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Economy, agriculture and food security

In 2001, the GDP for Somalia was estimated at around US$806 million, whereas the GNP is higher due to remittances, totalling US$300-400 million, from Somalis living abroad. The expected share of contributions to the GDP by sector is 60 percent for agriculture, 10 percent for industry and 30 percent for services. About 69 percent of the economically active population were economically active in agriculture (2004). In 2002, 43 percent of the population were estimated to be on a per capita income of less than US$1/day. Constraints on development are scarce water resources, poverty and food insecurity in the rural areas, general insecurity and civil conflicts. The situation is exacerbated by the uncontrolled urbanization of vulnerable people and the transfer of internally displaced people to the cities. Somalia has been food insecure for the past 20 years, a situation which has been aggravated by civil war and natural disasters. The country has one of the world’s highest figures for prevalence of undernourishment, 70 percent. In the early 1990s, 300 000 people died from hunger as a result of years of droughts. During the floods of 1997/1998, around 1 400 people died as a result of the flooding and another 1 million were indirectly affected, while more than 60 000 ha of crops and farmland were destroyed. In 1998 and 2000 Saudi Arabia imposed a ban on livestock imports due to the outbreak of rift valley fever. Somalia was hit hard by famine in 2002 and acute shortages of water and fodder caused losses of up to 40 percent of cattle and 10-15 percent of goats and sheep in Ethiopia and Somalia.

The local production of mainly sorghum and maize does not meet the food demands and it is estimated that another 200 000 tonnes of cereals are needed to meet the domestic food demands of 500 000 tonnes. Maize and sorghum production has been on average 60 percent below the pre-war average. Generally, the north has a higher food security due to better physical security and higher household income, compared to the south and central areas. It is estimated that one out of five harvests in Somalia is a partial failure and one in ten a complete write-off. Exports amounted to US$186 million in 1999 and the main commodities were live animals, meat and skins mainly to Saudi Arabia. Imports amounted to US$314 million in 2000 and the main commodities were petroleum products, food stuffs and construction materials. The Somalia Aid Coordinating Body (SACB) external aid amounts to US$115 million for humanitarian and development aid. The informal private sector boomed last year in money transfers and telecommunications, and construction and trade have become more important. Bananas were the most important export crop before the war and annual export exceeded 120 000 tonnes. Many of the banana farms were rehabilitated between 1993 and 1996, but the floods in 1997 destroyed 80 percent of the banana farms. Changes in the import regime, particularly to the EC and Italy, have led to a further collapse of the market. The few remaining commercial farms in southern Somalia have attempted to diversify into other crops, such as sesame, groundnuts and rice.

The most important agricultural areas are in the south of Somalia and the agricultural production system can be divided in: (i) subsistence rainfed farming, often part of agro-pastoral production systems, with a typical farm size of 2-4 ha; (ii) small-scale irrigation and oasis farming; and iii) commercial farming, which is mainly large-scale and irrigated.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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