According to ILRI’s Nadhem Mtimet, livestock provides around 60% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Somaliland and the sector employs over 70% of the population. Livestock producers, he says, are very market-oriented, and the country exports around three million small ruminants each year to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.
Ensuring high quality and disease-free animals for export is thus critical to the development of the Somalia’s northern states of Somaliland and Puntland. There is also a growing need to balance the production of more animals with the sustainable management of the dry areas in which the animals are reared. Staff of the IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (ISTVS) and Reference Centre already see the need for more action and research on issues around soil and land degradation, dryland management and adaptation to climate change. It is not enough to just produce more animals, they need to be better, and produced better.
ILRI’s engagement in Somalia reaches back at least 10 years, with active involvement in several research for development projects, usually alongside NGO partner Terra Nuova.
Mtimet explains that the most important livestock sector challenges he encountered in the project relate to livestock production in terms of access to feed and water and animal health – dealing with diseases, pests and parasites. Livestock marketing is also hampered by insufficient market information for the producers.
He sees the greatest opportunity as the ‘increasing export market demand especially from Saudi Arabia and the geographic location of Somalia close to the Gulf countries. Large foreign private investments are happening which is improving the infrastructure and securing stable demand along the year.’
Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries and has endured a prolonged civil war. While livestock are critical to the economy, and they support a large part of the population, processing of agricultural products is a small part of GDP.
As an ISTVS professor remarked: Somaliland needs to move from exporting livestock ‘on the hoof’ to exporting livestock ‘on the hook’ – with more value adding activities taking place in Somalia.
This, along with the emerging sustainability agenda, calls for stronger research and learning systems and institutions, more evidence-based decision making – and evidence on which to decide, and effective market organizations and linkages.
Following the collapse of the Somali state the private sector (including individuals and organizations) have grown impressively, particularly in trade, commerce, transport, remittances and infrastructure services. The primary sectors (livestock, agriculture and fisheries) have led the way. However, capacities of the evolving institutions remain limited, particularly in regulatory services and in transforming export market opportunities into higher incomes and broader development results.
Achieving these market opportunities and delivering their benefits to the rural poor, in Somalia’s extreme physical and institutional environment, requires enhanced investment in and use of the indigenous knowledge base.
Reducing Vulnerability of Somali Communities project
The current project (officially ‘reducing vulnerability of Somali communities by raising the capacity of indigenous systems and enhancing market access and consumer welfare’) was initiated in 2012 and it runs until June 2015. It aims to strengthen local capacity to mobilize and use knowledge from Somali livestock research in decision making. It also aims to enhance the capacities of public and private sectors to improve livestock products’ marketing and safety.
Mtimet: The project is targeting 3 main objectives: First, improving the indigenous knowledge about Somali livestock breeding and marketing practices; second, improving the technical and scientific skill of ISTVS staff through capacity building; and third, increasing the awareness of donors, development agencies, and other international organization about the importance of the livestock sector and attracting those partners to invest more in the sector
Research and knowledge strengthening results are delivered through support to the ISTVS so it can better conduct and disseminate applied research. The idea is for the ISTVS to become a valuable knowledge base and able to partner with regional and international research institutions.
Market access results are delivered through activities that foster the establishment of public-private partnerships to formulate product standards as a way of improving international trade. It also helps consolidate Livestock Market Information System (LMIS) operated by the local Chambers of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture.
So far, the project has developed partnerships between the Somaliland Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (SLCCIA), the Somaliland Quality Control Commission (SQCC), the Ministries of Livestock and Commerce, the IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School, Terra Nuova and the Kenya Bureau Standards (KEBS). In Puntland, partnerships have been forged between the Puntland Chamber of Commerce, the Puntland Food Quality Control unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministries of Livestock, Health, Fisheries and Commerce, Department of Water, Terra Nuova and KEBS.
What’s been achieved so far?
Result 1 (on knowledge and capacity development) is focused around the ISTVS, established in 2002, to take on some important training, research and extension roles in the Somali ecosystem that stopped as a result of the collapse of the Somali Federal government in 1991.
