Focus Areas

  1. The transformations of the environment and their effects on the health of people and trees
  2. The impact of environmental laws and public policies on marginalized populations, ownership and production of frankincense and livestock
  3. The religious significance of frankincense
  4. The relationship between security concerns, conflict, development and the natural environment
  5. The interaction between democracy and development

To Date

Dynamic Fields: The Social Production of Frankincense in Somaliland

Team Lead: Dr. Kenedid A. Hassan (Social and Political dynamics)
Sheikh Said Sheikh Abdirahman (Religious Significance), Balqiisa Sheikh Ahmed (Environmental Laws), Ahmed Said (Liaison Officer)

Looking into a valley in the Sanaag Region of Somaliland

This research explores how dominant interpretations and policies – from British and Italian colonial authorities to successive post-colonial Somali regimes – have approached the Somali frankincense sector as static, overlooking the ability of farmers, local traders and collectors to shape the field, in the Bourdieusian sense. We examine the continuity between successive governments’ rhetoric on the exploitation of collectors and academic discourse, reflecting on the need to delineate how collectors are conceived in an ideological sense and the empirical realities of individuals who do not neatly fit the “collector” model imagined in policy and scholarly narratives. Based on ethnographic research with a group of workers in the frankincense industry in Erigavo (in eastern Somaliland), we explore how individuals interact within and help to shape a dynamic field. Whereas policies sometimes framed using the rhetoric of conservation and empowerment of the oppressed focus on fixed categories of workers (harvesters, farmers and traders), we show how individuals in the field negotiate dynamic roles that eschew fixed labels. We argue that this highlights the need to rethink understandings of political economy and social action within approaches and policies of the oppressed – and has implications for anthropologists concerned with questions of environment conservation and empowerment. This is part of a four years research program looking at the interaction between ecology and social productions.

Environmental Laws and Policy in Somaliland

Lead Researcher: Balqiisa Sheikh Ahmed (Environmental Laws)

Shelves of Law Books

This study outlines the current environmental policies and laws of Somaliland and provides an analysis of the possible ways the law can be better utilized to protect significant natural resources, such as Boswellia trees. It aims to highlight the current legislative and institutional challenges preventing the effective formulation, implementation and enforcement of environmental policies in the country. Through an extensive, interdisciplinary review of environmental literature, analysis of key international and domestic environmental documents and policies, and a series of interviews with significant members of Somaliland’s Ministry of Environment & Rural Development, this study will show that although environmental laws may exist on paper in Somaliland, the institutional arrangement to give meaning to the laws does not. This research will argue that supportive mechanisms for policy implementation and monitoring must be established concurrently for Somaliland’s environmental laws to have meaningful impact. This includes strengthening of government institutions through increased focus on research, raising public awareness and technical training for all personnel.