Project Description





Somali Youth Voluntary Group Association (SOYVGA) is a Youth Based organization actively working in Somalia since January 2007, the collapse of Somalia central Government 1991 has led to the migration of Somalia people to other parts of the world, and this has resulted in a complete breakdown of the rule of law.

High levels of insecurity, ongoing/intermittent fighting, massive displacement, and loss of life, clan militias and terrorist groups, subsequently, an atmosphere of fear and mistrust has engulfed and permeated the socio – political fabric, making a resort to clan identity the primary defensive mechanism.

The  social  economic  and  infrastructure collapsed, this has  led  the communities  to suffer, especially  the Vulnerable groups  such as  women, children, Youth, Intellectuals and Elders.


A feeling of marginalization among the youth is also responsible for extreme negative outcomes and despair, as reflected in the increase in the number of youth (particularly among young males) engaging in khat-chewing, piracy and radical Islam. Youth complain of “idleness” and lack of attractive and safe entertainment activities. It is in this context that alcoholism or substance abuse, engagement in armed militia, and piracy has emerged as a coping strategy for many youths, life saving became priority for the right minded people among the community and no one cared for environmental protection, leaving it at the mercy of local militias and other actors in the coal industry to over-exploit forests, leading to deforestation and other environmental degradation.


SOYVGA is a member of Youth Service America (YSA) network as a community partner, Organizing Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) event on 17th April 2016, our event on this day will be “Tree Planting in Bulla Elay, Waberi District Mogadishu Somali”


  1. Case Background

This case study will examine the environmental destruction from the charcoal industry that has flourished in Somalia’s situation of state collapse and low-level conflict.  The Somali political situation, characterized by a lack of central government, the absence of the rule of law, and the prevalence of local militias engaged in commercial activities, has created a situation that has allowed actors in the coal industry to over-exploit forests, leading to deforestation and other environmental degradation. But what makes this industry so profitable (but ultimately unsustainable) is the huge increase in demand from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. This combination of external actors and a lack of any national authority or effective regulation make the charcoal industry extremely harmful to the Somalia’s long-term environmental situation.

  1. Description

The root cause of the destructive nature of the charcoal trade in Somalia is the lack of rule of law and an effective government with the power, authority, and will to restrict the activities of charcoal traders. This case study will first provide a brief historical overview of the political situation that has given rise to the environment in which traders can profit from the trade in charcoal. Next, this case study will explain the details of how the charcoal industry operates. Finally, the case study will follow to describe the relationship between the charcoal industry, low-level conflict, and the environment.

In 1991, the two decades of military dictatorship of Siad Barre came to an unceremonious end. With his regime weakened with the end of the bi-polar era and unable to coerce or co-opt his political opponents, the United Somali Congress (USC) ousted Barre from Mogadishu. The USC, led by General Muhammad Farah Aideed, failed to establish a government of national unity and broke apart between rival faction leaders. The years from 1991-1994 were marked by extreme brutality and clan-based violence fueled by decades of clanism and cronyism under the Barre regime.

During the mid- to late-1990s, faction leaders gradually lost their power and appeal as regional administrations and other local forms of governance challenged their authority. One such arrangement was the system of Islamic courts that emerged, providing a significant degree of stability and rule of law. A coalition of Islamic courts and local authorities that recently rose to national prominence and power in late 2006 was the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), until their ouster by Ethiopia in early 2007. In 2000, a peace conference held in Arta, Djibouti and heavily supported by the Arab league produced the Transitional National Government (TNG). This weak and ineffective administration was heavily opposed by many section of Somali society, and failed to establish a functioning government. Another attempt by TNG opponents to form a national government in 2002 resulted in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), but this arrangement represented even more narrow interests, particularly those of Abdullahi Yusuf, then President of the semi-autonomous administration of Punt land. Failing to establish itself as a legitimate authority, the TFG nearly collapsed into irrelevance with the rise of the UIC in Mogadishu, but Ethiopian support and military intervention has since put the TFG in power in Mogadishu. Currently, the TFG has the support of the international community but is mistrusted by most of the Hawiye clan, the dominant clan in Mogadishu, and faces an insurgence lead by Hawiye clan members and remnants of the hard-line elements of the UIC.

