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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Drought threatens Somali nomads
By Martin Plaut
BBC, London

A dead goat in Somalia
The situation has been deteriorating over the last 10 years
A severe drought is threatening the nomadic lifestyle of 250,000 herdsmen in northern Somalia, aid agencies have warned.

The Sool Plateau, the area traditionally used by the pastoralists, has been worst affected.

Aid agencies say long-term environment factors are to blame, including the cutting of trees for charcoal.

Over a million people in the Horn of Africa are now coping with the protracted drought.


The pastoralists, who follow their herds of camels, sheep and goats, are running out of options.

As well as felling trees, the digging of small wells to allow flocks to remain on the plateau longer than normal, is also blamed for the environmental crisis.

This used to be controlled by traditional management practices, but these have fallen away with the collapse of the Somali state.

Nick Haan, who recently returned from a visit to the area for a consortium of aid agencies, says that elders from the area have observed the worsening environmental situation over the last 10 years.

"They've become destitute and they're not going to be going back to pastoralism any time soon, if ever," he said.

The people of the Sool Plateau are only surviving because of remittances sent by relatives from abroad and traders who are continuing to extend credit. But families are on average $1,000 in debt.

There is real malnutrition already, but if these coping mechanisms collapse then, Mr Haan warns, many will die.

Starvation threat in Somalia
17 Oct 01  |  Africa
UN warns of hunger in Somalia
23 Aug 01  |  Africa
Country profile: Somalia
21 Jul 04  |  Country profiles


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