Somalia: National Gender Profile of Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods – Somalia




Somalia is classified as a low income country. Due to recurrent and protracted conflicts, the country faces severe food insecurity. It has not been able to systematically invest in basic services, agriculture and social safety nets to support livelihoods and reduce vulnerability. The civil war in Somalia destroyed its judicial system, leaving an institutional vacuum which was then filled by the Union of Islamic Courts. Civil unrest and protracted conflicts in the country also generated a high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs): while at the start of 2015, around more than one million people were in need of assistance. Emergency humanitarian assistance, in 2019 2.6 million people were displaced in Somalia and 5.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance. The crisis was compounded in 2020 by the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the desert locus crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Characterized by political instability caused by Islamic militancy and chronic food insecurity, Somalia has a long way to go before achieving economic stability. The institutions and policies necessary for meaningful economic progress are largely absent and a large part of the population lives in extreme poverty. Agriculture is the most important economic sector, with livestock accounting for around 40 percent of total national production and more than half of Somalia’s limited export earnings.

The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) scores are surprisingly low at 0.285 (UNDP 2012b), indicating low life expectancy at birth, low levels of education in terms of both years expected schooling for school-aged children and average years of schooling in the adult population and low per capita income.

Somalia is currently a federal republic made up of six federal states: Somaliland, Puntland, Jubbaland, South West State, Galmudug and Hirshabelle. Somalia is further subdivided into 18 administrative regions, which are further subdivided into districts. This division did not allow the establishment of a functioning central government, and the country’s capacity to deliver essential public goods to its citizens collapsed. The administrative area that faces the most challenges is south-central Somalia, where Al Shabaab (the militant organization) has its stronghold. There are marked differences in the political, social and economic environment in these areas, and this also applies to women’s rights and gender equality.

Somali culture is strongly patriarchal and based on the clan system. Gender inequalities are marked, making the country the fourth worst country in the world for the status of women. Women and girls continue to be considered legal minors in customary law. In addition, they cannot become members of the community or clan institutions, and are therefore excluded from political decision-making to a large extent.

The adversities of the past decades have had a profound impact on gender roles and relations in Somalia. Men have been victims of the conflict and have died, or been injured or have migrated to escape political or economic hardship.

As a result, women have had to take on the burden of managing livelihoods, as well as caring for children, the elderly and the disabled. Women face an unequal playing field and must bear the brunt of decades of poverty, protracted conflict and natural disasters that continue to plague the country. For example, the Desert Locust crisis of 2019 and 2020 negatively impacted agriculture, for which women are primarily responsible, disrupting livelihoods and compromising food security.

Women have few or no reproductive health rights: abortion is only allowed to save the life of the mother, and a caesarean is only performed if the husband and / or the mother give permission. Sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) is endemic in many parts of Somalia, affecting women and children physically and psychologically and with lasting consequences.

Rural areas remain very populated (54.28% of the population) compared to urban areas. In rural areas, women head 12 percent of households.


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