Under the rule of General Muhammad Farah Aideed, who exerted control over much of Southern Somalia and Southern Mogadishu from 1992-1997, the charcoal trade was banned because of the serious toll it exacted on the environment. However, the ban on the charcoal trade died with General Aideed in 1996. General Aideed’s son, Hussein Muhammad Aideed, imposed no such restrictions on the trade, allowing traders to over-exploit southern Somalia’s savannahs and dense forests. Local authorities and clan elders attempted to restrict the trade themselves, but this led to violent clashes between clans. Since then, both the TNG and, more recently, the Union of Islamic Courts, have tried to stop the harmful trade, but have met with little success. With President Yusuf of the TFG at the helm of Somalia’s weak interim government, the charcoal industry is unlikely to be reined in, as President Yusuf used taxes on the charcoal industry to help fund his administration in Punt land. His connections with the businessmen and traders not only helped him profit from the charcoal trade, but also to import arms to support his militias despite the UN weapons embargo on Somalia.

The reason for these failures is that there is a strong economic incentive for traders to continue to export Somalia’s natural resources. High demand for charcoal in the Gulf States, due to their strict laws on preventing local deforestation, has created opportunities for large profits for traders willing to brave the ports of Kismayu and Mogadishu. At the year 2000, Somali charcoal traders would sell a bag of charcoal to a merchant in Kismayu for around US$3-4. That merchant would then sell that charcoal in one of the Gulf States for around US$10 and the Gulf States have been more than willing to engage in this trade, taking advantage of Somalia’s political situation to gain access to much needed energy sources at a relatively low cost. The high demand for charcoal in Gulf States also coincides with a dearth of other options for many Somalis. With a ban on cattle exports, and other methods of livelihood made unavailable because of the economic and political situation, the lure of an income from the charcoal trade becomes more understandable.

According to the UN Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group, more than a million bags of charcoal are being shipped from Kismayu each month, by Islamic insurgent Groups (Al-Shabab); the findings are based on information from local sources as well as analysis of satellite imagery.

The report estimates charcoal worth at least $250 million was shipped to the international market from Somalia in 2013 and 2014.

Who is Involved Production Transportation Shipment Sale
Actors Local Militias Middlemen, Militia roadblocks Merchant ship owners Merchants in Gulf states
Activities Cutting trees, burning wood in to charcoal Transportation over land to ports, Navigating to roadblocks Loading and shipping Charcoal marketed for local use and export
Coasts Average Somali income in charcoal trade – $80 a day Clan tax for land – $20 a month

Local Authority tax: $10 per load

Transport: $3-4 per bag

Road block fees: varies

$3 – 4 a bag Local use $10

Export use $15-20


  1. Charcoal-making process

Charcoal is made by chopping down tress, setting fire to a closely sacked pile of branches and trunks, and covering it with sand so that the amount of oxygen and air is limited. This super charges a process that would otherwise take years to achieve naturally.

Previously, charcoal-making was limited to a small group of cutters who used hand axes and respond to an internal and local market demand, most Somali households used it for cooking. But since charcoal became a lucrative export trade to the Arab states, businessmen & environmentalist’s say battery-powered chain saws have been introduced to make it simple for anyone that needs to start charcoal business.

Most of the charcoal is made in Southern Somali. Which is Savannah with a few forested areas, 80% of the trees used for charcoal are Acacia of Somali has many. Somali environmentalists believe more than 25% of acacia trees have been chopped down and the population is dying much faster than previously thought, as much as 40% of the trees could gone soon they say.

The effect that this system of economic incentives is having is difficult to measure because of Somalia’s security situation. However, considering the charcoal industry has been behind deforestation in other parts of Africa, one can assume that, with the lack of any oversight or restrictions, the charcoal trade will have a devastating effect on Somalia’s forests. This is also likely to increase the occurrence of desertification in Somalia, depriving pastoralists of grazing land and farmers of cultivatable areas. Income from the charcoal trade also provides important financing for some warlords and faction leaders, enabling them to maintain their strength and continue their predatory regimes. While predatory militias profit from the charcoal industries, it is the more powerful businessmen that are the real power behind the industry. This section of society is powerful enough to hold a veto over any political arrangement that threatens their interests. Thus, any attempts to halt the charcoal industry must court the very businessmen that profit the most from it.

