East Golis Frankincens, Goat and Fishing Livelihood Zone, Baseline Report

Issued: May 18, 2016

In November 2012, the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) conducted a baseline assessment in the East-Golis-Frankincense, Goats and Fishing livelihood zone. The purpose of the exercise was to assess the main sources of food and income in East-Golis-Frankincense, Goats and Fishing livelihood zone during the reference year; and to measure the extent, depth, and the underlying causes of vulnerability to livelihoods and food insecurity in this livelihood zone, including the identification of indicators for early warning monitoring.

Livelihood Zone Description: 
The East Golis Frankincense, Goats and Fishing Zone covers an area which includes the districts of Calula, Iskushuban, Qandala and Bosasso in northern Bari region, and Las Qorey, Ceerigaabo and Ceel Afweyne districts in northern Sanaag region. The zone is characterized by rugged terrain as it contains the central and eastern sections of the Golis mountain range, a succession of barren mountain peaks incised by valleys and dry seasonal rivers and ravines. The topography gently slopes towards Calula, before flattening towards the Gulf of Aden. The zone is characterized by hills and mountain ridges with alluvial plains to the west of Bosasso and Qandala and deltas and coastal plains in Calula. The ecology of the zone is semi-desert and the basis of the economy is frankincense trade, livestock rearing and fishing. The total estimated population for the livelihood zone is 225,750 (UNFPA 2014). This livelihood is adjacent to Northern Inland Pastoral – Goat and Sheep livelihood zone in the South; the Indian Ocean and Coastal Deeh livelihood Zone in the North and East and West-Golis livelihood zone in the West. 

The zone is characterized by rugged terrain and mountain ranges that are incised by dry seasonal rivers and ravines. The topography is mainly undulating with highly eroded hillsides, barren mountain peaks, shoulders, ridges, saddles and valleys. The slope in the livelihood zone is steep (90-160) in the area around Erigavo, generally moderate (50-90) to very steep (160-270) near the Golis mountains, gentle slopes towards Alula, before flattening towards the Gulf of Aden. The morphology is descriptive of hills and mountain foot ridges with alluvial plains to the west of Bossaso and Qandala while deltas and coastal plains occur in Alula. 

The soils in the livelihood zone are mainly composed of four types: (a) Calcisols and Gypsisols (these soils have low moisture and low nutrient availability); (b) Leptososl, Regososls and and Calcisols (which are characterized by stoniness, limited root depth and low moisture availability and are found around Bossaso); (c) Solonchak and Solonetz (these have excess salts, poor drainage and low nutrient availability and are predominant in northern Ceerigaabo; and (d) Luvisols, Nitisols, Cambisosl and Regosols (found along the slopes of the Golis mountains). Natural springs are common in the mountainous regions where some impermeable rock outcrops intersect the groundwater tables. Sub-surface flows along the streams (toggas) and groundwater available in springs (mountainous areas) and in shallow and deep aquifers are an important source of water for human and livestock use.

Main Findings
Wealth breakdown: Households in East Golis livelihood zone are categorized into: Poor (35%), Middle (50%) and Better-off (15%) on the basis of their access to livelihood assets, family structure and other survival options open to them. Production of frankincense and livestock rearing are the main means of livelihoods in the East Golis livelihood zone, although fishing is also practiced by a significant proportion of the population. All wealth groups are involved to varying degrees in frankincense production and livestock rearing. The Poor produce 280- 300kg of frankincense from one Kob plot of land, and own about 40-50 goat/sheep; the Middle wealth group produce about 350-500kg of frankincense from one Jaan plot of land and typically own70-90 goat/Sheep and 3-4 camel, while the Better-off cultivate Jaan weyn plot of land to produce 500-600kg of frankincense and typically own 135-155 goat/sheep and 5-9 camels. 

In the reference year, the number of goat/sheep increased by five percent across all wealth groups at the end of the reference year on average while camel herd size increased by 12 percent to 17 percent for the Middle and Better-off wealth groups, respectively.

The livelihood zone receives bimodal rainfall during Gu (April-June) and Deyr (October-December) seasons. Rainfall levels average 130-150 mm per year (although less in the coastal areas), divided into two rainy seasons, like is the case for the majority of the country. Both rainy seasons contribute significantly to the renovation of pasturelands, especially in the mountain areas. The Gu rains are most significant in April and May (see Figure 2), while September is usually the month with the highest deyr rainfall levels. The zone enjoys a more moderate climate compared to most Somali regions and features thick forests, especially on the steeper northern slope of the Golis mountain range, which receives considerable rainfall from the monsoon weather systems.

