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Somalia - Main Details

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Somalia is one of the biodiversity-rich countries in the Horn of Africa with a high level of endemic species. It is however an arid and semi-arid country with fragile ecosystems subjected to harsh weather conditions, erratic and scarce amounts of rainfall, and susceptible to environmental degradation. An IUCN assessment (1993) revealed that, apart from the 150 wild mammal and 645 bird species recorded, 3,028 species of plants are found in Somalia, of which 518 are believed to be endemic. There are 24 important bird areas described for Somalia, twelve of which are wetland-based. However, there is a great deal of evidence pointing to declining trends in biodiversity and ecosystems, particularly as relates to forestry, agriculture, rangelands, dry and humid (savannah), marine and coastal, wetlands and inland waters, and wildlife.

The mainstay of the Somali economy has traditionally been dominated by pastoralism and crop production, followed by fisheries and forestry, supporting over 80% of the population. The Boswell criteria and sacra trees are highly-prized for producing frankincense however their natural regeneration is threatened by overgrazing. Somalia is also a large producer of myrrh and gum Arabic. The Cordeauxia edulis plant which produces yicib nuts in the central regions is now thought to be endangered. The level of agricultural production, including bananas, cotton, rice, mango trees, and citrus, is generally far below its peaks of the late 1980s. Notably, at least 151 plants in Somalia have known medicinal values. Livestock continues to dominate exports, followed by sesame, charcoal, fish, hides and skins. Prior to the civil war, livestock and livestock products accounted for 80% of the country’s exports. However, goats and sheep which constituted a population of about 35 million in 1988 have been reduced to 14 million.

There is also evidence of a decline in rangelands biodiversity (grass and herbs, trees and bushlands) affecting certain parts of the country, particularly those close to urban areas, and areas such as the Sool Plateau in the northern part of the country. An IUCN survey (2006) found Somali’s northern ranges to be most seriously degraded (as much as 50%) owing to steep topography, large numbers of livestock, and proximity to ports for livestock export. Over much of the country, many areas around water boreholes and wells are degraded.

At present, the harvesting of offshore and inshore fish resources is not sustainable. Marine resources have been in great decline due to the current trend of unregulated, uncontrolled and illegal fishing. The consequences of these activities are illustrated by the fact that the once substantial and valuable lobster export trade is suffering, and artisan fishermen are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain an adequate livelihood from lobster harvesting because of the decline in stocks. Illegal inshore fishing by foreign commercial boats has also caused destruction to coral reefs. In addition, the world’s main oil transport tankers pass through the Gulf of Aden. With no surveillance mechanism in place, this movement of tankers results in the constant threat of oil spillage and toxic waste dumping off the Somali coastline.

In terms of wildlife, only small remnant pockets of wildlife now exist, with many species approaching extinction. The elephant (Lexodonta Africana), black rhino (Deceros bicornis), lion (Panthera Leo), and Swayne’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynei) have been wiped out from most of the country, while the wild ass (Equus asinus somalicus) that once numbered in the thousands has been reduced to just a few dozen.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main threats to biodiversity and its ecosystems are: habitat loss and degradation (the unsustainable use of water is a major problem in the country and a contributor to this threat), climate change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, civil war and tsunamis. The associated indirect drivers of biodiversity loss include: urbanization, population growth, agricultural expansion, poverty and inequality, inadequate knowledge and awareness, inadequate capacity-building, and inadequate financial resources.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The NBSAP development process is ongoing.

Somalia has identified the following future biodiversity priorities: institutional strengthening and capacity-building, including policy and legislative development and the NBSAP; establishment of a broad-based Somali Environment Coordination Committee; public awareness-raising and creation of broad-based public participation; mainstreaming; community-based conservation and management; village-based land use planning; and development of EIA and SEA. Other key priorities include: the enforcement of the ban on charcoal exports; intensification of reforestation pilot programs in different soils and climatic environments; the conduct of a thorough field-based State of the Environment report to assess the status of biodiversity resources and guide future decisions on biodiversity conservation, sustainable management and development; the assessment of conservation threats to protected areas and natural ecosystems, including climate change, uncontrolled land clearing for agriculture, deforestation and overgrazing and overfishing; investigation of the alleged toxic waste sites on land and the dumping of toxic waste at sea.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Through actions implemented by the communities, NGOs and the private sector, with assistance from the international community, the following success stories can be highlighted:

1. Pastoral emergency intervention in central and southern Somalia; vaccination and treatment to reduce morbidity/mortality and improve production.

2. Seed distribution for flood recession planting in the Juba and Shabelle regions.

3. Provision of small petrol pumps to destitute pastoralist communities in Puntland.

4. Livelihood restoration programme (provided cash to poor households struck by Tsunami and built the capacity of local institutions in Puntland).

5. Pastoral and agro-pastoral assistance programme to improve accessibility to water and strengthen capacity to improve animal health and production as well as marketing opportunities.

6. Improvement of household livelihood security and economic growth by increasing asset base of drought- and Tsunami-affected populations, rural organizations and businesses in Puntland.

7. Provision of pack camels to vulnerable pastoralists who lost theirs during the long drought in the Sool Plateau.

8. Cash-for-work to improve livelihood and food security of pastoralists in four districts of Puntland.

9. Reestablishment of a community-managed conservation plan for the grazing areas of Gacan Libbax Mountain.

10. Wildlife conservation in Garacad established in 2005 by the local community.

11. Integrated disaster management, relief and agricultural production that support flood relief measures in Middle Shabelle.

12. Improvement of livelihood of internally displaced people and agro-pastoral households in Somaliland.

13. Improvement of traditional underground storage in Somaliland; introduction of 200 litre-drums as new technology.

14. Irrigation for small farmers beyond plantations in Lower Shabelle.

15. Rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure in Middle and Lower Shabelle for crop production and enhancing diversification, processing, marketing, and irrigation infrastructure management, operation and maintenance.

16. Provision of irrigation pumps to small-scale farmers in Hiran.

17. Crop diversification: provision of oil and legume crop seeds, training in new planting techniques, and oil presses to small-scale farmers.

18. Emergency drought recovery: improvement of household and livestock access to water.

19. Somali animal health services; capacity-building project.

20. Support to Somali livestock boards; assist zonal authorities develop a credible livestock export system and provide recognized certification of their livestock and livestock products; capacity-building for inspection, abattoir management and quality control.

21. Establishment of a Somali regional technical school and reference centre; Sheikh Technical Veterinary School.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The current legal framework of Article 25 of the Somali Constitution states that, “Every person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well being, and to be protected from pollution and harmful materials; and that every person has the right to have a share of the natural resources of the country, whilst being protected from excessive and damaging exploitation of these natural resources”.

In April 2013, the President of Somalia released a document entitled the ‘Six Pillar Policy’ outlining the key areas that will help in bringing stabilization and development to Somalia. The policy conveys three specific intentions related to the environment, which are: i) enact laws that preserve and protect the environment; ii) incorporate environmental education in the formal and informal education systems in the country; and iii) rectify the environmental damage of the past such as deforestation and cleaning of Somali seas.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A mechanism to undertake comprehensive monitoring and evaluation activities does not exist.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme