Somalia’s Banana Affair(1)

After the Somali civil war, Somalia’s economy rapidly simplified to a livestock state. Whereby a livestock state is one which primarily relies on the proliferation and eventual auctioning of livestock, essentially a one-trick camel.

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Somalia's’ product exports

This heavy reliance on livestock has its roots in Somalia’s ancient nomadic history. Somali nomads would travel throughout the country feeding their herds of camels for centuries and only occasionally settling in cities. This entwined relationship between Somali culture and camels yielded 46 different words for camel in Somali.

However, due to human-led climate change, the nomadic way of life has become unsustainable. Thus, for us Somalis to grow as a nation we must relegate our nomadic way of life to our history books.

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Droughts within Somalia

Banana craze

Even with the heavy reliance on livestock, Southern Somalia has an extensive history of agricultural development. Somali farmers primarily relied on the Ethiopian based Shebelle and Jubba river. Unfortunately, both rivers were prone to flash floods causing frequent produce destruction.

In the 1970s the socialist junta nationalized the land within the country and encouraged the development of commercials crops such as bananas and sugar cane. At its peak, the banana industry cultivated 30,000 acres resulting in a 96 million dollar banana exporting market and 120 thousand labor market.

Contrastly Somalia currently plant’s less than 14 percent of this, due to the insecurity, lack of monetary loans, and poor infrastructure. None the less, Somalia has the potential to create a free market based burgeoning banana market. In this piece, I will discuss some solutions governments, companies, and farm owners can implement to increase banana production.

Refrigeration:

Bananas rapidly deteriorate after-ripening and consequently crop death represents a significant liability to mass banana production and exportation. Thus farmers should develop a cooled shared insulated hanger to increase the overall profit for each farmer. Unfortunately, large scale cooling through electricity is difficult due to the electricity costs within Somalia.

One idea is the importation of ice by farmers, said ice can then be placed within boxes inside the insulated hanger. Said boxes will then be used to store bananas and covered with pesticides to remove any lingering pests. Note that any entrepreneur could also spend his time developing the hanger and offer surrounding farmers storage for a fee.

Pesticides:

Current bananas have been cross-bred to maximize sugar content and pulpiness, thus it attracts a host of pests such as locus, caterpillars, and worms. The following are some pesticides widely used in banana production:

  1. Chlorpyrifos
  2. Thiabendazole
  3. Azoxystrobin
  4. Imidacloprid

Note, any widespread use of pesticides must be carefully monitored to reduce environmental destruction and for worker safety.

Mechanization:

Since the 19th century, the agricultural industry has taken advantage of the efficiency brought forth through the mechanization of labor. Due to the nature of banana production, several methods can be incorporated to allow for a more efficient production system.

  1. Pesticide planes to cover the crops.
  2. Insulated trucking system for delivery
  3. Tractors with pallets to reduce trips back to dropping area
  4. Automatic knife sharpening

Quality Assurance Programs:

After the harvesting of bananas, one way for Somali farmers to increase their funds is to export their goods to other nations. However, for a continued and healthy relationship between farmers and consumers quality assurance/control programs should be enacted. The following are some simple procedures to make sure that the bananas are appropriate for human consumption:

  1. Statistically sound temperature check for each load ( > 14 degrees in the air)
  2. Pulp temperature should be analyzed and each load should have a cucumber-like smell.
  3. Visual checks to ensure a common banana shape.
  4. Skin and latex analysis.
  5. Development of a proper ripening plan

Agronomists:

Finally, each farm as a whole could benefit from an agronomist who would analyze the farm situation and compile a list of the most efficient practices to maximize banana production.

Conclusion:

Due to Somalia’s geographic position, it is perfect for banana production. Furthermore, the labor intensiveness of banana production would be a perfect generator of work for the youth within Somalia. It would also have a positive impact on the overall economy of Somalia as exports would increase.

In further pieces, we will discuss different methods to diversify the Somali export market.

Written by

A Somali physicist, electrical engineer, Software enthusiast, and political enthusiast.

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