Turning Puntland green by stopping erosion

Climate change is having a profound impact across Somalia. More frequent droughts and flash-flooding bring soil erosion, crop failure and livestock deaths in a land where over 2/3 of the people depend on subsistence agriculture.

Puntland is certainly no stranger to these disasters and the destruction they bring to farmers. “In the past, I used to own livestock but they died because of the droughts,” says Abdirahman Musa, one of many camel herders who are completely dependent on the rangelands in Puntland to support their families.

Abdirahman Musa standing by one of the stone barricades built to prevent soil erosion. (UNDP Photo: Tobin Jones)

Now the rangelands have been severely damaged, not only by the droughts but also by deforestation caused by cutting down trees to make charcoal, which in turn leads to soil erosion and desertification. In the end, the degraded land is unable to hold water, resulting in biodiversity loss and worsening flash floods.

In response, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with funding from the Global Environment Facility, has constructed stone barricades that can stop erosion, stabilising the land by keeping soil in place. These walls, which now span over twenty sites, have encouraged ecosystem restoration and reforestation, as new plants and trees can grow and remain protected.

Restoration projects like these also allow communities to engage directly in the planning, implementation and monitoring process. For example, the local community helps decide where walls should be built and supervises contractors brought in for the project. Local people — like farmer Abdirahman Musa — are also employed for some of the building work.

In addition to the building of stone barricades, UNDP has also created a number of tree nurseries where small-scale community-led reforestation programmes grow seedlings. These tree nurseries are managed by a community tree nursery committee which organises the distribution of seedlings to local businesses and the neighbouring camps for displaced people, who can earn money from selling them. Seedlings are also distributed by the committee to schools and community groups to plant their own trees during the rainy seasons.

So far, this project has protected land for nearly 50,000 families and already the area is beginning to flourish again. Abdirahman himself has noticed improvements: “Now the land is productive again… People love this place. They are coming to settle down here.”

UNDP’s Climate Resilience project has been made possible thanks to support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which has also funded other projects in Somalia to help communities facing the effects of climate change, including water resource management solutions and early warning systems for farmers facing flooding and drought risks.