Somalia, officially the Republic of Somalia and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under communist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west.


Somalia is a semi-arid country with about 2% arable land. The civil war had a huge impact on the country’s tropical forests by facilitating the production of charcoal with ever-present, recurring, but damaging droughts. From 1971 onwards, a massive tree-planting on a nationwide scale was introduced by the Siad Barre government to halt the progress of advancing sand dunes.

First environmental organizations were ECOTERRA Somalia and then the Somali Ecological Society, which created awareness about environmental concerns and mobilized environmental programmes in all governmental sectors as well as civil society. In 1986, the Wildlife Rescue, Research and Monitoring Centre was established by ECOTERRA Intl. The sensitization led in 1989 to the so-called "Somalia proposal" and a decision by the state parties to CITES, which established for the first time a worldwide ban on the trade of elephant ivory. Later, activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Fatima Jibrell created local initiatives in her home area Buran that organised local communities to protect the rural and coastal habitat.

Jibrell trained a team of young people to organise awareness campaigns about the irreversible damage of unrestricted charcoal production. She also joined the Buran rural institute that formed and organised the Camel Caravan program in which young people loaded tents and equipment on camels to walk for three weeks through a nomadic locale, and educate the people about the careful use of fragile resources, health care, livestock management and peace.

Fatima Jibrell has consistently fought against the burning of charcoal, logging and other man-induced environmental degradation. Her efforts have born fruits to the local communities across Somalia and international recognition when she won the prestigious Environmental Goldman award from San Francisco. Jibrell is also the executive director of Horn Relief and Development Organisation.[1]

Following the massive tsunami of December 2004, there have also emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in the late 1980s, Somalia's long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves which battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste that was illegally dumped in the country by several European firms.

The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies—the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso – and representatives of the then "President" of Somalia, the faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million).

According to reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the waste has resulted in far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobyo and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast—diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP continues that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia but also in the eastern Africa sub-region.[2]

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  1. [1], accessdate = 2007-03-16
  2. Somalia's secret dumps of toxic waste washed ashore by tsunami, accessdate=2009-02-25

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