Somalia’s unregulated charcoal industry possess a serious environmental threat

Recently, disturbing images of trucks loaded with chopped trees for the charcoal business have sparked public outrage. The circulated images, capturing the transportation of felled trees, only scratch the surface of a much larger issue. This is not the first time that such images have caused an uproar. There have been many occasions where such incidents occurred, making it a recurring theme. This raises pertinent questions about why meaningful action has not been taken in the past. The issue extends beyond negligence and points towards a systemic failure in addressing the root causes of deforestation and the ongoing country-wide reckless environmental degradation.

In the past twenty years, Somalia has faced an alarming escalation in environmental degradation. The rampant deforestation driven by the charcoal industry has resulted in the irreversible destruction of extensive forested landscapes nationwide. Areas once teeming with vital ecosystems, notably in the southern regions, now epitomize the severe consequences of environmental neglect and exploitation.

This environmental crisis, fueled by unabated charcoal industry, is pushing the country toward irreversible ecological devastation. The number of trees being chopped has skyrocketed, driven by the exponential growth of the charcoal industry in both domestic and export trade. Without meaningful interventions, this trend is likely to persist and escalate. Despite the enactment of the Environmental Management Act, there appears to be little progress in curbing this destructive trend.

Business and Political Complicity

The business profit generated from charcoal has witnessed a steady increase over the past decade, marking a substantial rise in financial returns. Recent figures estimate a revenue of more than 15 million. Considering the industrial-scale intensification, this figure will likely double in the coming years. This financial surge has sparked a thriving business scheme, alluring local leaders to view the charcoal industry as a lucrative venture.

The thriving charcoal business owes much of its success to the entwining of economic interests with political leverage. Despite the clear environmental and legal repercussions, numerous local leaders actively participate in the production and distribution of charcoal. This collaboration between business and politics has allowed the industry to flourish, creating a complex network that operates outside the bounds of established environmental laws. As a result, the economic gains of the charcoal trade have become entangled with the political landscape, raising concerns about the long-term consequences for both the safety and the sustainability of the country’s environment.

The disregard for environmental laws in the pursuit of profit has led to a troubling dichotomy within the local leadership. On one hand, the charcoal business presents an attractive financial gain, driving economic interests and providing unregulated business revenue for local leaders. On the other hand, this success is overshadowed by the blatant disregard for environmental sustainability and country’s legal frameworks. The tension between short-term economic gains and long-term environmental consequences creates a challenging ethical quandary for local leaders, who must contend with the consequences of their involvement in a profitable yet ecologically damaging industry.

Ending the status-quo

Somaliais standing on the brink of an environmental crisis that poses not only ecological but also security threats. The government must acknowledge the severity of the situation and take decisive action before reaching a point of no return. The unchecked depletion of forests not only hastens climate change but also contributes to the loss of biodiversity and exacerbates social and economic inequalities.

Unfortunately, despite the existence of the Environmental Management Act, its implementation has been lackluster, allowing environmental degradation to persist. Strengthening and strictly enforcing existing legislation is crucial to curbing rampant deforestation and holding accountable those who contribute to the destruction of country’s ecosystems.

Given the transboundary nature of Somalia’s environmental crisis, international cooperation is imperative. The international community must engage with the Somali government to provide support, resources, and expertise to address the root causes of deforestation. Joint efforts can contribute to sustainable practices, promote reforestation, and help Somalia find a durable solution to ending the charcoal industry.


The alarming state of environmental degradation in Somalia demands urgent attention and joint action. The confluence of business and political interests in the destruction of forests raises ethical, environmental, and security concerns. The government, along with the international community and partners, must work collaboratively to reverse the damage, enforce existing legislation, and ensure a sustainable and resilient future for Somalia’s environment. The time to act is now, before the irreversible consequences of unchecked deforestation become an indelible part of Somalia’s history.

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