensive imports and the increased costs have been passed on to consumers in higher prices.


The world population will reach 9 billion by 2050. And it is obvious the population of Somalia will increase and emerging economies vie for more types of food. In common sense, population increase means demand for more food. This means the Agriculture Ministry of Somalia must come up with impudent strategies to engage in modern, intensive and sustainable agriculture. Somalia cannot keep depending on its present agriculture realities. Innovation and future planning in the agriculture sector should be devised. The greatest weapon of 21st century will not be weaponry, but food and basic resources.


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Ahmed Said (Abwaan-kuluc)



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