Identifying Climate Adaptive Solutions to Displacement in Somalia: Assessment Report

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Executive Summary

The urbanisation – displacement – climate change nexus

The climate in Somalia is projected to become drier, warmer, more erratic, and more extreme than in recent decades and thus less favourable to crop, livestock, fisheries, and forestry-based livelihood systems. Other likely impacts include reduction of vegetation for grazing and more variable water availability, with grave impacts on livestock herding and livelihoods. Rising sea temperatures and acidification will reduce fish stocks and change their distribution. In a context of slow-onset natural hazard and environmental degradation, households and entire communities may have no other choice but to leave their place of origin in search of a more inhabitable area. This study explores the interaction(s) between climate change, displacement and urbanisation. The objective is to answer a dual question, in the context of the Somali cities of Baidoa and Kismayo: What factors trigger climate-induced migration? What adaptive and transformative solutions may contribute to building resilience amid displacement and climate change – at the community and policy levels?

Somalia has one the highest shares of urban population in the East and Horn of Africa region, with 46% of a total population of 15.2 million living in urban areas. It is currently experiencing a continuous and rapid urbanisation rate (around 4.3% per annum between 2015 and 2020; higher than the African average of 4%). By 2040, the urban population is estimated to grow to almost 60% of the total and expected to triple by 2050. Mogadishu (2.4 million people) and Hargeisa (1.2 million people) host half of this urban population, but other socioeconomic hubs and secondary cities also record a rapid demographic growth that is predicated to continue.

Exacerbated climate conditions, with a combination of slow and sudden onset events, have the effect of deteriorating food security. Traditional livelihood practices of rural communities and nomadic pastoralists are highly reliant on regular and predictable rainfall to sustain their crops or cattle, camels, goats and sheep, creating an unsustainable situation where displacement remains the only option. The consequence, according to the World Bank, is that close to three-quarters of Somalia’s 2.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in urban centres ‘in disconnected pockets outside city limits, constraining their access to services and creating poverty traps.’

However, while policymakers, practitioners, and communities often focus on immediate adaptive mechanisms and temporary solutions, this report advocates for a broader perspective, by considering a climate double-bind: 1) On the one hand, the consequences of climate change contribute to both the slow-onset degradation of natural and human ecosystems and also accelerate internal displacement in Somalia; 2) On the other, the subsequent rapid and unplanned urbanisation causes irreversible detrimental impacts on urban areas. What adaptive solutions may contribute to building resilience amid displacement and climate change?

Baidoa and Kismayo are fast-growing cities in Southern Somalia, and key locations of settlement for IDPs from rural areas. IDPs are a highly vulnerable group, with concerns over forced eviction, housing, land and property (HLP), as well as water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) co-existing with other protection risks – whether physical, material or legal safety. Baidoa received the largest number of drought displaced persons in 2017, with IDPs living either on unplanned sites, settlements or joining the ranks of the urban poor in this state and district capital. Under the leadership of its mayor, and support from a range of stakeholders, Baidoa Municipality has, in the last five years, focused on city/urban planning, sustainable urban development and housing, linked with continental African Union priorities on the protection of IDPs. The number of arrivals is lower in Kismayo than in other urban locations of Southern Somalia, but represents a significant proportion of its population. Displacement situations are protracted with both cyclical and chronic trends. Over the last decades, IDPs have settled in Kismayo on government-owned properties, raising concerns over land property issues, as well as poor living and sanitation conditions.

To ensure a robust methodology on such a complex issue, the research team used both quantitative and qualitative data collection tools, including an extensive desk review, a survey of 625 IDP and host community households, semi-structured interviews (SSIs), focus group discussions (FGDs), community observations, and key informant interviews (KIIs). The team conducted fieldwork in April and May 2020, in the urban areas of Calanley and Dalxiiska (Kismayo) as well as Barwaaqo and Towfiiq (Baidoa). Rural areas of origin were also assessed in Jubaland (Bulabartire) and South West State (Reebay). The full report details the methodology.

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