Peace through Reconstruction: Investigation of the Potential for Agricultural Development in Delivering Peace.

Currently the international community strictly adheres to what is called the ‘Peace through Security’ approach for conflict-stricken Somalia. However, academic and policymaker support is growing for an alternative approach, called ‘Peace through Reconstruction’ which emphasizes the rehabilitation of services, institutions and, most importantly, livelihoods, as essential for both the reintegration of former combatants into society and the amelioration of existing societal grievances.

The Peace through Reconstruction approach, particularly with a focus on agricultural development, seems suited for the Somali context for several reasons. Pre-war figures indicate that at least 67% of Somalia’s GDP came from agriculture, livestock, and fisheries. With the collapse of the state and the onset of extreme urban insecurity, agricultural activities are only likely to have increased in importance within the Somali economy. However, as noted by the Food Security and Nutrition Assessment Unit (FSNAU) “agricultural production has declined sharply from pre-war levels, due to deteriorating canal and flood control systems,  drought mitigation, lack of agricultural inputs and poor security.”  As agricultural activity, which is the mainstay of the vast majority of Somali livelihoods, decreases in value, options like militia membership, piracy and other conflict-promoting activities become more attractive alternatives as the opportunity cost of engaging in economic sector development drops.

Correspondingly, if agricultural production can be increased, for example through the provision of inputs, technology and training, this would raise the opportunity cost of conflict activities, providing incentives for a shift back to farming as well as for diversification into other economic sectors linked to agriculture, beginning with input and output services (seeds, fertilizer, transport services) and continuing into service sectors like finance and post-harvest services. The increased profitability of farming and trade would result in a shift away from conflict activities. Such a shift would decrease support for militias and warring factions, and increase popular pressure for peace, perfectly exemplifying the Peace through Reconstruction approach. Further, while the implementation of some development operations in Somalia’s stateless situation can be difficult, technical assistance for agricultural development can be provided at the local level and in a devolved manner. It therefore need not rely on the state mechanism to function.

Both humanitarian and international security interests would benefit from an exploratory investigation of the potential of the Peace through Reconstruction approach for Somalia. However, a detailed understanding of economic sector development such as agriculture, livestock and fisheries is needed for such an investigation to be successful. The necessary experience and expertise will be provided by the Somali Agriculture Technical Group (SATG), which is a registered non-profit association of Somali professionals and friends of the country dedicated to assisting in the reconstruction of Somalia and its agricultural heritage. SATG, which collaborates closely with other sources of technical expertise, especially the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) Centres, was established to provide sustainable home-grown solutions to alleviate the rampant food shortages caused by conflict and the lack of effective agriculture and food policies.

SATG draws upon a mix of both practical and scientific expertise and is therefore an ideal organization to spearhead an investigation of the potential of peace through agricultural development in Somalia.