The cross border livestock trade (CBLT) between Ethiopia and Somaliland supports many pastoralists and traders, mainly from Somali Region of Ethiopia. The trade has continued for centuries and is now especially vibrant because of the Gulf state markets. The Future Agricultures Working Paper “Jostling for trade: the politics of livestock marketing on the Ethiopia-Somaliland border” (2014, 14 pp) by Abdurehman Eid finds that most of the government’s efforts to control the trade are ineffective and may have negative consequences for poorer pastoralists engaged in smaller-scale informal trade.
CBLT is crucial for the food security of pastoral communities in Somali Region. The increased restrictions of trade limit market options and income for pastoralist. They favour large traders with extended connections, who can create their own routes to move animals across the border, while small-scale traders and pastoralists have to accept the prices offered by the larger traders. The trade restrictions also affect the seasonal mobility of pastoral herds: many pastoralists on both sides of the border have their dry- or wet-season grazing areas on the other side, but the border patrols cannot distinguish whether animals are headed to market or grazing. Customs police have mistakenly confiscated animals, causing great losses to the owners.
Rather than restricting the trade, the government needs to establish the skeletal infrastructure for formalising the trade without creating overbearing bureaucracy for small-scale traders and pastoralists. This would support the livelihood-enhancing benefits of CBLT and allow the government to collect the required revenues.