Unfortunately, as forests become sparser but demand in the Gulf States continues or even rises with other fuel costs, intense competition may ensue over controlling the remnants of Somalia’s charcoal industry. There has already been conflict between clans over the charcoal trade, and this will only become more likely as competition intensifies. As deforestation and desertification limit the availability of other natural resources, conflict around these is likely to rise, as well. Somalis who rely on the acacia forests for their livelihood will see their opportunities for supplementing their income decrease, as game dies out, desertification hurts farming, and the eventual destruction of the acacia groves will also end their ability to supplement their income by participating in the charcoal trade. With charcoal supplies shrinking, the cost of fuel for domestic use will also continue to rise, raising the cost of living for Somali families. The situation in the Sudan is an analogous one, where scarce resources exacerbate and create ethnic and racially based narratives of grievances.

  1. Environmental Aspect

The source problem in this case is that of deforestation. The charcoal trade in Somalia takes a heavy toll on the acacia forests of southern Somalia, as trader’s clear-cut entire swaths of forest for shipment to Gulf States. The process of turning cut wood into charcoal is also a rough, dirty process that pollutes the air, albeit in a very local fashion. While the impact on the global environment and global warming is negligible at best, the ramifications of the charcoal trade on the local environment and the livelihoods of Somalis are drastic. In the year 2000, total charcoal production was estimated to be 112,000 metric tons and was estimated to rise to 1000,000 to 1, 500,000 metric tons by 2015. Approximately 80% of this charcoal is destined for stoves in the Gulf States, while only 20% is for domestic consumption.

The loss of ground cover and root systems leads to increased erosion in the riverine areas. This accelerates the process of desertification, decreasing the amount of land useable for agriculture or even grazing, pushing locals out of areas as they become uninhabitable after charcoal traders clear all of the trees. This deforestation also decreases bio-diversity as species that relied on the acacia groves are unable to survive without them. All of this ultimately hurts the livelihoods of Somalis not involved in the charcoal trade in these areas. Pastoralists and agriculturalists rely on the acacia forests to play their part in maintaining the delicate balance that makes life in arid Somalia possible. Pastoralists graze their cattle in the grass that flourishes while the acacia groves’ root systems hold in ground water and prevent erosion. Agriculturalists grow staple crops in neighboring lands, but as erosion increase without the acacia groves holding in top soil, their lands are becoming fallow. With forests destroyed, these groups must move to other areas in order to survive, or engage in the charcoal trade themselves, which only deepens the cycle of destruction.

  1. DRY

Somalia is a largely arid nation of sparse savanna, with pastoralism still a primary source of income. Agriculture is mostly restricted to the riverine areas of southern Somalia near the Juba and Shebelle rivers. These riverine areas are also home to low density savanna woodlands, mainly consisting of Acacia trees. This forested area covers 52,000, representing only 9% of Somalia’s total land. This limited amount of forest area is rapidly shrinking as the charcoal trade continues. The Somali way of life, relying largely on grazing cattle and camels or subsistence farming, means that changes in the environment can quickly upset the delicate balance required to survive in Somalia.

  1. Act and Harm Sites:

The Gulf States consumption of charcoal affects Somalia because of its unique political situation, it is unable to handle the increased demand for charcoal in an environmentally sound way. This situation has risen because of the confluence of several factors. First, the Gulf States banned the destruction of their local forests in the late 1980s and early 1990s, creating demand for charcoal imports. Additionally, they also banned Somalia’s primary export at the time, cattle. This dealt Somalia’s economy a tough blow, and pushed many into the charcoal trade. Second, Somali descended into a situation of statelessness where, after 1996, it was possible to export charcoal without concern for the environmental impact. Finally, systems for conducting business without a state have emerged in Somalia that makes their role in international commerce possible.

While the deforestation occurs in Somalia and Somalis feel the environmental impact exclusively, this situation would not be present without the demand for charcoal from Gulf States. Somalis have relied on charcoal as a source of energy for centuries, but have been able to balance domestic consumption with environmental preservation. This increased demand, combined with the lack of a central authority in southern Somalia, has led to the recent environmental crisis.

  1. Conflict Aspects
  2. CIVIL

Though the conflict in Somalia has recently developed significant interstate aspects, with the weak Somali Federal Government (SFG) backed by International community and AMISOM, the conflict is essentially a civil war between rivaling factions, albeit with both including external actors to aid them. But, especially as it relates to the conflict around the charcoal industry, it is essentially civil in nature. This has significant ramifications for the charcoal industry, but due to the current conflict, n summary, political rivalries and limited resources have created a clan-based dynamic to the conflict over charcoal.

