Livestock: The Mainstay

The livestock sector is the largest contributor to Somali livelihoods with over 65% of the population engaged in some way in the industry. Exports of livestock and their products account for 80 percent of exports in normal years but exports have been periodically interrupted by droughts and international bans such as the one imposed by Saudi Arabia in 2000.

Inspite of this, livestock exports continue to be the largest traded commodity in Somalia.

Livestock are shipped to various countries in the Arabian peninsula, and trekked or transported to markets in Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. Livestock also enter Somalia through the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya.  Furthermore, livestock is a key local consumption commodity for household food security.

Pastoralists exist throughout Somalia with high concentrations of strict pastoralists in the north and central areas and pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in the southern areas. Throughout greater Somalia (including areas of Ethiopia and Kenya), rainfall patterns force a complex series of movements in search of grazing-land between the different seasons.

Landmark exports

The year 2010 marked a milestone in Somalia’s livestock history as the country exported 4.3 million livestock, the highest figure ever recorded. Though this figure includes animals from southern Ethiopia and Djibouti, this makes Somalia’s livestock sector the largest contributor to most of the citizens' livelihoods .

The importance of livestock to the livelihoods and the economy of Somalia makes it imperative for FAO to put a lot of emphasis in this sector. To achieve this, FAO through partners and regional authorities, implements projects supporting pastoralists and agro- pastoralists focusing on animal health, animal production and marketing and in addition to supporting organizational, institutional and policy development.

FAO's activities in Somalia's livestock sector are all geared towards boosting the livestock sector at different levels. Key goals include;

  • improving economic growth and employment in the livestock sector;
  • decreasing the vulnerability of pastoralists’ livelihoods due to epidemic diseases outbreaks;
  • improving the productivity of the livestock sector;
  • promoting the marketing of livestock and livestock commodities;
  • promoting meat hygiene and enhancing the national human resources capacity through training and;
  • support to disease surveillance and certification.

These interventions range from emergency interventions to support livelihoods and  save assets during natural calamities to rehabilitation and development, all geared towards longer - term sustainable wealth creation for the pastoral and agro- pastoral communities.