Somalilandlive.com/Somaliland’s rural community is almost entirely pastoralist practicing
livestock production in a traditional manner. The livestock produced
by these pastoralists contribute 70% of the country’s GDP according to
officials in the ministry of livestock development. Moreover,
livestock trading is a lucrative business which generates significant
profits for the pastoralists and for the traders, while the government
obtains the most tax revenues out of this trade. In this writing, I
would like to point out the shortcomings in the existing livestock
production system and at the same time try to suggest some
technological innovations that need to be promoted by the relevant
The current livestock production mode can be described as extremely
backward and unsustainable. In the past, the pastoralists had plenty
of grazing lands on which they could raise as many livestock as they
pleased. They were not constrained by any factor except by their
labour and by their financial capacity. Land was abundantly at their
disposal. Droughts affected the pastoralists once in 20 years. In
those days, there were many wealthy pastoralists who were rich even by
today’s standards. Owning more than 500 sheep/goats and over 200
camels with two BIRKAs in different locations constituted a wealth as
large as owning a multi-storey building in today’s modern cities.
Recently, the situation changed and the pastoralists now face
insurmountable problems. First, due to the human population increase,
the seasonal grazing custom of the pastoralists changed in such a way
that range lands lost the resting periods that were necessary for the
grass to grow to maturity. Village settlements were introduced without
any plan. The result is that range lands are no longer productive
enough to sustain large livestock herds. Similarly, droughts that
recur almost every 2 years compounded the problems of the
pastoralists. The situation has become so alarming to the point that
almost every pastoralist family can now be categorized as poor.
Livestock holding per family is reduced to around 50 sheep/goats and
2-3 camel on the average. The policy makers in Hargeisa do not seem
to be heeding the alarm bells since they are satisfied with the
millions of livestock that are exported through Berbera every year,
thereby, collecting hefty tax revenues. They seem to be oblivious to
the fact that entrepreneurial livestock traders bring in livestock all
the way from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Southern Somalia. Once these
countries implement programs for the utilization of their livestock,
Somaliland might find itself loosing huge tax revenues all of a
sudden. So what is the way out? I try to come up with some suggestions
in the following lines.
As a result of the recurrent droughts, the Somaliland livestock
population is reduced drastically. Parallel to this livelihood
erosion, the human population continues to multiply. The pastoralists
became so desperate and many of them ended up as internally Displaced
Persons (IDP) settling around the main towns in expectation of food
hand-outs from the relevant authorities. The pastoralists’ status has
changed from “surplus producers to aid dependents”. As a result, it is
abundantly clear that the current livestock production is not
sustainable. In a nutshell, Somaliland’s livestock production system
needs to be overhauled. The answer, in my opinion, is the fattening
approach. The basic elements of the fattening production mode are the
land, the water supplied, and the animal feed produced. The land is
available in plenty, even though the pastoralists might demand payment
for the land in their area; the water is obtained either from the
harvesting of the rain-water or digging the underground water through
rigs; the feed production is the most challenging part of this
production mode. Once the investing company arranges these three
components of the system, the next step is to buy weak
drought-affected livestock from the pastoralists for fattening.
Additionally, the fattening company can buy the young animals and
fatten them for a short period of time. This production system
contributes two important dimensions to the existing traditional
production mode: one, livestock will not be lost due to
drought-related deaths, and second, the marketability age is reduced
since the animal gains weight within a short time. The question is
what types of fodder species will have to be grown so that the
fattening process becomes successful and fruitful. The answer lies in
the need for research into the fodder species that can be adapted to
the specific soil types of the selected project sites.
The livestock fattening business is a capital intensive business and
it might not be easy for the average business person in Somaliland.
The middle-sized fattening projects might require hundreds of
thousands of dollars as initial investment costs. It might even run
into the millions. Strong technical and managerial capacities are also
required. In principle, like any other investments, the more the input
the more you get as output. In my opinion, mobilizing financial
capital should not a serious constraint for two reasons: one, Somalis
in general have recently adopted the culture of common ownership and
sharing investment capital; and second, every Somali business person
knows that investing in livestock production and trading is profitable
beyond any doubt. The only prerequisite before investing into this
business is the need to conduct feasibility studies by professional
people which is not a headache under the existing circumstances in
The Somaliland government must take the lead in the adoption and
realization of the above-described livestock production mode. If the
government does not take a leading role in the process, it will soon
realize that it is the biggest loser in the end. The government shall
immediately take two steps that are crucially important towards the
fruitful realization of this production mode: one, it should take the
lead in the feasibility preparation process; and two, the government
shall identify potential foreign creditors for the financial capital
needed for this project. The government can receive the loan on behalf
of the traders and distribute it to few reliable companies who will
repay the loan. The repaid loan can then be used as revolving fund and
can be extended to other traders who will also repay to the
government. The sooner the government shoulders this top national
responsibility the better.

By: Abdirashid Ahmed Guled, Email: abdirashidaa@gmail.com
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