Journal Publications

A Framework for National Assessment of Land Degradation in the Drylands: A Case Study of Somalia
Land degradation is a gradual, negative environmental process that is accelerated by human activities. Its gradual nature allows degradation to proceed unnoticed, thus reducing the likelihood of appropriate and timely control action. Presently, there are few practical frameworks to help countries design national strategies and policies for its control. The study presented here developed a framework for the national assessment of land degradation. This framework is envisaged to support governments in formulating policies on land degradation. It uses time-series remote sensing data to identify the rate and extent of land degradation, local experts to identify prevalent degradation types and drivers of the degradation and field observations to validate the overall assessment. Its simplicity, use of freely downloadable input data and self-triangulation of the assessment methods make it suitable for rapid assessment of land degradation on a national scale. It was tested in Somalia, where it exhibited accuracy greater than 60 per cent when assessing land degradation. This framework is relevant for designing national strategies and policies that address land degradation and provides an opportunity for accurate identification of areas to target with comprehensive local assessment. Testing of the framework in Somalia showed that about one-third of the country was degraded because of loss of vegetation cover, topsoil loss and to the decline of soil moisture. Overgrazing, excessive tree cutting and poor agronomic practices in agricultural areas were identified as the primary drivers of the country’s land degradation. These drivers are encouraged by the prevailing communal land tenure practices, poor governance and civil war. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Mapping Charcoal Driven Forest Degradation during the Main Period of Al-Shabaab Control in Southern Somalia
Following more than 20 years of civil unrest, environmental information for Southern Somalia is scarce while there is clear evidence that the war economy fueled by the conflict is rapidly depleting the country's natural resources and especially the woody biomass. Wood charcoal production is one of the most relevant businesses supporting war regimes such as the extreme Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which has ruled in Southern Somalia from 2006 to 2012 and is still occupying large areas. In this study, we map and quantify the tree loss suffered by the region due to the rapid increase in illegal charcoal production and export over recent years. Very high-resolution (VHR) satellite imagery is used to visually count charcoal production sites as a proxy of tree loss in two sample areas within the lower Juba region of Southern Somalia. The image interpretation allows mapping the charcoal production sites as well as estimating tree loss rates above 7% over 5 years. The results are crucial for understanding the exact dimension and effects of the loss of woody biomass and for planning conservation and recovery interventions in the concerned area.
Impacts of Rising Water Demands in the Juba and Shabelle River Basins on Water Availability in South Somalia
Somalia has frequently been affected by droughts, famines and water-related humanitarian crises. Water is scarce and the only perennial streams, the Juba and Shabelle rivers, are transboundary with river flows mainly originating from the Ethiopian highlands. In both riparian countries water demands are projected to increase. This paper reveals the impact of rising regional water abstractions on stream flows by illustrating sectoral demands and joining them into scenarios of medium and high population and economic growth. These scenarios are associated to the time horizons of 2035 and 2055 respectively. The scenarios disclose alarming trends especially for the Shabelle River: In the medium and high growth scenarios, water demands surpass the available river flows by 200 and 3500 hm3, respectively. The calculated deficits partly derive from conflicting assumptions about river flows by the two main riparian countries, an obstacle to any integrated planning efforts and sustained regional development.