CGIAR and Somali officials and donors come together at ICRAF to support agricultural development in Somalia

Goats at the Hargeisa Livestock Market selected for export (photo credit: ILRI/Peter Ballantyne).

Agricultural development in Somalia—an important commercial centre in antiquity that in 1991 became stateless and suffered more than two decades of conflict and, more recently, devastating drought—is BACK.

With livestock and cropping the backbone of the country, leaders from 11 of the 15 CGIAR centres discussed with Somali officials last month at ICRAF ways that CGIAR agricultural research could help accelerate and enhance Somalia’s development.

Cattle in quarantine at the Port of Berbera awaiting export to the Middle East (photo credit: ILRI/Peter Ballantyne). 

The topics covered were as diverse as CGIAR and included everything from banana, rice, camel milk and meat production and value chains; to new sorghum varieties that feed both people (grain) and livestock (through the stalks and leaves of the sorghum plants); to climate-smart cassava, cowpea, millet, sesame, sorghum, Irish potatoes and orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes; to farmer-led seed production initiatives; to index-based insurance schemes protecting farmers against drought-related livestock and crop losses; to agroforestry (‘Regreening Africa’) and other land restoration initiatives.

Fat-tailed sheep at the Hargeisa Livestock Market selected for export (photo credit: ILRI/Pater Ballantyne).

The following, among the inputs made by Iain Wright, deputy director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are examples of the many CGIAR research areas with high relevance to Somalia.

Crop residues form the basis of diet for many livestock. The quality of crop stover is critical for livestock feed. ILRI is working to improve the digestibility and quantity of crop stover for farm animals.

We’re also supporting ICRISAT in breeding ‘dual-purpose’ sorghum plants that have enriched grains for human consumption and leaves and stalks for animal consumption.

ILRI also investigates fodder plants that feed livestock. ILRI’s gene bank in Addis Ababa conserves and distributes seeds of 19,000 forage species.

Both ILRI and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are piloting successful livestock and crop ‘index-based’ insurance and the synergies between them make up a potentially high-impact innovation for Somalia.

Goats being transported to Hargeisa Livestock Market by car (photo by ILRI/Nadhem Mtimet), ILRI scientist Nadhem Mtimet with camels for sale at the market (photo by ILRI/Peter Ballantyne) and a fodder saleswoman at the market (photo by ILRI/Peter Ballantyne).

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Somalia Government and its donors, including:

  • Mohamed Muse Adan, director of crop production and extension in Somalia’s ministry of agriculture
  • Mohamed Shirdon, a seed-system expert in Somalia’s ministry of agriculture
  • Mohamed Abdinoor, chief of party of the USAID-supported GEEL program (Growth, Enterprise, Employment and Livelihoods) in Somalia
  • USAID consultant Said Ali

Hooked up by video link were:

  • Somalia’s Federal Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Honourable Said Hussein Lid
  • Ministry staff

Representatives of four donor agencies attended:

  • European Union (EU)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Leaders of 9 CGIAR centres attended:

  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
  • International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
  • International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
  • International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
  • International Potato Center (CIP)
  • International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • World Agroforestry (ICRAF)

And leaders of 2 other CGIAR centres participated remotely:

  • International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)
  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Read the full ICRAF report by Cathy Watson about this meeting: As agriculture resurges in Somalia, CGIAR centres, government, FAO and donors plan to help it thrive, 24 Sep 2019.