Battling Poverty through Organizing and Activating Potentials of Agro-Pastoralism in the Somali Region
By Hafsa Mohamed
In Ethiopia, pastoralism and agro-pastoralism are important means of livelihood for more than five million people, with most [agro-] pastoralists living in the Afar, Somali, Oromia, and Southern Nations Nationalities Peoples’ Region. Agro-Pastoralism is the form of farming/livelihood combining agriculture (harvesting crops) and pastoralism (rearing livestock). As well, Agro-Pastoralism is an exceptional livelihood structure consisting of unique mechanisms: natural resources, herd/livestock, crops, and borderless resilient communities who interact with each other to drive, cultivate and sustain a life and economy-providing system. The world is beginning to take notice: agro-pastoralism is highly significant, crucial and perhaps, if we strengthen and protect agro-pastoralism, it will be a major actor in eradicating destitution and bettering the lives of millions around the world. As the country waits on the appointment of the next Prime Minister, the Somali Region reveals they are on the right track in achieving all 2010 E.C. goals.
The Somali Region, since the inception of H.E. President Abdi M. Omar’s presidency, has efficiently prioritized and implemented multi-sector development — everything from improving public services, increasing water accessibility, security and gender representation in the government to educational expansion. Of course, human necessities such as water accessibility and the safety of the regional community has been a huge priority for quite some time now –and still is, albeit incredible and evident progress are seen in these particular areas. Now that 2010 E.C. is halfway through, it is noteworthy to state, the Somali Region is manifestly achieving the unique and grounded plans of prioritizing and mobilizing the powerful potential of agro-pastoralism and agro-pastoralists. Poverty, in the Somali Region, is considered “the number one enemy [to sustainable development and peace].” So, one might ask,“how can a one region defeat such an enemy?” Well, for one, by understanding the multi-faceted causes and variables of poverty. Secondly, by organizing that knowledge and creating a reasonable (community-consulted) precise plan to eradicate poverty. And, well, that and more is exactly what the Somali Regional Administration is doing.
The above image (written in Somali) was revealed in late 2009 E.C. by the Somali Regional Administration and illustrates a glimpse and road map of exiting poverty and reaching the objective of a long-lasting development, benefiting the community in the aspects of employment / social safety nets, quality productions and consumptions and the uprooting of poverty. Here’s an overview of what is written in the image:
1. The Somali Region has all the agricultural and pastoral potential (water, livestock, rivers, dams, climate, etc.) The potential requires equipment, human and financial capital and knowledge. The human capital + the resources require genuine, educated and forward thinking leaders. The leaders (of the region) require the successful implementation examples and tangible support of the Federal Government and global community. All of the mentioned require solid data, research, community engagement and direction. Overall, the wellbeing, security and vigilance of the people are integrated in all these approaches.
2. Extensive trainings, awareness raising workshops and programs on modern agro-pastoralism advancement, the past and present, the usage of equipment to mobilize the available resources, promoting employability and skills. Addressing dependency and lack of productivity amongst community members by facilitating knowledge and creating jobs.
3. Marketing agro-pastoralist productions [through empowering agro-pastoralists], to the point where the local, regional and national economy benefits and revenue is notable. Quality over quantity. Establishing of local factories and systems which profit the regional and national community.
The above action plan – given that it is being implemented carefully – is but a small look into how successful 2010 E.C is so far inthe Somali Region. Although the main priority is activating agro-pastoralism and its promises, the Somali Regional Administration is also efficaciously utilizing their fiscal budget which includes other fascinating programs, from improving the health and education to extensively continuing multi-sector growth. According to an interview in late 2009 E.C., the Somali Regional President, H.E. Abdi M. Omar, stated, “The Somali Regional Administration will seriously prioritize and enable youth development and gender empowerment in each and every area, project, and office. Youth are the driving force of our region and women are the most resilient.” Since this statement and during the last six months, there has been an increase in youth associations, gender empowerment and inclusion of youth in various sectors and a transformation in both agro-pastoralist and pastoralist. Still, more is being done, regardless of national obstacles and issues; the objective is to never experience a gap in development.
Poverty is caused by a variety of circumstances, determinants, set-ups and many of the time, the “lack of” alone is what needs adjusting. That “lack of”, in some cases, can mean the lack of information, trainings or directions. Knowledge is power, enough to unlock and unearth unknown possibilities. The more the agro-pastoralists and pastoralists know their important and diverse roles in defeating poverty and are supported, the more the social and economical systems are reinforced and equipped with adequate flexible resources, the more collective approaches are taken, the closer the Somali Region becomes to becoming poverty free and Ethiopia a middle-income country.
The Writer, Hafsa Mohamed, is an Ethiopian-American Diaspora member working in the development sector in Ethiopia.