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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

This good practice fact sheet provides an overview of a FAO project implemented in Berbera, Odweyne and Toghdeer districts of Somaliland between 2016-2018 entitled “Supporting communities in Somaliland to ‘make Prosopis make money’ through Cash-For-Work (CFW) and small business development”. This project, developed in collaboration with the NGO Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA), 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.

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.


  • On climate action: The sustainable management of Prosopis is helping pastoralists, agropastoralists 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. Prosopis can be defined as a multi-purpose crop. By controlling its harmful effects as an invasive species, and diversifying local incomes, communities and local economies become less vulnerable to climate-related disasters in contexts where severe drought episodes are recurrent.
  • On alternative energy: In Somalia, charcoal is the main source of household energy. It is produced using native Acacia trees, which are vital to pastoralists, making charcoal production both environmentally destructive and a risk to pastoral livelihoods. Alternative substitute sources of charcoal from Prosopis, which has an efficient high-heating potential, could therefore generate positive environmental and economic effects on a very large scale, contributing to climate change mitigation. This could also be supported by changing government policies – for example by providing favourable tax treatment and regulation to promote charcoal made from Prosopis over the charcoal made from native Acacia. In Djibouti, FAO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, assessed the economic potential of processing Prosopis woody biomass into a more efficient fuel in a way that also provides a source of income for the host community, a safe energy source for refugees, and environmental protection on the ground. The example of Djibouti can inform the use of Prosopis as an important energy source, and it could be replicated throughout the Horn of Africa region.
  • On resilient livelihoods: 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.
  • On conflict sensitivity: Management and utilization of Prosopis trees creates opportunities for youth employment across Somalia and supports young men and women at risk of joining irregular migration and terror groups in being drivers of positive change. For any Prosopis management project implementation to be sustainable, intensive community mobilization is a prerequisite. To guarantee a more sustainable impact of Prosopis management, it would be important to engage youth in longer-term income generating activities of at least a one-year timeframe.
  • On innovation: The breakthrough with this new practice comes from a change in attitudes among affected communities, as well as local leaders and policymakers: communities, including government and NGOs alike, demanded total eradication of Prosopis trees, which is not possible once the spread has taken hold. However, now communities perceive the invasive species as a potential source of income and valuable resource, rather than a threat. The experience showed that effective systems of partnership between pastoralists and farmers, NGOs, FAO, government bodies and local authorities can promote agricultural innovation processes. To ensure uptake of this practice, continuous training and improved capacity development on the use of Prosopis and in-land use activities after reclaiming areas from Prosopis, should focus on enhancing human skills (crushing of pods, uprooting of the tree, entrepreneurial skills, land clearing and good agricultural practices) and infrastructure (like pod crushing machines and better tools for uprooting the plant).
  • On market opportunities: Somalia’s livestock exports are valued at 500 million USD and the industry accounts for a substantial share of employment. Given that the livestock sector dominates the local economy, it is worth exploring the potential of Prosopis management to safeguard the sector. The commercial demand for animal feed is commensurately large, as is the possibility for this intervention to scale up. A first order of five tonnes of Prosopis livestock feed was followed by another order of 50 tonnes after six months, paving the way for the cooperatives to become significant and sustainable enterprises, and boosting commercial viability.
  • On gender and inclusion: The experience shows that community mobilization and inclusion can be made an integral part of cash for work (CFW) interventions by holding public inception meetings where everyone participates in decision making and delivering unconditional cash transfers to vulnerable beneficiaries who cannot participate in the work component, such as nursing mothers, the sick, and people with disabilities. The initiative also paid specific attention to gender, as women were consulted throughout all project phases, thus building the intervention around women’s dominant role in small-scale agriculture and placing them at the centre of commercial Prosopis use.
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