I read the article written by Mr. Abdirahman, and I consider it a reminder of how one of our vital economic sectors remains untapped. If we go back during civilian rule of ex-Somalia, emphasis was waged on how to check eminent dangers that were coming from soils eroded hilly areas near farmland. The USAID helped implement an agricultural program called “Soils and Water Conservation Project” initiated a major task to halt the development of gullies caused by water run-off in Gabille District. In Hahi, Odweyne, there was “Agricultural Cooperative,” which was a West German agency that provided machinery and technical support to the farmers; these farmers were then able to embark on large scale sorghum and corn farming. Moreover, there were well trained agricultural instructors posted in every district giving technical advice in protecting their lands against erosion, seed selection, and use of pesticides. During the civilian rule, the tempo of agricultural development was booming; the reverse took place during twenty one years of military rule.
For political reason, both USAID Project and German ran Cooperative Project were stopped and experts were deported. Furthermore, the crippling actions of Mr. Siad resulted in the total transfer of agricultural personnel from North to South and vise-versa. The Ministry of Agriculture advised Mr. Siad to cease transfer because each group of transferees did not have the right qualifications needed certain farming, such as in rain-fed farming and the other irrigated farming. Thus, that technical reasoning was not tuned to ears of the President, and shortly after the Northerners soon had gone to their posted districts; however, the Southerners-with the exception of a few, the rest treated their transfer as an “exile” and lost interest to serve.
Now with such a deplorable background, agricultural development in Somaliland lacks progression due to tangible reasons. The people of Somaliland opted for search of national recognition in lieu of both bilateral and multilateral aids attached with condition. While the agricultural sector like any other sector in the country remains stagnant with the exception of wireless telecom, merchandise trade, and periodical export of animals which provide marginal revenue for the Government, without foreign aid or the prospect of oil discovery it is flimsy to undertake a development plan in agriculture.
I commend the present Ministry of Agriculture on the features of limited budget and shortage of trained staff, the ministry created awareness among the business people to divert their money to agriculture. The fact that they realized opening roads in areas where potentiality for agriculture exists enhances farmers’ encouragements to grow commercial crops because of easy outlets to cities. With the availability of resources and sound strategic policy, the potentiality of agricultural development is great. Australia is one of the countries that produces wheat in large scale in an area that receives 200 inches of rain yearly. With improved technical farming that preserves the moisture in the soils, they get higher yielding harvest. Equally, the area of Tog Wajale’s rainfall is 200 inches annually. The plain is an ideal place to grow wheat to ensure setting up agro-industry for flour supply. The area that never came to the attention of policy makers is the coastal plain that extends from Lughaye to Bula Har. The flow of water coming from Golan Ranges crosses this plain and enters the ocean. One FAO Expert who established Abyan Project in Southern Yemen with the conservation of water flowing from mountains created success story when farm settlers were to grow cotton and food crops. Likewise, he prepared project identification plan for the coastal area, but growing sorghum, rice (salt resistant) dates, and fodder for exported animals at Berbera. Sadly enough, renewal of his contract was denied. Fruits and vegetables both for local markets and export can be grown along the valleys in mountainous areas where shallow wells can be dug. Also, improved seeds, farm inputs (fertilizers and Pesticide) and market outlets are needed for sustained growth.
In any economic development the human factor plays important role. Today, it is obvious that the lure to cities pulled the young people who were supposed to replace their old generation. In old times farmers used to make bunds to stop flow of water in their farms, thus avoiding water erosion. In my visit to the country in 2007, as I travelled from Togwajaleh to Borama, our car got stuck due to mechanical problems. Three of us kept walking along a dust road and saw a tent in which five young men were chewing kat. After we introduced ourselves, I asked them why they did not block the widening of water course that threatened their farm . They responded “we do not have a machine.” The effects of kat in our society both socially and economically is very devastating that if corrective measures not be taken soon, we will wind up with a nation with no labor force both in urban and rural areas.
Lastly, the agriculture undergraduates need internship training in neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya or Egypt where intensive farming is practiced. Upon return, they can be placed in districts to advise farmers how to grow diversified crops by using modern technology.
Mohamed H. Bahal