Development in spite of weak governance
How is it possible to conduct development cooperation projects in Somalia, where central government is weak and the country is divided into a number of small administrative states, based on clan divides? Some answers are provided by the Sahansaho project.
The Sahansaho project has been running for almost four years in Northern and Central Somalia. It aims at combatting desertification in Somalia, a huge environmental challenge that threatens the livelihood and living conditions of the people in Somalia. Furthermore, the joint project model is a way to promote peace in Somalia at the grassroots.
Professor emeritus Olavi Luukkanen from VITRI lectures at the Puntland State University.
The project is a collaborative effort of seven NGOs: in addition to Finnish Somalia Network which administers the project, the project participants comprise three organizations based in Finland, and their counterparts in Somalia. Furthermore, Viikki Tropical Resources Institute, VITRI, at the University of Helsinki acts as an expert partner.
People make the border
The project sites of Sahansaho are Buuhoodle in Northern Somalia; North Galkacyo; and Adado in Central Somalia. Each site has their specific challenges as comes to governance and security. Buuhoodle is situated very close to the Ethiopian border, in the disputed area between Puntland and Somaliland. Since 2012, the area has claimed to be an autonomous region under the name of Khatumo State. The disputes between different administrations, however, have not been solved.
A visit to a farm outside Garowe.
According to the project coordinator, Abdillahi Jama, who works at the Nomadic Development Organization, the Sahansaho project partner in Buuhoodle, registration of the organization in both Puntland and Somaliland may help to officially work in big cities in both areas, but it does not help to get trust across clan borders.
“It is people who make the border. Clan factor is strong in the nomadic communities. In Khatumo and Puntland the people mostly belong to the same clan. Even though there is no clear border between the area of Somaliland and Khatumo, clan conflict prevents us from working among the clans who regard themselves as belonging to Somaliland.”
Local administration is better than no administration
In Adado, the closest focal point to authorities is local Himan and Heeb administration that was formed in 2008. Project coordinator Maryan Abdille Shire explains that in the daily project work they only deal with the local administration, which then further deals with the federal level contacts.
Maryan Abdille Shire works as Sahansaho project coordinator in Adado.
Himan and Heeb administration is central for taking care, for example, of security of both national and international organizations working in the region. According to Maryan, on one hand, the existence of many different administrations in Somalia makes working difficult, but on the other hand, local administration is better than nothing as people may at least govern their own area and have influence on local development.
Adado is a central place for ongoing negotiations for the formation of the new Central Regions administration. One of the hot spots is the role of Puntland and where certain areas, in particular Mudug region, belong in the future.
Puntland State of Somalia was declared in 1998. Galkayo, the third Sahansaho project site is a divided town between Puntland and Galmudug administrations. The Sahansaho project is implemented in the Northern section of the town, under Puntland administration. Even though there is no clear border between Northern and Southern parts of the city, like in Buuhoodle, local people know where the border is.
Building trust and collaboration: annual joint meeting
Once a year all the project partners from Finland and Somalia get together in Somalia. During the four years of the project one meeting has been organized in each project site. Visits to different towns have been enriching experiences to local partners: most of the partners never visited the respective towns earlier.
Project planning is team work.
Trust between different organizations and people coming from different clan backgrounds increases through grassroots collaboration and face-to-face meetings. In each town, the organizing partner is also responsible for the security arrangements. Local communities have warmly welcomed the project activities.
In March 2015 the annual meeting was not organized in the project areas, but in Garowe, the administrative capital of Puntland. This decision made it possible also to the non-Somali project team from Finland to participate in the meeting as the security situation in Garowe has been stable. It was particularly important to get everyone around the same table as the agenda of the meeting was to plan the next 3-year phase of the project.
Text and photos Marja Tiilikainen
Finnish Somalia Network coordinates in Somalia two environmental projects, Sahansaho and Ramaad, which both are organized as collaborative projects that each comprises seven NGOs.
Sahansaho project is implemented in collaboration with Puntland Community; Sool, Sanaag and Hawd Development Association (SSHDA); and Somali Social Development Association (SSDA) in Finland, and their partner organizations in Somalia: Homboboro Relief and Rehabilitation Organization (HRRO), Nomadic Development Organization (NDO) and TARDO.
The project is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in 2012–2015.