Land degradation is one of the most serious environmental challenges facing Somalia. Approximately 70% of the Somali population are dependent on natural resources for their pastoralist and agricultural livelihoods. But land degradation is adversely affecting the productivity of both pastoralism and agriculture, which are the backbone of Somalia’s economy [1]. As such, land degradation is recognised as a major impediment to the country’s economic development [2].

Land degradation is a major threat to ecosystem functioning in Somalia. According to the country’s Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Process (LDN TSP), between 2000 and 2015, total degraded land was estimated at 147,704 km², representing 26.7% of the total land area of Somalia. The country has suffered serious environmental degradation due to a combination of factors including soil erosion, biological degradation, and gully erosion, among others. Although Somalia experiences different types of degradation, wind erosion was a dominant cause of loss of topsoil in the north; aridification was dominant in the south and loss of vegetation prevalent in southern and central Somalia. However, loss of topsoil by water erosion covered the largest area of Somalia and could be said to be the most widespread type of land degradation in the country. Overall, approximately 27.5% of the land area in Somalia is considered degraded, as outlined in the LDN TSP Country Report [2].

In the last two decades, land degradation has continued at an alarming and increasing rate in Somalia. This land degradation mainly results from unsustainable land use practises including overgrazing, charcoal production, and deforestation. However, drought also plays a major role, as it renders land more susceptible to soil erosion. Consequently, frequent droughts in the country have reduced the capacity of the land to support plant and animal life because of increased soil erosion, reduced soil moisture retention, and declining soil fertility levels [3]. As a result, land degradation, particularly caused by drought, has severely impacted agricultural production in the country, the main driver of Somalia’s economy. The impact of drought on the agriculture and livestock sectors can be considered as two-fold; losses in terms of crop production failures, and livestock and livestock-related products; and damages caused to crops and from deceased livestock [2]. Between November 2016 and June 2017, as reported in Somalia’s Drought Impact & Needs Assessment, losses in crop production and livestock and livestock-related products were estimated at USD 1.7 billion, while damages caused to crops and from deceased livestock were estimated at USD 350.7 million [4].

Land for the people of Somalia is a fundamental resource for producing food and preserving biodiversity. However, Somalia’s land degradation rate is one of the highest among its neighbouring countries. Given that, without any degradation effects, Somalia’s land has been valued at US$ 222.3 billion, it is crucial for Somalia to promote sustainable natural capital management and to restore its land productivity to generate benefits for future generations [5].


The main drivers contributing to land degradation in Somalia are overgrazing, non-sustainable agriculture, overexploitation of forests and woodlands, and resettlement and urbanization, among others. Somalia’s population is increasing, thus putting tremendous pressure on the country’s existing resources. This has led to the expansion of agricultural land, destruction of forest covers, and minimal time for natural regeneration of soil fertility. Forests are being cut down for charcoal and firewood, as traditional biomass fuels (mainly firewood, charcoal, and inefficient fuels) account for 82% of the country’s total energy consumption [2]. The cost of deforestation and land degradation associated with charcoal production alone has been estimated at US$216 million [4], [5].

The leading indirect causes of land degradation in Somalia are: increasing livestock and human population, lack of appropriate policies and enforcement, poverty and poor implementation of policies [2].


Key policies and governance approach

To address the challenge of land degradation in the country, Somalia acceded to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 2002. As its first commitment under the UNCCD, the Federal Republic of Somalia produced the Somali National Action Programme (NAP) in 2016, through wide-ranging consultations held in different parts of the country. This NAP represents the country’s collective effort towards sustainable land management and the integrated management of land – both the resources that lie on its surface and those in its subsoil. The NAP identifies priority action areas and sets out an implementation plan to reverse desertification and land degradation in the country, as well as to mitigate the effects of drought [1].  

Somalia has also developed the National Drought Plan for Somalia (2020) which aims to put in a place a system and mechanism, whereby the Government of Somalia and relevant stakeholders can operate to mitigate the broad array and frequent impact of droughts to enable the establishment of a resilient society that can withstand drought shocks. The National Drought Action Plan focuses on the following priority strategic interventions: I). Drought Monitoring and Prediction; II). Drought Impact assessment; III). Drought Preparedness through sustainable use of Water, Land and Natural resources; and IV). Improving Emergency Drought Response. The Plan also covers several cross-cutting issues including education and awareness, gender, governance, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction, research, and coordination [3].  

Additionally, Somalia is actively engaged in the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP). Somalia has set LDN targets at the national scale with the ambition of becoming a Land Degradation Neutral country by 2030. Sub-national LDN targets have also been set to help achieve a neutral or improved state, allowing Somalia to focus on areas that have been identified as major “hot spots” and prioritize areas in achieving LDN [2]. Some of the National Voluntary LDN Targets (2020) include: (i) achievement of LDN by 2030 as compared to baseline 2015 (no net loss) and an improvement of an additional 10% of the territory by 2030; (ii) increase of national forest cover from 10.14% (2015) to 10.20% (2022) and to maintain 30% forest cover by 2030, through agroforestry and sustainable land management; (iii) reduced consumption of biomass energy by half; (iv) reduced soil erosion; (v) reduced conversion of forests and wetlands into other uses; and (vi) restoration and increase of land productivity [6], [7].