However, while many militias benefit from the charcoal trade, the group that benefits most from the production of charcoal in the south are the Juba Land Regional State. While they use profits from the charcoal trade to fund their militias, these groups also contribute to the overall stability of the area. Thus, to say that the charcoal industry funds armed factions does not necessarily mean that the charcoal industry funds conflict, as the Somali situation necessitates that nearly every significant actor has a heavily armed militia.

  1. Level of Conflict

The conflict surrounding the charcoal is intrastate, with most activity involving Somali actors. While environmental damage is significant, and the level of conflict in Somalia has been high recently, the conflict around the charcoal is more accurately described as low, as violence is intermittent. Some of the violence has been between traditional leaders and their militias clashing with charcoal traders in attempts to prevent them from continuing to exploit their local forests. Traditional conflict resolution methods have prevented this from progressing into further violence. Landmines have also been used in relation to the charcoal trade near the town of Brava between Kismayu and Mogadishu. Minibuses carrying passengers along this main route have been the main victims of these landmines. This is part of a conflict between the local Tuni clan and the Abgal and Habar Gedir clans that dominate the charcoal trade. Less than a dozen landmine related incidents have occurred in that area since 2004, several involving minibuses carrying over a dozen people.

  • Fatality Level of Dispute (military and civilian fatalities)
  1. Overall civil war: Estimates of casualties since 1991 range from 350,000 to 1,000,000
  2. Related to charcoal trade: Most likely in the hundreds, data not available


  1. Environment and Conflict Overlap

The conflict over Somalia’s coal is indirect as it deals with the issue of the increasing scarcity of sources of charcoal. As climate change increase rates of desertification in arid and semi-arid areas like Somalia, and populations grow, they will continue to put pressure on the forested areas in southern Somalia. However, the charcoal industry, obviously, has an even more rapid and devastating effect. What contributes to how much charcoal is produced is a complex interaction between several factors. First, without the demand from Gulf States, the opportunities for such huge profits would not drive actors in the charcoal industry. Compounding this is the lack of other economic opportunities, making participating in the charcoal industry an even more attractive option. Finally, what have the power to control the charcoal industry are governments and regional authorities that have power and legitimacy. Only an effective ban encompassing all of Somalia’s important ports and charcoal producing areas will be able to counter the destructive short-term logic of exploiting Somalia’s acacia groves for charcoal exports.



  1. Level of Strategic Interest


Although conflict over Somalia’s coal is only occurring in Somalia, the issue is a regional one as the coal is being exported to and consumed by the nearby Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar. However, the most effective methods for limiting the harmful effects of the coal industry would need to be enacted in Somalia by regional or municipal administrations. As with any issue involving Somalia, speaking of problems at a national level is misleading, as the central government is weak. Somali politics, and Somali problems, are essentially very local, and the solutions must be local as well.






  1. Outcome of Dispute:


As with most struggles for power in Somalia, the pan of charcoal export by both the UN and FG has failed, In order to attract necessary support from the business community, the FG will need to find a compromise on the issue of charcoal that allows for the sale of existing stocks, but recognizes the environmental dangers of continuing production of charcoal.

  1. Root causes of the Problem

There are several causes contributing to the deforestation and charcoal export. Some of these causes are:

  • Clearing land for settlements and for construction driven by human population growth and the demand for open land and construction material.
  • Clearing land for cultivation, this is also driven my human population growth and the demand for food
  • Cutting trees for livestock feed and overgrazing of bushes.
  • Cutting trees for energy for domestic use and for export (high foreign demand for charcoal is a major driving force of deforestation; this is the most serious problem facing Somalia).


