The Somali Region is located in the eastern part of Ethiopia, with an estimated population of four to six million people. Prior to the current regional administration, the region was seen as an austerely underdeveloped, politically-unstable conflict zone. A decade ago, the focus was to have reliable and legitimate governance; today, with unprecedented progress and dedicated leadership, the aim is expunging poverty. Abdi Omar is the Somali Regional president (the leader behind the development, the visionary at the front of feasible transformation and the community organizer alongside the people).
“Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.” – UN Sustainable Development Goals
There are three priorities emphasized by President Abdi Omar: mobilization of resources, education, environmental empowerment and gender equality.
There are various available resources in Ethiopia. Government budget, taxes that enable and sustain public services, direct and indirect financial support, investments in cooperatives and donations are some of the few the approaches I have witnessed during my stay the Somali Region. To change the economic situation of a community, sustainable livelihood techniques and devices must be utilized. Identify the root cause of poverty/problem, which, by the way, is often lack of resources or capital — then replace scarcity, by assembling and impartially sharing wherewithal, creating or planning for basic economic stability (where everyone benefits) and hoping for some sort of surplus. I did not study economics but that last sentence was fire. I wish the United States government did something like that. The Somali Regional President mobilizes the annual government budget by investing in key departments, such as the education, women and youth bureau(s), so that resources convert horizontally and trickle down to both the aspiring doctor and camel herder.
Education plays a massive role in sustainable development and the poverty eradication movement. When someone thinks of education, s/he/they picture institutional knowledge, which later results in employment or an employable populace. In reality, education comes from a variety of sources: skill or vocational training(s), experience or expertise, home, labor, etc. If and when applied and mobilized [by both the privileged and populace] equitably, education translates into wealth – and this all manifests into efficient economic growth. In the Somali Region, there are notable programs and initiatives in place to engage urban and rural populations to partake in educational activities based on their interests. There are technical schools for those who learn better with practice or their hands. There are health colleges for students who want to jump straight into the health profession. There are conventional universities, literacy courses, colleges and small organizations dedicated to equipping natives the Somali Region in proficiently partaking in the overall social, economic and political processes of Ethiopia. According to recent government reports and local testimonies, in the last five to seven years, there has been a tremendous increase in enrollment of students in public and private institutions and construction of all-purpose education-providing establishments. Abdi Omar, the Somali Regional President, has been at the forefront of expanding educational services through the region by being present at almost every school inauguration event, every foundation-stone setting ceremony and graduation. Why? To essentially offer support to the youth and regional community and to ensure that an improved and thriving economy awaits. Students might have the vision to eradicate poverty, whether on a personal or family altitude, but with unswerving support from the president of the region, they recognize the significance of human agency and community.
Majority of the Somali regional community are agro-pastoralists. The livelihoods of rural community members —along with those in main cities—rely heavily on crop and livestock productions. In Ethiopia’s Phase Two of the national Growth and Transformation Plan (GTPII), it is highlighted that to reduce and eradicate poverty in rural areas, there needs to be an “1) increased and market oriented crop production and productivity; 2) increased livestock production and productivity; 3) reduced degradation and improved productivity of natural resources; and 4) enhanced food security.” President Abdi Omar has distributed devices and prioritized agricultural strategies to lessen rural poverty and protect the environment. For example, there are over a hundred irrigation and drainage projects currently ongoing in the region. As well, tractors are being dispensed to local farmers so that they may successfully farm and produce. Furthermore, animal health and livestock markets are becoming normalized concepts, indicating urbanization and rural development can occur at the same time while supporting each other rather than conflicting.
Poverty can only be abolished through a collective of initiatives, resources, and people. No one method can actively work in uplifting socio-economic statuses of poverty-stricken communities. Gender equality is vital in wealth creation and economic development, security, production and the universal well-being of humans. Women in the Somali Region are the backbone of the labor force and, in recent years, have taken on powerful leadership and commerce roles. For example, almost all the district finance heads in the Somali Region are women. President Abdi Omar earnestly and overtly encourages girls and women by facilitating opportunities and grants for them to transform their lives and positions in society. The Vice President of the Somali Region, Suad Ahmed, who is one of the key decision makers, is an exemplar of how gender empowerment is evident under President Abdi Omar’s regional administration. Still, even with women in government, business and labor, gender equality is an ongoing global battle that proactively and correspondingly partakes in the war against poverty. Poverty eradication requires public and women participation.
Similar to movements and efforts towards poverty eradication, obstacles are also apparent. As astounding and irrefutable the hard work of the Somali Regional president is, one individual cannot do it all alone. Government, international humanitarian organizations and wealthy businesspersons should step up and build capacity of smaller entities of their reputable or related fields. For example, international humanitarian offices must provide support to local NGOs, larger government bureaus should be transparent in dealing with smaller governmental agencies and big businesses should be legally required to give space for small companies to excel.
According to a recent World Bank report, Ethiopia’s economy has made “…remarkable expansion with the gross domestic product (GDP) growing by an average 10.9% in the past decade, compared to a 5.4% average throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.” The country’s economic growth will rapidly continue so long as public and private sectors are made firm and flexible and people participation in economic mobility increases. Resource mobilization, gender equality, education accessibility and everything environment related should be understood and practiced as independent and interdependent factors in eradicating poverty on a macro and micro level. When one individual, such as President Abdi Omar, comprehends and responds on this incontrovertible fact: the war against poverty necessitates multitasking and multidimensional [collective] actions — powerful economic advancements (opposite of destitution) becomes that much more attainable in developing nations.
By Hafsa Mohamed