Further, several other policies, laws and regulations deal with land-related aspects in Somalia, as outlined in the country’s LDN TSP Country Report. Included are those related to land tenure, land use and land cover, agriculture, environment, climate change, infrastructure development, water and forest resources management, and mining [2].

Successes and remaining challenges

Somalia still faces several challenges related to achieving the sustainable management of its land, including a weak policy and legislative environment; weak institutional and technical capacity of the Ministry of Environment, which is mandated to undertake all pastoral and environmentally related issues; the unwillingness of international NGOs and UN-agencies to fund government institutions due to unclear international legal status; declining donor support; lack of policy or legislation, procedures or guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); little environmental coordination at policy and regulatory levels; overlapping government structures with regard to environmental management; weak and understaffed public sector institutions; and a lack of political will and commitment for protecting the environment, for instance, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is poorly funded [2].

A lack of financial resources is one of the most significant challenges that Somalia faces towards achieving its LDN targets. While Somalia has made significant steps toward the protection of the environment and the sustainable management of its land, limited financial resources make Somalia dependent on foreign aid and donor priorities. Moving forward, in order to achieve the country’s LDN targets, Somali must ensure that planning efforts are appropriately integrated into the country’s budgetary process [2].

Initiatives and Development Plans

Regreening Africa is an ambitious five-year project (2017-2023) that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households, and across one million hectares in eight African countries, including Somalia. By incorporating trees into croplands, communal lands and pastoral areas, regreening efforts make it possible to reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes [8].

Goals and Ambitions

Within the framework of AFR100, Somalia aims to restore 1.5 million hectares of degraded land [9].



  • There is a need to make funds available for the implementation of LDN transformative projects. Somalia should obtain funds through national ministerial budgets and other new mechanisms such as taxes, penalties, and payment for ecosystem services.
  • There are also numerous other financing opportunities for LDN transformative projects and programmes such as Global Environment Facility (GEF), Adaptation Fund, Green Climate Fund (GCF), Climate Investment Funds (CIF), LDN Fund, International Development Association (IDA), Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), and International Development Finance Club.
  • A National Drought Fund should be established [3].
  • Review current legislation and develop new legislation, especially those addressing the LDN concept.
  • There is also a need to review or replace policies that exacerbate land degradation and encourage those that promote land productivity, secure tenure rights and strengthen governance and stakeholder participation in integrated land use planning.
  • Somalia needs to establish Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) policy or legislation, procedures or guidelines. There are established global, regional or national Environmental Assessment networks such as the Eastern Africa Association for Impact Assessment (EAAIA) that could assist Somalia in the establishment of such systems.
  • There is the need to build the capacities of the different relevant ministries.
  • Control developmental activities to ensure they adhere to environmental regulations and create an environmental police department to enforce environmental regulations.
  • Institute a land degradation monitoring system that would provide continuous assessments, map the soil resources, and monitor the extent of land degradation in the country.
  • The private sector, civil society/NGOs and grass-root communities should also be engaged in biodiversity and land management.
  • The community should be actively involved in not only identifying challenges but also coming up with solutions related to land use.
  • Promote training and awareness raising initiatives and the production of gender-sensitive awareness materials.
  • Even though the LDN Target setting process helped identify various hotspots, there is a need to carry out further assessment of the selected hotspot areas to understand their historical and current drivers behind land degradation dynamics using additional data sources, indicators, consultation visits, and field assessments.
  • Sustainable farming methods such as integrated forest management, agroforestry, and land husbandry and crop production will help the country become resilient to climate change.

[1] United Nations Development Programme Somalia (2016). Somalia National Action Programme for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

[2] The Federal Republic of Somalia (2020). Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Process in Somalia Country Report.

[3] The Federal Republic of Somalia (2020). NATIONAL DROUGHT PLAN FOR SOMALIA.

[4] Federal Government of Somalia, the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank (2018). Somalia Drought Impact & Needs Assessment: VOLUME I Synthesis Report.

[5] World Bank. 2020. Somalia Country Environmental Analysis; Somalia Country Environmental Analysis : Diagnostic Study on Trends and Threats for Environmental and Natural Resources Challenges. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.

[6] Federal Government of Somalia (2022). Somalia’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Framework.

[7] Directorate of Environment, Office of the Prime Minister, The Federal Republic of Somalia (2020). National Voluntary Land Degradation Neutrality Targets.

[8] World Agroforestry (2022). Reversing Land Degradation in Africa by Scaling-up Evergreen Agriculture (Regreening Africa). [Online]. Available: