By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
Illegal charcoal trade has been indentified as key driver to deforestation globally.
To stem the massive tide of illegally harvesting, production and exporting from different forests across the globe, Somalia has joined other stakeholders to push for cross-border efforts for meaningful results.
The Samalian government made their voice heard at the UN-supported conference on charcoal in Mogadishu, May 7th 2018 .
According to a press release from the UN Environment Programme,UNEP, the Somalian government has joined other stakeholders to call for international cooperation in halting illegal export of charcoal.
Certain forestry products like charcoal are not allowed to be exported from Somalia the release say. The country has struggled to protect its natural forests from rapid and widespread illegal logging and for these measures to be effective, international cooperation with other African countries and Gulf states was imperative.
« “We need a holistic response to address the issues of charcoal in Somalia. Both the demand and supply side have to be tackled – to do this we need cooperation to implement the UN Security Council Resolution and ensure the environmental, economic and human losses that happen because of illegal charcoal trade are curbed,” said the Deputy Prime Minister
It should be recalled that a similar call for international cooperation was made by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2017 to stem massive exportation of charcoal from Myanmar to China.
The FAO tracks forest cover globally, said in the report that between 1990 and 2015, Myanmar lost about 15 million hectares of forest and other wooded land. The charcoal supply for Cameroon’s two biggest cities comes principally from the East region, which harbours rich forest reserves that are important for Cameroon in particular and the Congo Basin in general.
Experts fear that if the energy crisis continues unabated it could contribute to growing deforestation that could worsen climate change and lead to more severe weather.
“Charcoal is obtained from the burning of trees, and if this trend continues you can imagine the quantity of trees the country is going to lose and what impact this will have for the future,” said Ebia Ndongo, director of forestry in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife.
Like in Myanmar, the export of charcoal from Somalia has been banned, both by a 2012 United Nations Security
Council resolution and by the Somali Government, due to its destructive effect on the environment and its exacerbation of conflict and humanitarian crises.
The UNEP Press release says an estimated 8.2 million trees were cut down for charcoal in Somalia between 2011 and 2017, increasing land degradation, food insecurity and vulnerability to flooding and drought.
It has been estimated that over 80 percent of charcoal produced in Somalia is exported to Gulf States and neighbouring countries.
Illegal trade in charcoal is recognised as a key contributor to insecurity in Somalia, providing a major source of funding for militias, terrorist groups, and other actors linked to conflict, who illegally tax exports.
But Somalian government say they are more than ready to halt the scourge.
« Somali government is commitment to halting illegal trade of charcoal and providing alternative energy options, » the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, Mahdi Mohamed Guled, reaffirmed at the opening of the conference.
He also called for urgent action and support from the international community and countries that are importing charcoal.
“We need a holistic response to address the issues of charcoal in Somalia. Both the demand and supply side have to be tackled – to do this we need cooperation to implement the UN Security Council Resolution and ensure the environmental, economic and human losses that happen because of illegal charcoal trade are curbed,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
He notes that the environmental destruction brought on by the charcoal trade contributes to drought, flooding, the loss of livelihoods and increase in food insecurity.
“Together with conflict, this exacerbates the humanitarian situation in Somalia,” said the Deputy Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Peter de Clercq. “But due to high levels of poverty in Somalia and lack of opportunities, many are forced to turn to unsustainable and illegal livelihoods, such as charcoal production. The people of this country deserve better”.
Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UN Environment Regional Director for Africa, also emphasised on the need for regional partnership to stop the unsustainable production, use and export of charcoal in Somalia, expressing the willingness of UN Environment to support such cooperation efforts.
“UN Environment and its partners are supporting the Government of Somalia to develop sound policy frameworks to support the ban and find alternatives to charcoal,” she said.
UNEP says participants at the event, were expected to develop a concrete roadmap for action, including enforceable regional policies, to halt charcoal trade, as well as its unsustainable production and use within Somalia.
The high-level summit is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with funding from Sweden, the European Union and Italy.