Climate insecurity likely to trigger more conflicts

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Climate change_Somalia

Climate change effects such as droughts, flash floods, erratic rainfall, disruption to the monsoon seasons, strong winds, cyclones, sandstorms, dust storms and increased temperature are being experienced across Somalia. These effects are affecting livelihoods, and contributing to local grievances and community tensions.

According to a report by the Somali government in 2013, the country experienced a gradual and continuous increase in median annual temperatures between 1991 and 2013. Median daily maximum temperatures range from 30°C to 40°C. The report estimates that temperatures will increase by between 3.2°C and 4.3°C by the end of the 21st Century.

Climatic changes such as drought fuel herder–farmer conflicts, as they compete with one another for fewer resources. In 2019, 53,000 people were forced from their homes due to crop failure and reduced livestock profitability due to drought.

An estimated 2.6 million Somalis were already displaced by other factors like conflict. There were also disastrous droughts between 2000 and 2011 resulting in famine, food insecurity, water scarcity and loss of livelihoods.

These factors combined increase the risks of violent conflict. Many affected believe that they have less to lose from joining armed groups to survive when their livelihoods are threatened.

Studies have not found a direct causal link between climate change and conflict. Rather, researchers argue that climate change may exert an indirect and conditional effect on conflict risk.

In Somalia, only 1.6% of the total land area is cultivated, and 69% is permanent pasture. For Somali farmers, livelihoods and labour cycles are closely linked to harvest seasons. For herders, calving is tied to specific months. And livestock migration is tied to grazing areas during wet seasons. Thus, changing seasons and unpredictable shifts in the weather could have cascading effects on the livelihoods of herders, farmers and entire communities.

Farmers and herders are competing for fewer resources like green grazing grounds and arable land.

Pastoral communities sometimes resort to illicit trade and use of small arms. They do this to protect themselves and their livestock from rustlers. Rustling has been a problem in Somalia for years but it is becoming an even bigger threat. This because more livestock are dying from the weather-related effects of climate change.

These small-scale tensions can increase the risk of broader conflict when exploited by political elites and individuals or groups with more wealth, power or influence. Those with power can use the disruptions of rapid-onset disasters such as drought, floods, or the locust infestations, to augment their control over critical resources.

Climate-related migration can potentially increase tensions between Somali communities. When clans migrate between regions the risk of violence from dominant groups in those regions increases. When violence does occur, ordinary Somalis are then displaced from their homes leaving them without clan and family protection. Those who find themselves in internally displaced person camps become vulnerable to recruitment from armed group.