Pastoral communities have suffered badly since 1998 when import bans were imposed on livestock from the Horn of Africa by Saudi Arabia, the largest importer of Somali livestock (usually sheep and goats). The bans were imposed to prevent the spread of Rift Valley Fever, which was identified in southern Somali livestock in 1997-98. The war led to the collapse of regional veterinary certification mechanisms. As a result Somali exporters are unable to provide acceptable proof regarding the health of their livestock and therefore the ban is still in place. The economic impact of the ban has been tremendous both for the national economy, which depends on the livestock trade for the major part of its revenue, and within pastoral communities.

Other problems have been exacerbated by the collapse of government structures. These include the impact of recurrent drought, environmental degradation because of unregulated enclosure of grazing areas and the privatisation of land; lack of management of gullies and water run-off created by the road system; and the exodus of the young pastoralist population. Compared with urban communities, the pastoral community is marginalised from whatever development or rehabilitation progress has taken place in the past five years; most of the young pastoral population feel left out as they lag behind in social service delivery, lack of infrastructure and other economic prospects. All these issues reduce livestock pro­ductivity and mean that the family income is not good enough to provide a strong future for the pastoral family.


Studies of the pre-war pastoral economy and way of life have tended to be from a male perspective. The result has been that the role of pastoral women has not been extensively recognised. Some research is now under way9 to understand the impact of the war on pastoralism, and includes gender-sensitive approaches. What is clear is that profound changes to men’s and women’s roles and responsi­bilities have taken place and may have equally profound impacts on the environment, natural resource management and social and political organisation in the future.

In Somaliland PENHA’s research and advocacy have resulted in more attention being given to the pastoralists’ problems as government institutions and national and international agencies look for ways to improve life for the pastoral communities. Range rehabilitation, proper policies and schemes to tackle environmental and social issues are being channelled towards them. In PENHA’s assessment the situation is improving and many pastoralists are for the first time feeling served and resourced. In terms of the inclusion of women in these changes, PENHA notes that

while in general, consultative meetings and conferences are made on understanding the situation of the pastoral community, women are not much included because of lack of time from their side and cultural and religious stereotypes and barriers that hinder women to attend such meetings. There is a trend of empowering pastoral communities by creating pastoral associations and every attempt is so far made to include women in such associations. It will require a huge effort and time to bring pastoral women into the forefront of development.10