(ERGO) – Aidid Abshir Elmi, 60, an elder in rural Harre village in central Somalia, is worried that his herd of 100 goats and eight camels are not getting enough pasture since their grazing land was fenced off by private developers.
“All the trees on the land have been cut down and closed with barbed wire. We are also experiencing strong winds since the trees were cut down,” he said.
Harre village is rich in umbrella thorn (acacia tortilis) trees that are known for soil erosion control. The people and their livestock also rely on the trees for shade. Aidid says his livestock are no longer producing enough milk and his family of 10 have suffered a drop in their living standard.
“We as pastoralists, we die where our wealth is and the livestock depend on plants for survival, but now there is no grazing land anymore. The grass, plants and the trees are being cut down daily!” he complained.
Aidid said the locals have notified those behind the grabbing of this public land that pastoralists in Harre, Mirjiley, and Towfiq villages southeast of Galkayo town have all been negatively affected by the deforestation activities that are going on.
Abdi Ali Farah, a pastoralist in Mirjiley owning 200 goats and 50 camels, told Radio Ergo that the land had been fenced with barbed wire, blocking access to the water wells. They were forced to take a long detour to take their livestock for water.
“The grazing fields have been levelled to the ground using tractors. There is not even a single tree now. This is worse than the desert locusts!” said Abdi.
Abdi said he will have to move with his family of 11 away from Mirjiley if the deforestation continues. He said he is awaiting the outcome of a complaint he and some of the pastoralists in his village lodged to the Galkayo district administration on 18 June.
“We ask for the help of anyone who can stop the harassment of these land grabbers,” Abdi said.
Galkayo district administration in Galmudug and the police commander inspected the areas on 24 June, in response to the complaints.
Muhyadin Yusuf Samatar, the municipality’s head of social affairs, said they saw that more than 40 kilometres of land had been grabbed and trees on it cut down. The police were hunting for those responsible for the deforestation. He said officers had already arrested some of the land grabbers, who would be charged in the regional court.
Muhyadin said the administration would deploy security forces to the worst affected areas before the end of June.