MOHAMOUD RECALLS IT ALL AS IF IT WAS YESTERDAY. HE WISHES HE KNEW WHAT HE KNOWS TODAY, MAYBE HE WOULD HAVE DONE THINGS DIFFERENTLY. HE narrates how ONE PARTICULAR DAY WHEN THE SUN WAS SCORCHING, he HAD WORKED ALL DAY IN AN EFFORT TO CUT DOWN AS MANY TREES AS HE COULD TO MAKE CHARCOAL. AS HE STOOD UP DRENCHED IN SWEAT LOOKING FOR A TREE TO REST UNDER to catch HIS BREATH, IT HAD DAWNED ON HIM, HE HAD JUST CUT DOWN THE LAST TREE.
“I looked around but I could see no standing tree, just the bare land stretching before me and dry tree stumps sticking out of the earth. I did not realize the value of a tree until I was left under the burning sun with nowhere to seek shade from the heat. I tried to console myself that it was not all on me, but others were also responsible for cutting the trees from this land. I was guilt-laden and stunned by the bareness of the land.”
Charcoal production creates desertification and deforestation. Former loggers like Mohamoud from Damalle Hagarre village of Sool region can give a firsthand account to how the charcoal business brought in good money. The downside was that it turned the massive grazing lands into deserts. This automatically reduced the grazing land for livestock, which is the leading Somali export industry.
Mohamoud was one of the few loggers and charcoal producers that fortunately had a change of heart. His story is one of redemption, he now tells it with a lot of guilt. The relief he finds is that it is never too late to do what is right.
Mohamoud was also one of the 170 people from 11 villages in Sool and Sanaag regions that participated in a community led campaign against charcoal production and logging activities the region. The delegates of men and women met in Damalle Hagarre village, Sool region in March 2016. All echoing one common message “no to charcoal production, and cutting down trees”.
“Not on our watch, not anymore! Says Zahra Fatah vigorously one of the delegates from Sanaag region. We are already suffering the catastrophic effects of cutting down trees. We have experienced two years of acute drought. And it was tragic, people and animals died. This is only the beginning of what’s to come if we continue like this.” She continues
“How can we be so thoughtless, what are we going to leave our children and the generations to come?” She exclaims.
In Sanaag and Sool regions the campaign resulted in a number of customary regulations that the 11 villages agreed to uphold. These regulations place both collective and individual responsibility on communities to protect their lands. And they impose firm penalties on violators ranging from a USD 1,000 fine to any vehicle caught transporting charcoal to a year of imprisonment for loggers and charcoal-makers caught in action.
The awareness created on charcoal banning in the two regions were facilitated and sponsored by ‘Your Environment is Your Life’, a four year program funded by the EU and implemented by Adeso in partnership with the Puntland Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism and CARE.
Adeso believes in finding community owned and community led solutions and so it takes the battle against charcoal burning to doorsteps of traditional authorities, elders, and other community members so they might iron out sustainable and enforceable solutions.