Between March and August, temperatures increase making the area hot. During the dry Hagaa (July-August) season, strong and dry winds blow across the livelihood zone. From September to February, temperatures drop making it a cooler period. Around December-February period, xays rains are received along the coast and around the Golis Mountains, where the highest peak reaches 2 270 m above sea level. Mean annual temperatures range between 24oC and 28oC in the areas around Bossaso and Alula, but reduces in the Golis mountains to between 20oC and 24oC. Relative humidity in the Bossaso-Alula area is higher than 65 percent and ranges between 55- 65 percent in Ceel Afweyne-Erigavo area.

The movement of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in a southward direction influences the winds to blow from the north east, carrying with it moisture from the Indian Ocean. This influences the onset of the Gu and Deyr seasons. Moreover, the proximity of the livelihood zone to the Indian Ocean also influences the onset and cessation of rainfall, which in turn has implications for water and pasture availability. 

In the reference year, the Gu (April-June) rains started in April and peaked in May. However, unlike other parts of Somalia, the Deyr rains commenced in September (earlier than normal), peaked in October and ceased in November As a consequence, medium to high pasture conditions peaked in May-July and September-December, while water was available almost throughout the reference year, except in February-March (Jilaal) and August (Hagaa) where low water availability was experienced.

Livelihood Strategies
Food Sources: Almost all Poor households obtain their food through market purchases, with insignificant portion coming from own livestock products. The amount of cereals purchased annually is 756kg (rice, wheat flour and pasta). Cereal staples meet 50 percent of the total calorie needs among Poor households. Non-staple food including sugar (7.5 bags of 50kg), vegetable oil (24 tins – of 3 liters each) and 40kg of purchased dates also contribute to a significant portion (38%) of their basic energy needs. Poor households obtain some additional energy (5%) from own milk/meat consumption and food aid (5%). As a result, Poor households experienced a slim deficit (3%) in terms of meeting their minimum energy dietary requirement during the reference year. This slim deficit could have been covered by unquantified foods sources including fish.

The Middle and Better-off households also rely heavily on market purchase for food and non-food items. They do not have difficulty in meeting their minimum energy requirements. They were able to obtain 104 % and 113%, respectively, of their energy requirement during the reference year. This is derived from the consumption of 1 286 kg of cereals and non-cereal foods for Middle, whereas the Better-off managed to obtain 1320kg of cereals and 746kg of non-cereals.. These represent s 96 percent and 104 percent, respectively, of the minimum energy requirement for their household members, respectively from these sources. Fresh milk/meat consumption contributed 11 percent for Middle and 13 percent for Better-off households in terms of their minimum energy requirement.

Sources of Income: The primary income for all wealth groups in East Golis livelihood zone is frankincense, followed by livestock and livestock product sales. In addition, fishing is also a main source of income for communities living close to Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Annual income for the Poor households amounted to approximately Sosh 44,000,000. Frankincense products contributed about 72 percent of the total, (including income earned from labor related to frankincense activities. Livestock/livestock product sales contributed about 21 percent and, additional income from loans in cash, gifts from relatives and traders amounted to 7 percent of total household income for Poor households in the reference year. Both middle and Better-off wealth groups acquire more income (61% and 57%, respectively) from frankincense, followed by income from livestock/livestock product sales (35% and 43%, respectively). The Middle and Better-off households have further access to cash loan/credit, which contribute an additional 4 percent to their total annual income.

Expenditure patterns: The Poor wealth group spends most of annual income on food and non-food purchase. About 70 percent of the Poor households’ annual income is spent on food (39% on staple and 31% on non-staple food).This leaves only a limited portion of their income to be spent on other essential items that are vital for their livelihood sustainability and protection. The Middle and Better-off spent a relatively smaller portion of their income (62% and 60%, respectively) on food respectively, and they spend more on water and inputs compared to the Poor. The proportion of total income spent on staple food purchases decreases across the wealth groups (representing 39 %, 33% and 33%, respectively, of total household expenditure for the Poor, Middle and Better-off wealth groups). 

The main hazards and constraints that affect the local economy of the East Golis livelihood zone are listed below:

  • Drought/weather shocks: Mainly affects frankincense production and aggravates livestock conditions and value. Drought effects also include increase in water trucking, migration and family split as households endeavor to cope and save their livestock assets.
  • Storms and strong winds: these sometimes lead frankincense trees to fall and dry up. 
  • Termites and other parasites, which affect tree health, thus reducing productivity and incomes.
  • Overexploitation of the trees due to over tapping and not respecting the intervals between harvests. This significantly reduces the yield of the Frankincense. 
  • Livestock diseases: animal disease outbreaks follow drought in negatively impacting livelihoods and are frequent especially during the dry season. The most common diseases in this area are endo-ectoparasits, Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) and Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) that affects goats. Livestock diseases usually result in movement bans being imposed and this further affects household incomes from sale of livestock. The 2000 – 2009 livestock ban to contain the spread of livestock diseases into the Gulf States is a case in point.
  • Insecurity as a result of conflict among different clans within the livelihood zone as well as the added threat of terrorist groups arriving from the south of the country. 

