Skip to content

IFAD sheds light on pivotal issues

Storyline:Business, National News

The 46th session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held in Rome in 2023 was an important event for the organization and its partners, particularly in the context of its work in Somalia. The theme of the session, “Investing in rural people for a sustainable future,” was timely and relevant, given the ongoing challenges facing rural communities in Somalia. This meeting showcases key feats accomplished by the current Hassan Sheikh administration in rebuilding and alleviating the challenges the Somali state faces on all fronts with food insecurity being the major focus of this meeting.

In a developing country like Somalia, agriculture remains the most important economic sector in the country. This economic sector alone accounts for 65% of the national GDP and although this also includes 65% of the workforce, crop productivity is very low in the country. The agriculture sector in Somalia is also beset with various challenges mostly stemming from the impacts of climate change, and unpredictable livestock and crop markets. Insecurity also looms large in the country and hinders the stability of this national economic sector. This effect can be seen for example in the livestock export earnings which used to account for 60% of the national GDP and over 50% of export earnings but is however stifled by the conflict situation and export restrictions imposed on Somalia. To this end, Somalia is in urgent need of investments that would be utilized in the Somali economy to improve crop productivity through better production methods and climate-resilient techniques which is a mark of a modern economy.

Due to the above challenges posed by weak institutions in the country, political instability, insecurity and the added challenges of climate change and drought in Somalia, it is estimated that 69% of Somalis live under the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. Somalis at present also remain susceptible to external shocks and regional instability due to the borderline living conditions of the populous. Additionally, a major contributor to the economy was also hindered by the advent of COVID-19 with over 20% of Somalis relying on the $ 1.4 billion coming into the country in the form of remittance. Over 70% of the youth in Somalia are also deemed to be unemployed with the Human Development Index rating the country a 0.285, a global low. Over half of the population in Somalia are also food insecure stemming of drought and climate shocks. This number is estimated to be approximately 7.1 million Somalis making Somalia one of the countries in the world with the highest prevalence of malnutrition in the world.

It is therefore evident the importance of the agricultural sector in Somalia which remains indispensable to the very livelihood of the nation. The importance of this sector is also further exacerbated by the historic food crisis in Somalia and the displacement of rural populations from historic lands from their productive agricultural and pastoral activities. To this end, in a timely intervention, the International Fund for Agricultural development has entered the Somali agricultural scene in a bid to alleviate some of the challenges and provide solutions. It is important to note that this institution is not new in its intervention in Somalia with it being a contributor to the agricultural scene for the past 40 years. Throughout this time, the main goal of the Fund has been to enhance the resilience of communities in the face of increasing vulnerabilities however not without the fund’s own impediments and challenges.

Some argue that the fund albeit contributing to the Somali Agricultural sector has not been entirely successful in this regard as the fund seems to be focused on the symptoms of poverty and food insecurity in the country. The fund focuses less on the root causes which are conflict and instability therefore a lasting contribution to the agricultural scene would be to participate in combatting such areas. Lastly, the fund has also been criticized once again for not focusing on broader causes of food insecurity and inequality but rather on technical solutions which need a potent environment to be implemented.

However, despite the above criticisms, the contribution of IFAD to Somalia’s agricultural sector cannot be understated. Since the 1980s, IFAD has invested in nine projects in the country totalling USD 147.2 million which have been invested in supporting agriculture and in the promotion of pro-poor investment in rural areas. IFAD with the aid of other partners has focused on promoting climate-smart farming technologies, sustainable management of natural resources, reinforcement of the livestock sector, artisanal fisheries and enhancing technologies for improved livelihoods and enhancing food security of pastoralist and agro-pastoralists in Somalia. However, with Somalia unable to pay the debt in the amount above, activities were suspended but have been resumed this year with the full clearance of Somalia’s debt with IFAD in December 2022, an important feat for Somalia in its quest to combat the challenges posed on the country.

Formal ties have been restored between Somalia and IFAD after about 30 years of civil war and the suspension of IFAD’s activities in line with the IFAD Performance-Based Allocation System (PBAS). The formal re-establishment of IFAD’s relations with the Federal Government of Somalia will be accompanied by new projects upwards of $50 million that are expected to revamp the rural livelihoods of smallholders in Somalia. This will include increasing the participatory decision-making and productive capacities of small-scale pastoralists and agro-pastoralist producers for sustainable, resilient, and profitable agricultural livelihoods and food and nutrition security. The main focus of this program, for the time being, will be in Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug, and the Bakool region of South West.

Other projects stemming from IFAD’s relationships with Somalia are the Food Security Promotion Project for pastoralists and Agro-Pastoralists in Puntland and the IFAD Crisis Response Initiative. The above projects will be in the sums of $7.2 million and $7.5 million respectively and will aid in combatting the climate risk posed by climate change in Somalia. The overall goal of the former project will be sustainability to improve food security, nutrition, and livelihoods and to rebuild resilience among vulnerable households and their communities in Somalia. The latter project will be aimed at minimizing the impacts of the Ukraine war on livelihoods, resilience, and food security in Somalia.

The above projects will be key in combatting Somalia’s drastic food insecurity and will go a long way in rebuilding and aiding a country that is facing its worst draught in 40 years coupled with political and climate instability. Additionally, the normalization of relationships between IFAD and Somalia is a good precedent going forward in rebuilding the nation.