Panellist Statement: H.E. Abdullahi Sheikh Ali, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MOPIC), Federal Government of Somalia
FAO Director-General, Excellencies, Ambassadors, distinguished fellow panelists, ladies and gentlemen.
His Excellency Abdi Aynte, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of the Federal Government of Somalia is unable to attend today’s event but I am delighted to have been asked to represent him for this exciting and important discussion.
Total cereal production in Somalia in 1988 – three years before the outbreak of conflict in 1991, and almost thirty years ago – was two times what it was in 2015. I should know, because I was the Acting Director-General in the Ministry of Agriculture at that time.
The causes of the conflict that ravaged my country are long and complex. Instead, I will focus on the path my Government and the people of Somalia are taking to build enduring and lasting peace, growth and stability.
Over 40% of Somali’s people survive with only one meal a day. That’s almost 5 million people of a population of a little over 12 million hungry. Whilst the most acute hunger is concentrated amongst the camps that house the 10% of the Somalia population that are internally displaced – just over a million men, women and children – hunger leaves no part of Somalia untouched, whether urban and rural, in particular those areas where most food is grown and livestock raised. The recent drought in the North of the country has shown how quickly already fragile livelihoods can be threatened by poor rains.
But as I said, thirty years ago Somalia was able to grow more than twice the food it grows today. And that is without the 30 years of technological innovation, advance and technical know-how that has accumulated since then. The potential for massive increases in food production, and the resultant gains in food security are not theory or dreams. We know that they can be achieved.
So, what are we doing about it, and what are the lessons that other countries and peacebuilding practitioners can learn from Somalia?
Later this year the Government will launch the National Development Plan, the first document of its type for more than 30 years. I have accompanied its preparation from the very first day. The NDP as it is known, provides a comprehensive strategy and action plan for the next three years. A plan that will kick-start development in Somalia and provide the foundations for lasting growth, stability and poverty reduction.
The productive sectors – in particular, agriculture, livestock and fisheries – lie at the heart of the Plan. Why? More than three quarters of the working population are actively engaged in the livestock and agriculture sectors, they contribute a similar amount to the GDP and most importantly, we know that they are the best drivers for taking our country forward quickly and effectively. Other sectors are important too, including energy, water, sanitation, education, health etc. But the first big emphasis is on the productive sectors. We have the longest coastline in Africa – more than 3000km. We have many millions of hectares of land that could be cultivated and almost 50 million livestock.
The potential for rapid growth is strong and will deliver quick and visible results that will have a direct impact on people’s lives. People need to see and experience the benefits of political and economic progress quickly. Putting food in people’s stomachs and money in people’s pockets is a really good way to cement growth and stability.
Investing in productive infrastructure is key. It is perhaps the best and quickest way to deliver big increases in food supply. Strengthening value chains will increase availability throughout the country. Investing in markets will improve trade. And we mustn’t think just about agriculture. My family are pastoralists. Some of the biggest and most important gains we have seen in recent years have been in the livestock sector. Animal disease outbreaks in the 1990’s led to a total export ban on Somalia livestock. This ban was lifted in 2009 following an intensive animal vaccination programme led by FAO, a programme that continues today with more than 120 million animals vaccinated in the last 5 years. Whereas in 2008, not a single animal was exported, last year we saw more than 5.3 million live animal exports, generating more than a third of a billion dollars in export earnings. Vaccinations and water points have strengthened livelihoods but have also been a driver for national economic growth.
Improved production and income earning potential diverts farmers, livestock owners and fishermen away from conflict and towards a far better life.
So, these are some of the first lessons.
Lesson 1 – as soon as you can, invest in the productive sectors. These will help feed your population and put cash in their pockets and it will divert people away from conflict.
Lesson 2 – early investment in the productive sectors, including infrastructure investment, generates benefits and results that reach the poor, hungry and most vulnerable directly and quickly.
Lesson 3 – be as quick as possible to put in place longer-term development plans and priorities. Even tho’ humanitarian needs continue in Somalia – and will do so for some time to come – it is important to put in place the architecture for long-term development planning as early as possible. The NDP does this.
Let me go on a little further, to draw out some more lessons.
Somalia is a young country, many say the youngest in the world, with more than 70% of the population under the age of 30. Youths without hope of a future are vulnerable to conflict and insecurity. Agriculture, fisheries and livestock can all provide employment, income, opportunity and hope for young people in Somalia today. This is why FAO’s work to engage young people in fishing for example, is so important. It gives them a future and at the same time reduces the risks of them becoming involved in less productive and constructive activities. It also increases the supply of protein-rich food and the development of markets. After all, Somalia’s youth is our future. We need to invest in them, to harness their spirit, energy, creativity and dynamism to help build Somalia’s future.
This then is a fourth lesson. Investing in youth is an investment in long-term peace, stability and growth.
Somalia has benefitted from an extraordinary engagement from our international friends and partners. The government, Member States and the UN came together to forge and implement the New Deal Compact. This provided a vital platform for bringing growth, stability and government to our country after so many years of conflict. The National Development Plan – the NDP – represents an important step-forward. It is a Somali-owned and Somali-led process. This is really important. Whilst our international partners remain as important as ever – and none more so than the EU, the US, the UK, the World Bank, the African Development Bank when we talk about investment in the productive sectors – and of course, the UN, most obviously FAO, but also WFP, UNICEF, UNDP and others – the NDP puts government back in the driving seat after so many years. The NDP has been built around an extraordinary level of consultation across the whole country, involving all groups. The process is almost as important as the final product. It has been a vehicle for giving responsibility for development back to the people and government of Somalia.
This then, is my fifth and final lesson. To be enduring, peace and food security must be built on a process that is government led and owned by all groups within society.