Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A trip through Somaliland

Last week, i went to Sheikh in Somaliland to train students at ISTVS, the IGAD Sheikh technical veterinary school in GIS.

So it gave me in rare opportunity to travel from Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland the Sheikh and discover a country that only few have seen.

Let me take you on my trip and show you the typical landscapes.

As you might already know, Somaliland went trough a terrible drought resulting in a famine. By time we arrived it had rained, and our driver told us that now he has enough feed for his animals. His English was too bad to discover how many animals he has lost. But looking at these empty landscapes, there is very little livestock, for a country that relies for 70% of its GDP on livestock.

the few livestock we have seen

including some camels
It was also the opportunity to cross validate what we had learned through past research on the ground. It was told many time that charcoal production leads to deforestation. We could not find the deforestation with satellite image, but now we have seen the charcoal on the ground.

charcoal sale
We also trained 11 students among which more than half were women. Wanna know more about this check on the virtual GIS lab that we have set up for ISTVS.

the computer lab

The trained students with the principal in the middle
After the training we went to Berbera, the port city with hope to see more about that booming livestock industry. But because there is a livestock export ban, very little is happening.

the empty livestock truck, there is no business because of the export ban
We also passed the Somaliland president on the way, in a huge convoy full of military.
What we think was the presidential car, part of a huge convoy
Yes, Somaliland is probably not the safest country in the world, but it does not feel as dangerous as Nairobi by night. Nevertheless, we got a an armed military body guard with us during the whole trip.

our personal armed body guard
 We hope he and the driver enjoyed the beach too.

On our way back to Hargeisa, we capture some of these fantastic Somali landscapes, thinking about how beautiful this country is, and its potential for tourism wouldn't it be a failed state...

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual trip ! And who knows, maybe one day...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Helping Somaliland is not just about food aid!

I am packing and about to leave to Somaliland, this time not as usual to Hargeisa, but on my way to Sheikh Veterinary school (ISTVS) where I will be teaching an introductory training to geographical information systems (GIS).

We have all recently seen the images from hungry pastoralists in the news, NGO fundraising and facebook campaigns. It is great that people support immediate food help to people who need it most, but it remains just a short term intervention that does not really allow this young country to develop.

This movie shows how the European Union has invested in the veterinary school i am going to in order to build up local skills and competences for the livestock sector, that represents at least 60% of Somalilands' GDP. Now you are probably wondering what GIS has to do with livestock? Many livestock diseases are depending on the biophysical context. Even in small countries like Somaliland not the same interventions are needed in all parts. Also livestock is moving, starting to plan land use, optimize the route and the veterinary post will become more and more important, but no one has the basic skills to do some simple geographical planning.
So we have been asked to give an introductory training next week. So remain posted, more about Somaliland will come soon.