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16 Apr 2021

Andrew E. Yaw Tchie, The Conversation

Somalia: Climatic changes effects like drought could fuel herder-farmer conflicts as communities compete for few resources

‘How Climate Insecurity Could Trigger More Conflict in Somalia’ 12 April 2021

Climate change effects such as droughts, flash floods, erratic rainfall, disruption to the monsoon seasons, strong winds, cyclones, sandstorms, dust storms and increased temperature are being experienced across Somalia. These effects are affecting livelihoods, and contributing to local grievances and community tensions. Some of these insights and conclusions were reached based on a special report done by the Somali government in 2013. This report remains the best estimate of the impact of changing weather patterns in the country as no newer data are available. According to the report the country experienced a gradual and continuous increase in median annual temperatures between 1991 and 2013. Median daily maximum temperatures range from 30°C to 40°C. The report estimates that temperatures will increase by between 3.2°C and 4.3°C by the end of the 21st Century.

…Thus, changing seasons and unpredictable shifts in the weather could have cascading effects on the livelihoods of herders, farmers and entire communities. One such effect is the conflict between herders and farmers. Because of floods, heatwaves and droughts, farming and livestock outputs are diminishing. This means that settled communities and herders are competing for fewer resources like green grazing grounds and arable land. This could potentially fuel tensions. And due to lack of government presence in parts of Somalia, pastoral communities sometimes resort to illicit trade and use of small arms and light weapons. They do this to protect themselves and their livestock from rustlers. Rustling has been a problem in Somalia for years but it is becoming an even bigger threat. This because more livestock are dying from the weather-related effects of climate change.

…Climate change and environmental degradation are more likely to lead to local conflicts than to civil war. However, small-scale tensions can increase the risk of broader conflict when exploited by political elites and individuals or groups with more wealth, privilege, power or influence. Those with power can use the disruptions of rapid-onset disasters like drought, floods, or the recent locust infestations, to augment their control over critical resources. In Somalia there are cases where minority communities were targets of looting and violence by more powerful majority clan militias where livestock and food stores were beseiged. Political factions can exploit populations who have climate-change related grievances. These grievances include weather-related losses and resource scarcity due to extreme weather events. Those affected become susceptible to political agendas that promise to alleviate poverty….The Somali federal government and federal states must integrate climate risks into their security planning. This will enhance their ability to prevent climate-related violence. It will also prevent Al-Shabaab and other armed groups from taking advantage of climate impacts. In addition, the United Nations and international partners must support the federal government to integrate responses to climate-related security risks across government.