"We are involved in a number of plans to get alternatives to charcoal and, with the collaboration of the ADRA [Adventist Development and Relief Agency], are encouraging the use of stoves that use less charcoal than ordinary ones," Mohamed Bile, Somaliland's Deputy Minister for Pastoralists and Rural Development, told IRIN.
He said the local organisations, known as the United Livestock Professionals Association, had established an awareness programme and were supplying low-cost gas stoves to the main urban centres in a bid to reduce charcoal use.
Charcoal use in the region has continued to rise, with most urban families using it as the main source of energy for cooking. This has led to greater environmental degradation in the region.
"The environment is already degraded, but we can't do much because of several reasons encountered by the ministry, including lack of trained staff," Bile said.
The licensing of commercial charcoal companies compounded the situation, he added.
"Instead of decreasing charcoal use, the ministry has, inadvertently, encouraged it as it issues licences to the charcoal companies; for example, in Hargeisa there are three or four charcoal companies," Bile said. "Similarly, the ministry collects revenues from the companies..."
The companies sell the charcoal inside the country and export it to the Gulf states.
"We load more than 10 trucks daily, carrying at least 100 sacks of charcoal in Hargeisa, and the trucks come from the western forest of the Hawd area near the border with Ethiopia," Mohamed Abdillahi, an employee of Hargeisa-based Laalays Charcoal Trade Company, said.
Somaliland has no meteorological institution and the only meteorologist, Ali Abdi Odowa, does not work in his profession, he is director-general of the Ministry of Education.
However, Odowa said: "When there are more trees in the country, a lot of evaporation takes place and more rain falls; but if trees are burned, evaporation decreases and less rain is received.
"This contributes to climate change, for example, when the rain system changes, the weather also changes; there may be more rains or less rain. When there is a lot of rain, we need to plan for more protection [of the environment] and when there is less rain, we need to deal with the resulting drought."