Somali Charcoal Disaster
Not only is the country being ravaged by a dreadful war but Somali charcoal is being illegally exported, prompting the country to complain recently to the U.N. At a conference held in its capital Mogadishu representatives from the Somali government called upon all actors to cease the practice immediately.
The export of charcoal from the country was banned by the government and the U.N back in 2012 due to the environmental destruction associated with it and the resultant deepening of the humanitarian crisis already in existence there. Armed militias use the revenue gained from the exports to fund their activities, and the devastation wrought on the environment is astonishing. It is estimated that between 2011 and 2017 over 8 million trees were cut down specifically for charcoal and this has resulted in increased land degradation and flooding.
Both Iran and Iraq have proved to be major transit hubs for the illegal trade – a large consignment was seized in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr in October 2018 – and a U.N report has set out how the product is re-labelled with fake details showing an alternative country of origin before being moved on to other African countries and the the Gulf States – the biggest market. The U.K’s Royal Navy has disrupted transfers of illicit charcoal from larger vessels onto Arab dhows, and estimates that terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab earn as much as $150M a year through the practice.
The problem isn’t limited to the involvement of terror groups, however. The Kenyan military and other government bodies throughout Africa have been allegedly involved in sustaining the demand for Somali charcoal, and corruption is endemic.
It remains to be seen whether the U.N will simply give lip service to the problem or take positive action to stop this trade as it is inevitable that in the not too distant future – one estimate cites 2060 – there will simply be no trees left in Somalia left to cut down.