Decoding Somalia’s Emerging Climate-conscious Movement

Child fetching water at UNDP-funded dam in Baligubadle, Somaliland, northwest Somalia |Photo: UNDP Somalia
Child fetching water at UNDP-funded dam in Baligubadle, Somaliland, northwest Somalia |
Photo: UNDP Somalia


For the past three decades, Somalia has remained at the top echelon of climate vulnerable countries, despite historically being one of the least global greenhouse gas contributing countries. Consistent droughts due to the failure of rainy seasons, flash floods, and growing security and conflict risks associated with climate crisis have exacerbated the already existing challenges. Unfortunately, despite the unprecedented effect of human-induced climate change, the case of Somalia remained almost unheard. In light of these devastating impacts, Somalia has made some efforts with the support of international communities. There is also a growing environmental and climate-conscious movement throughout Somalia, which has received little attention and support. In this article, we will dissect the impact of climate change and how the growing climate movement led by youth, women, and local civil society organizations can tackle the challenges posed by climate change.

The ever-increasing impact of human-induced climate change

A dead cow lies in front of a government building destroyed during Somalia's 18 years of civil war in the southern Somali town of El Barde.
A dead cow lies in front of a government building destroyed during Somalia’s 18 years of civil war in the southern Somali town of El Barde | Photo: WFP/Peter Smerdon

The intense heat and soaring temperatures, the rising sea level, and the many other climate-induced hazards have been increasing significantly and becoming more extreme for the past two decades. These devastating climatic disasters have disrupted the lives of millions around the globe.

Though the consequences of climatic hazards were felt throughout the world, they disproportionally affected middle-income, least developed countries (LDCs), and small island countries due to their economic vulnerability and limited adaptation capacity. This has become evident during the last few years through the devastating floods in Pakistan, the rising salinity intrusion experiencing by many countries, including Bangladesh, the unprecedented scale of forest fires in many parts of the world, and the recent droughts ravaging sub-Saharan African countries.

Unlike many other LDCs, what makes Somalia’s case unique isn’t just its long history of armed conflicts coupled with ravaging poverty, hunger, and social and political insecurities, but also its very weak institutional capacity across all federal member states in dealing with these crises. It has also become evident that the reoccurring droughts due to the changing weather patterns, displacement, and migration as a result of climate-induced hazards, and shock waves from floods crippled Somalia’s economic growth.

These growing climate crises hit hard Somalia’s limited economic sectors: livestock and agriculture, the economic lifelines for many rural and urban communities. The growth of these two sectors has been in decline due to the consequences of changing weather patterns and rainfall variation, which have pushed thousands of rural and urban communities into poverty. The production of agricultural products has been on a significant decline compared to previous decades, causing widespread food insecurity.

Despite the extreme socioeconomic and environmental challenges resulting from the climate crisis, what remains often unaddressed in Somalia’s climate change discourse are the local contributing factors, including the ongoing large-scale deforestation in some parts of the country, the increasing use of biomass as a source of energy, and the lack of coordinated efforts in investing in durable and sustainable solutions to tackle the increasing impact of climate change.

The production of charcoal has skyrocketed, causing the devastating loss of most of Somalia’s forest areas and disruption of biodiversity. Despite the fact that the government recently passed an environmental protection act, it is unlikely that the ongoing deforestation will be stopped anytime soon. However, the daunting reality is that unless Somalia prioritizes ensuring effective policies towards ending deforestation, puts in place biodiversity conservation measures, and invests in sustainable solutions, the impact of human-induced climatic hazards will likely be more extreme.

Somalia’s climate action efforts and the funding facility gap.

Some progress has been made; Somalia has submitted its first intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) report as part of its commitment to climate action despite the many challenges facing the country, and it has also recently submitted the updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) report and the national voluntary review report in which it pledges its strong willingness and commitment to contributing to global climate action and mainstreaming sustainable development goals. Moreover, the incumbent president has recently established a new ministry whose mandate will be to address the growing environmental challenges and threats posed by human-induced climate change.

During Cop26, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland and the latest Cop27, which was held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, and many other international forums, Somalia and many international organizations who are on the ground supporting the people affected by these climate-driven hazards have pleaded with the world to scale up Somalia’s climate adaptation support. However, such calls have not materialised, and still Somalia is struggling to cope with the ravaging consequences of various climate-induced calamities. It is a fact that billions of dollars have been injected into Somalia’s humanitarian crisis in various forms by the international communities, however, much more funding towards facilitating adaptation mechanisms, locally led initiatives, and durable solutions is still needed.

Locally led initiatives by women and young people

What is inspiring about Somalia, despite its many challenges, is the growing climate-conscious movements led by the youth, women, and civil society groups whose phenomenal work is underappreciated and hardly heard. The number of youth-led grassroots organizations led by the youth and women who are working to build a greener Somalia despite the lack of sufficient support has considerably increased recently. This increase is partially inspired by the lived experiences of many of these young people.

Many of these locally led organizations have introduced new ways in which Somalia can confront the growing impact of the climate crisis and cope with the food insecurity challenges. These include agri-business models to modern farming practices including green houses and modern irrigation systems. Many of these inspiring individuals and groups are working on enhancing public awareness of environmental protection through their community outreach programs and planting tree initiatives in cities across the country.

Fighting environmental challenges in Somalia cannot be achieved without youth and women’s inclusion. Since more than 70% of the country’s population is under 30, ensuring their meaningful contribution and maximizing their representation should be the highest priority in the fight against climate change.

In conclusion, what is appalling about Somalia’s case is that, despite the devastating living experience of millions of Somalis, Somalia’s case remained almost isolated in climate action and justice discourse. Currently, Somalia is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years and is on the brink of another devastating famine due to the failure of rain in consecutive seasons.

International communities, local governments, and civil society groups have been appealing to international communities for support in order to avert the looming famine crisis, but the answer to these calls is still lagging behind. Through the lenses of Somalia’s lived experience, climate change and its impact are no longer a matter of discussion but a horrific reality that’s effecting the most vulnerable. Scaling up the adaptation measures and recognizing the losses and damages resulting from the climate crisis are what Somalia is in dire need of today. Putting Somalia at the centre of climate change, facilitating adaptation mechanisms, and providing the necessary support through capacity building and funding arrangements need to be prioritised.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of this publication

Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi is a lecturer, researcher, and independent environmental health and safety consultant. He’s also a staff writer at Gorfayn where he writes about environmental, climate change, social, and cultural issues.

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