Livelihood Assets: Among the five livelihood capitals, livestock (Goats/Sheep), natural resources, as well as social support are the main assets that support livelihood strategies for all wealth groups in East Golis livelihood zone. Goats and sheep are the predominant species reared and are the second most important assets of wealth after the frankincense. The Poor households own 40 - 50 goat/sheep, while Middle and Better-off wealth groups have 70- 90 and 130-150 goat/sheep, respectively. These important assets can be readily liquidated to meet daily household needs, and provide own milk/meat consumption to meet dietary needs. 

In General, vegetation is scarce and less diversified in East Golis livelihood zone. It consists of evergreen trees, shrubs, and acacia trees found along the banks of dry streams. Frankincense grows widely in the zone, in the steep slopes along the escarpments and cliffs. Permanent water sources are available mainly along the coastal belt of red sea and springs in some parts of mountainous areas. However, berkads and ephemeral seasonal catchments are common sources in many parts of the area. In bad years (i.e. years of drought or poor rainfall), most livestock species migrate to Sool and coastal areas. 

During the beginning of the reference year, the nutrition status of the population was Critical (Global Acute Malnutrition-GAM rate of 15.2 %); with an estimated 13 000 people (15 % of the population) classified as being in acute food security Crisis (IPC Phases 3). This figure reduced to 6 000 people (or 7% of the population) following improvement of the food security situation. 

Education and health services are limited and even worse than in the neighboring Northern Inland Pastoral –Goats and Sheep livelihood. Road condition and trade traffics are more difficult than other areas, due to its mountainous and nature of terrain system, which have negative implications on commodity supply and prices. However, communication system in most pastoral zones has been improving. Mobile phones are widely used for getting information in various aspects. Social support including religious gifts (Zakat & Sadaqa) is a form of asset flow from the relatives and better-off wealth groups to the poor households.

Key indicators to Monitor:
A Seasonal Rainfall performance is one of the key determining factors of this livelihood system. Hence key indicators to monitor are: 

Frankincense production(Maydi and Beeyo) and Frankincense price)
Availability of labor from frankincense and the related wage rates
Goat/sheep supply( number of saleable animals) and goat /sheep prices
Milk availability and price
Market demand for both Maydi and Beeyo varieties of Frankincense
Availability of imported foods (rice/flour, sugar, oil etc.) and the related prices


On the basis of the assessment findings, Frankincense and livestock are the back bone of the economy of this livelihood. However, livestock holding decreases as you move towards the eastern side of the zone, while Frankincense production conversely increases. In the reference year, the average herd growth (goat/Sheep) across the wealth groups has shown slight increase of 5%, due to increased(40%) kidding/lamping rates that compensated the maximum off-take(25%) level experienced during the reference year. Annual income for the Poor households is estimated at Sosh 43,775,000 (contributed by: Frankincense 56%, Goats/Sheep 19%, and casual labor 16 ). Additional incomes of 3 percent from loans and 4 percent from gifts respectively. About two-third of this total cash income is spent on food (39% staple food and 31% non-staple). This makes poor households vulnerable to severe food insecurity when market related shocks occur leading to sharp increases in prices of food items. The Middle and Better-off spent a significant portion of their income on food (62% and 60% respectively, which a smaller proportion compared to the Poor, but spent more cash water and inputs for livestock and frankincense production. 

Food sources for all wealth groups are market purchases, and some milk/meat from their goats for most of the households. This gives an amount of energy, equivalent to 97 percent for poor, 109 percent and 118 percent for Middle and Better-off respectively.

The common shocks prevalent in this livelihood zone are repeated droughts, which have negative impact on Frankincense, livestock production and narrowed recovery interval, as well as stresses aggravating rangeland resources. Insecurity, increase in food prices and, stresses affect overall food security and nutrition situation in this livelihood zone. 

At the time of the assessment in 2012, East Golis livelihood zone only covered the pastoral and frankincense production areas. Livelihood zone map revisions conducted in the last 2 years have resulted in adding the coastal areas where fishing is a significant source of food and income. Although this baseline report does not capture the detailed strategies of fishing as well as cash and food income from the activity, data from the adjacent Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing zone can be used as a proxy for analyzing the role of fishing in household economies in East Golis zone. This will be a temporary measure until the new livelihood zone baseline data is updated.

Click this link to download the full report: East Golis Frankincens, Goat and Fishing Livelihood Zone, Baseline Report