Awdal herders attribute livestock mortality to poisonous tree
On Thursday September 7, 2023, Guled Elmi Warsame, a pastoralist from Awdal, Northern Somalia, expressed his concern over the detrimental effects of an invasive tree species in his village. He believes that the rampant growth of prosopis juliflora trees has resulted in the deaths of many of his valuable livestock. Due to the scarcity of other fodder sources caused by the ongoing drought, Guled allowed his herd to graze on these trees. Sadly, 40 goats and three donkeys died after consuming the prosopis juliflora trees, and an additional 12 goats are currently sick. In an effort to protect his remaining 50 goats, Guled has moved them nine kilometers away from home to an area with fewer of these trees.
Referring to the prosopis juliflora tree as the “garanwa tree,” Guled explained that the trees cause damage to the livestock’s teeth, swollen necks, and weakness in their front and hind legs, ultimately leading to their death. He further shared that 17 animals have died this month alone. The prolonged absence of rain over the past seven months has resulted in a shortage of grazing areas, leaving the animals with little choice but to feed on the prosopis trees, which they would typically ignore.
Guled also mentioned the impact on his family’s transportation system, as they previously relied on five donkeys, three of which died in September and one that is currently sick. He expressed concern about potentially losing the last donkey they need to fetch water from a three-kilometer distant well. Additionally, the poor condition of his goats has affected his wife and nine children’s income. Although relatives occasionally provide them with food, Guled mainly relies on credit from local stores to sustain their livelihood. However, after accumulating a debt of $1,000, he can no longer obtain credit from the store, leaving him solely dependent on assistance from relatives.
Guled sought advice from a veterinarian in Lughaya who prescribed antibiotics for the animals, but unfortunately, there was no improvement in their health. Beeyo-Liban, the village where Guled resides, is home to approximately 150 pastoralist families, many of whom have reported similar issues with the prosopis juliflora tree. Mahdi Maydal Idris, another pastoralist, revealed that he has lost 44 goats and a camel since July, and he fears for the well-being of his remaining 60 goats and nine camels. He observed that consuming these trees resulted in tooth and bone breakage, stomach ailments, and overall weakness in the livestock.
Due to his camels’ illness and the thinness of his goats, Mahdi has been unable to sell camel milk for the past month. As a result, he has resorted to taking food on credit on five separate occasions to feed his family of 12. This has led to a debt of $700. Mahdi emphasized the challenges associated with accumulating debts and the potential consequences of non-payment.
Dr. Mohamed Muhumed Mayrane, a veterinary advisor to the Northern Somalia livestock ministry, explained that the prosopis juliflora tree poses health risks to livestock when it constitutes their sole diet. He highlighted that the plant carries various strains of bacteria and can affect the respiratory system when consumed in large quantities. Stressing the severity of the livestock deaths, he urged the Northern Somalia government to send experts to the affected areas. Dr. Mayrane recommended administering oxytetracycline antibiotics to the animals.
Research has indicated that the green algaroba tree pods have a toxic effect, causing tooth decay and death in animals during dry seasons when supplementary feeds are lacking. The loss of teeth leads to weakened livestock and starvation.