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Innovative ways of managing Prosopis juliflora trees in Somalia

Safeguarding agricultural and pastoralist livelihoods by transforming a longstanding threat into a sustainable resource for women and youth

Prosopis juliflora is a thorny, dominant and thirsty tree species that has invaded the main grazing areas in many countries in the Horn of Africa (HoA), posing a major threat to rural livelihoods. The scale of Prosopis expansion is dramatic in the region, e.g. more than one million hectares in both Kenya and Ethiopia, respectively. Widespread planting of Prosopis in Somalia took place in the 1980s as a response to deforestation during and after the Ethio-Somali war and subsequent droughts. Since then it has spread vigorously, invading at least 550,000 hectares in Somaliland alone. However, the Prosopis expansion in Somalia is at a relatively early stage compared to other countries in HoA and there is an opportunity to introduce management before it is too late.

Between 2016-18, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Somalia collaborated with the NGO Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) and developed a project entitled “Supporting communities in Somaliland to ‘make Prosopis make money’ through Cash-For-Work (CFW) and small business development”, in Berbera, Odweyne and Toghdeer districts of Somaliland. This project was a component of the Joint Programme on Youth Employment (YES) between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and United Nations (UN). It aimed to create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for women and youth to efficiently manage Prosopis pods by processing them into animal livestock feed supplements and charcoal. Moreover, the project established and fostered livestock feed processing cooperatives by creating market linkages.

How does management of Prosopis contribute to resilient livelihoods?

The sustainable management of Prosopis can help pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and dryland farmers adapt to climate change through the processing of drought-resistant Prosopis tree parts into a variety of products, including livestock feed supplements and charcoal. Therefore, Prosopis can be defined as a multi-purpose crop. By controlling its harmful effects and diversifying local incomes, communities and local economies become less vulnerable to climate-related disasters in contexts where severe drought episodes are recurrent.

In addition, the management of Prosopis serves local communities while promoting enterprise development and economic growth. It enables local groups, focusing on women and youth, to establish a range of commercial activities – from pod collection and milling to charcoal and feed production – that are profitable and self-sustaining. This further promotes linkages between local entrepreneurs and bigger, upstream market actors.

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