  1. Major Limiting Factors
  • Lack of enabling environment
  • Lack of property rights
  • Non-existence of institutions that research, document, develop and enforce rules and regulations for managing natural resources
  • Contradicting government ministries pursuing different objectives or simply having disjoint operations
  • Low cost and unregulated fuel woods market
  • Higher cost and lack of know-how on the use of cooking gas, and
  • Lack of alternative livelihoods for those involved in fuel wood enterprise
  • Lack of government
  1. Strategies for Intervention
  • Establish and strengthen the NGOs currently involved in combating desertification in their capacity in data gathering, documenting and developing public awareness of the problem as well as initiating pilot projects such as planting trees in community protected areas near villages! These will be used as educational areas.
  • Initiate programs through NGOs that promote the use of cooking gas technologies in the urban areas, reducing the taxes on cooking gas technologies. Performance of NGOs will be determined by their ability to transform urban use of wood fuel to cooking gas technology. This performance will be assessed against predetermined targets. But this will not be possible as long as the charcoal option is cheaper. This calls for effective regulation of charcoal market. This can be addressed, at least temporarily, by developing programs for the functioning regional governments and functioning local village councils to regulate the charcoal market under strict UNDP or UNEP guidelines. The proceedings of the charcoal tax could be matched with development fund (dollar for 2 dollars), which will be spent on development program on the most affected areas (which lose the charcoal income) due to the regulation and on the development and promotion of cooking gas technology.
  • The UNDPO should make dialogue with the importing countries along with Somali stakeholders (Concerned Somali entities like Universities, NGOS, this Forum, etc) in taking credible actions in controlling the charcoal imports in to their countries.
  • Capacity building of NGOS and stakeholder discussion in taking actions.
  • Use of efficient stoves for charcoal and firewood. These have been tried before. They are efficient and cheap to make.
  • Regenerations of indigenous tree species and introducing fast growing tree species with technical assistance from ICRAF.
  • Tap into the gas fields that are being developed in Ethiopia Somali region. This will enhance trade, use of clean energy and peace in the region.
  • Introduction of simple and easy to use solar cooking devises specially in the rural areas. Solar cooking demonstrated to be successful in the past.
  • Tap into the existing professional expertise in the agro-forestry sector.



15 TO 17TH APRIL 2016


SOYVGA is a member of Youth Service America (YSA) network as a community partner organizing Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) event on 17th April 2016, our event on this day will be “Tree Planting in Bulla Elay, Waberi District Mogadishu Somali” to protect the environment that was left at the mercy of local militias and other actors in the coal industry to over-exploit forests, leading to deforestation and other environmental degradation we are planning to plant 500 Savannah trees to:

  • To create general community awareness on impact of charcoal burning/export on our environment.
  • To educate the youth on the effects of deforestation on the environment
  • To pass a message to the Community, Federal Government of Somalia, International community and all Actors involved in charcoal export to “STOP CHARCOAL EXPORT IN SOMLIA WITH THE THEME GIVE EARTH A CHANCE”.



The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by governments (Federal of Government of Somalia was equally represented), heads of state and representatives meeting at the United Nations September 2015, setting out a transformational vision for the world, pledging “no one will be left behind”, pinned on 17 specific SDGs and 169 targets to be achieved over the next 15 years to 2030 With some of the world’s highest population growth rates, highest unemployment rates, and lowest gross domestic product (GDP) figures, weak FGS of Somalia backed by the international community and AMISOM forces crippling with the effects of 25 years civil war,  has a mammoth task ahead to achieve the SDGs by 2030, much more so than many other regions. It also stands to gain much – arguably the most – from the transformational plans. If the SDGs are met within the time frame, Somalia, with its vast territory and resources could be transformed into a regional powerhouse.

Having an integrated approach to supporting progress across the multiple goals is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, since our government weak SOYVGA been among the active youth based CBOs is uniquely placed to support this process, we therefore base our argument according to the below SDGs:

  • SDG No 15 Life on Land – Protect, Restore and Promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reserve land degradation and halt biodiversity loose, to achieve this we have to “STOP CHARCOAL EXPORT IN SOMLIA WITH THE THEME GIVE EARTH A CHANCE”.
  • SDG No 2 Zero Hunger – End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture to achieve this we have to “STOP CHARCOAL EXPORT IN SOMLIA WITH THE THEME GIVE EARTH A CHANCE”


No Date Activity Unit cost (USD) Total Cost (USD)
1. 13-17/04/2016 Community mobilization & awareness charcoal burning/export 00 00
2.   Hiring of a van with public address system for the campaign mobilization $100 x 5 days 500
3.   Hiring of Agro-forestry expert $100 x 5 days 500
4.   Land preparation & planting of trees Lump sum 400
5.   Buying of Savannah trees $8 x 500pcs 4,000
6. 17/04/2016 Hiring of truck for trees transportation Lump sum 100
7.   Loading & off loading trees Lump sum 100
8.   Printing of T-shirts for the event $4 x 200 800
9.   Design & printing of Bill-board for the event Lump sum 250
10.   Refreshment for members Lump sum 500
11. TOTAL     7,150