The ‘school’ provides professional and academic courses and has links with universities in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia to develop its staff and deliver accredited BSc education. It is being attained through intensive capacity building, largely enabled by ILRI. Activities will enable the ISTVS Reference Centre to conduct and disseminate applied research to local audiences of livestock value chain actors and the nascent civil society. This work is only implemented in Somaliland and has made progress in five main areas.
- Research methods training and support combined with mentored action research has been provided to academic staff, especially juniors at the ISTVS. The aim was to familiarize them with conventional and participatory research approaches and tools and gain skills to document and write up science.
- Research on livestock importer requirements in importing countries has been carried out in Saudi Arabia to study both the tail end of the up-stream market (Somaliland) and the end-market. This is intended to the help identify opportunities and constraints for the various actors along the market chain and ways to address these.
- Activities are underway to promote uptake of applied research results into academic teaching and the wider communities. Findings from past ILRI and Terra Nuova value chain studies have been incorporated into the ISTVS training curricula/program as teaching notes for Diploma students. Students are encouraged to get out to the field – and markets – to gain in-depth knowledge on the functioning and importance of the value chain and the market information systems that support it.
- Participants in the project have carried out a number of studies on issues around markets, animal production and pastoralist challenges and opportunities. These are being written up for wider dissemination locally and beyond.
- Finally, the functional infrastructure of ISTVS has been upgraded with improvements to labs, offices, power supply and an extension of the kitchen and refectory.
A new focus in recent months focuses on communications and knowledge sharing – examining opportunities to better generate and document knowledge in the ISTVS, making it widely accessible to different stakeholders.
Mtimet: ISTVS is probably the unique “quality” centre in Somalia that has some skills and is developing new skills to tackle the problems that livestock keepers are facing in terms of animal health, animal husbandry, feeding, mating, marketing, etc.
Result 2 (on markets and regulation) is being implemented with chambers of commerce in Somaliland and Puntland. They have brought in the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to help establish public-private partnerships to develop and implement appropriate standards and instruments for the sector. This work has made progress in five main areas:
- Work to identify gaps in export standards, needs and policies has been finalized and reports detailing the current status and strategy to improve the quality infrastructure have been developed for Puntland and Somaliland.
- Assistance was provided to the chambers to develop a set of Guidelines for Grading of Export Quality Livestock. These contain specifications for different grades for export quality livestock covering cattle, sheep, goats and camels. The chambers were also helped to enforce standards compliance using two codes of practice developed earlier in the project on 1) the Welfare of Export Quality Livestock During Land and Sea Transport and 2) the Welfare of Livestock While at Sale Yards and Quarantine Station. Finally, financial support was provided to the Somaliland chamber to help meet the operational costs of running the Livestock Market Information System (LMIS).
- In terms of regulatory support, the project supported development of a draft Somaliland Quality Control Commission Bill that aims to entrench SQCC within the laws of Somaliland. In Puntland, work also began to define the type of standards body sought by the different stakeholders.
- This quality control work was supported at the ISTVS through the establishment of a new food laboratory to provide food safety and hygiene surveillance services. Analysts from the food quality laboratory were attached to KEBS in June 2014 to familiarize themselves with the analytical operations of accredited testing laboratories and gain first-hand experience on how a (documented) quality system is implemented.
- Finally, since animal health surveillance and delivery of livestock services are so important to the sector, Ministries of Livestock received financial support for networking, communication and supervisory linkages between Regional Veterinary Offices and Directors of Animal Health. A disease surveillance fund was set up in Somaliland to cover operational costs of rapid response teams and to procure laboratory equipment, reagents and diagnostic test kits for early confirmation of trade-limiting animal diseases and sero-surveillance of OIE-listed diseases.
Mtimet: We aim to have a much better understanding of the requirements and standards of importing countries and specifically Saudi Arabia, as well as better assessments of livestock producers’ knowledge about grading systems leading to activities (such as training) to improve their knowledge
- Video introducing the work of ISTVS
- ISTVS on facebook
- Photos from the project
- ILRI outputs about livestock in Somalia
This post was developed with Nadhem Mtimet, an Agricultural Economist in ILRI’s Policy, Trade and Value Chains program.
This work in Somalia has been supported by the Government of Denmark and the European Union.