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Friday, April 19, 2013

Somali president launches charcoal use reduction programme

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched on Wednesday (April 17th) a charcoal use reduction programme with support from three United Nations agencies.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (right) plants a tree at Villa Somalia in Mogadishu on April 17th in honour of Arbour Day. [Office of the President of Somalia/File]

A quarter of a million tonnes of charcoal is exported to Gulf countries yearly, according to the UN office in Somalia. To produce that amount, 4.4 million trees are felled and 72,900 hectares of land cleared, exacerbating potential devastation from drought and flooding.

Mohamud pledged his government's commitment to completely halt charcoal exports.

"There are laws in this country adopted in early 1970s by the government of Somalia. Also there have been UN resolutions regarding the charcoal ban," Mohamud said in a short statement in honour of Arbour Day. "Despite the current situation, we must enforce these laws."

The Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Environment Programme and the UN Development Programme are supporting the Somali government's efforts to enhance regional co-operation, establish regulatory instruments and enforcement mechanisms, introduce alternative sources of energy, and help charcoal trade beneficiaries to find alternative livelihoods.

Charcoal production accelerates the process of desertification, decreasing the amount of land useable for agriculture or grazing and pushing locals out of areas as they become uninhabitable. Al-Shabaab has also relied on illegal charcoal exports to fund its terrorist activities.

"Let me say this, charcoal export is crime," Mohamud said. "Our land and agricultural heritage depends on our trees. We must all protect our environment and enforce both national and international laws."

The president planted a tree at Villa Somalia and encouraged citizens to plant trees in their gardens and land as well.

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