A first piece of good news for the new, leap, year 2008 comes from the autonomous state of Maakhir that has been seriously engaged in environmental protection. As deforestation has advanced much in all parts of Somalia, the way to re-forestation passes through the elimination of the charcoal trade.

Before bringing natural catastrophe to Somalia, charcoal trade was a curse for various countries allover the world. We know now that due to wood tar production, all Finnish forests are younger than 300 years; as by-product of the wood tar production, the charcoal had caused great environmental disaster in Finland. The end of tar production signified rapid reforestation in that Scandinavian country.

England, Central Europe, and the Alpine region were also severely hit by the charcoal production that was a major reason of local deforestation. Somalia, gravely devastated by a civil war that triggered severe deterioration of social and environmental conditions, is by definition a major ecological concern at a global level. The ominous 2004 Sumatra tsunami caused an additional disaster in parts of the northeastern Somali coast, around Ras Hafun in today’s Puntland.

The charcoal production and trade tolerated by the Puntland authorities in the province of Sanaag (at the Western confines of Puntland, bordering with the secessionist state of Somaliland) was among the reasons the local population enthusiastically supported all those around Gen. Jibril Salad, who proclaimed autonomy for Maakhir and commitment to Somalia’s Unity.

Environmentally conscious, the Maakhiri Somalis had persistently denounced the lucrative but disastrous charcoal trade that was an important part of Puntland’s income at the prejudice of the severely damaged Somali environment.

In its first six months of existence the Maakhir, President Jibril Salad and the local administration delivered much of their promise; establishing the Environmental Protection Corps was a real local need, after the official ban of the charcoal trade.

I received a report compiled by an influential Maakhiri who has been deeply involved in the shaping of the local environmental policies, and the related law enforcement. I publish it with great pleasure as it heralds an augur and much promising new year 2008 for Maakhir itself, and Somalia in its entirety.

Charcoal trade banned and ban enforced in Maakhir

The roots of the destructive nature of the charcoal trade in Sanaag region was due to lack of rules and regulations stemmed from the collapse of the central Somali Government. This finally came to end since the declaration of Maakhir State. The Environmental Protection Corps (EPC) of Maakhir State is growing in numbers and contributing to a larger slowdown of charcoal trade and illegal gamin of wild animals.

The authority in Maakhir State has banned charcoal trade because of the environmental destruction and desertification that it does to the fragile Somali environment. Traders drastically cut entire swaths of forests, and as a result the trade was flourishing due to the high demand for charcoal in the Arab Gulf States and other countries in Asia. These are the reasons why the Environment Protection Corps are confronting the charcoal profiteers and their militia that have been menacing the Gebi Valley and Sool Plateau.

It is important to highlight that the newly established Maakhir Authority did not receive any international aid for this effort. This largely local effort has made an immediate impact on preserving and protecting the environment in the Gebi Valley and Sool Plateau.

As indicated by the President of Maakhir Jibril Salad in last Thursday’s press release; “Maakhir Administration used traditional conflict resolution methods to stop the traders and their militia, however these militia are heavily equipped with automatic firearms who would not cooperate, but the most effective and successful method for limiting the harmful distress of our environment was creating and using the EPC forces”.

The EPC in Maakhir apprehended more than 80 criminals over the past 4 months and jailed them in the district of Dhahar. The administration constructed a new program of materials, structures, and training to educate militia while they are held in jail. Jama Dahir Kodah, one of the program directors of the EPC, told the media that their next sustainable occurring project is to implement a plantation program in the region.

The EPC is divided into three forces in the following areas of Maakhir State and the main base is in city of Dhahar, the capital city of Boharo region, the new region in Sanaag that Maakhir created:

1) The first battalion is responsible for the protection in vast areas which stretches from Baragaha-Qol in Southern Sanaag to Eilbuh in Central Sanaag.

2) The second battalion is responsible for an area which stretches from Dhahar to Western Part of Bari region of Somalia near Boosaaso.

3) The third and most important battalion has bases along the highway that links Maakhir to Puntland and does stop and search in suspected vehicles.


Picture: Typical Maakhir landscape

  By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
Published: 1/1/200