Environment and Biodiversity
The Somali environment suffers from both natural and man-made problems. Natural problems center around water scarcity. Somalia is historically prone to frequent droughts which lead to water shortages and starvation in rural communities, which depend on rainwater for crop cultivation and livestock rearing activities. Human and animal lives are lost yearly to drought in Somalia. These deadly droughts are often followed by devastating floods, particularly in riverine southern Somalia. Local coping strategies and prevention capacities have been eroded by the decades of conflict and governmental absence.
Environmental problems of human origin include deforestation for charcoal export, the dumping of hazardous waste, and livestock and agricultural practices which place a strain on natural resources. Standing at the intersection of natural and man-made problems, land degradation is another key environmental issue in Somalia, closely linked to desertification, drought, and unsustainable livestock and agricultural practices. The practice of deforestation will inevitably affect the nomadic communities who depend entirely on grazing. Some of the most visible results of this action are extinction of wildlife and endangered crop species and an irreversible long-term impact on the agriculture ecosystems.
Deforestation and charcoal export to Middle Eastern countries is one of the major causes of environmental degradation in Somalia. In recent years illegal cutting of trees to produce charcoal for export has become a booming business with considerable profits. Most of the charcoal is prepared in southern Somalia and exported through the ports in Mogadishu and Kismayo. Lack of local administration in the southern regions has exacerbated the problem.
Yeheb: An Endangered Multipurpose Shrub
Yeheb is a multi-branched shrub that grows only in the border area between Somalia and Ethiopia. Yeheb (Cordeauxia edulis Hemsley) belongs to the Fabaceae (Caesalpinioideae) and is the only species within the genus Cordeauxia.
An evergreen dry-land shrub, yeheb grows prolific bunches of pods that contain seeds of a nutritious food quality that the local people prefer to staple crops such as maize and sorghum. The tasty seeds with a thin easily cracked testa and a chestnut-like flavour, roasted, boiled for sweet liquor, occasionally eaten fresh, make an unusually nourishing and balanced food. The seeds are rich in energy containing 37% starch, 24% sugars, 13% protein, 11% fats and various minerals. The foliage supplies fodder for livestock and wild animals. The wood is used as firewood and more often as construction material.
Since few nutritious plants grow in yeheb’s native habitat, it is much exploited by animals and humans, resulting in little or no regeneration. Yeheb is therefore listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is important to increase the efforts to domesticate yeheb in order to prevent its extinction and to develop its commercial benefits for the local people in the fight for poverty reduction and food security. Yeheb has remarkable commercial potential. Its tasty seeds with their smooth consistency are comparable to cashew, macadamia, pistachio or hazelnut. They are marketable worldwide as a delicacy and may even provide useful ingredient for the medicine and food industries. Demand-both local and international-farm exceeds the supply. The crop has potential to be a valuable food in other hot, dry regions where the soils are poor and rainfall is low and erratic.