Bordering the African continent’s two largest coffee producers, Somalia is situated along the coastline of ‘the Horn’ of Africa. Despite sitting within the coffee belt -the horizontal strip of land stretching across the globe between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn where coffee grows- Somalia is not known for coffee production on any sizeable scale. At present, likely owing to the country’s history, there is limited information available about the size and status of its coffee industry. Many Somalis left the country following the outbreak of civil war in the 1990s, and over the past decade, returnees are now contributing towards the country’s economic and physical reconstruction. This will ultimately include the country’s coffee sector, although the potential for developing a strong industry in the field is likely to be shadowed by ongoing political instability, limited investment and major skill shortages.
Somalia Coffee Growing History
Though information concerning coffee production in Somalia is extremely limited, it is known that the crop is cultivated around the Al Madow mountain range in the north of the country. In this area, poor infrastructure along with limited transportation options means that coffee farmers have major difficulties in selling and transporting their produce. Many farmers are forced to transport their coffee from the mountains to towns connected to the national road network using only donkeys. Producers will also often sell their coffee to middlemen due to their limited market access.
Somalia Coffee Farming
The climate of Somalia means that the country is not very well suited to coffee production despite neighbouring the continent’s largest coffee producers. Somalia is generally arid and semi-arid with two seasonal rainfall seasons. Average temperatures are around twenty seven degrees celsius and rainfall is generally low and uneven, having a major impact on life in Somalia. Irregular rainfall is the defining characteristic of Somalia climate, and has great spatial and temporal variability. The variation from season to season, and even within seasons, determines the success or failure of agricultural activities, of which a significant proportion of the population rely upon to make a living.
As of October 2022, Somalia is experiencing an unprecedented and devastating drought. Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, and forecasts for the fifth look to be similarly poor. As a result of the ongoing crisis, livestock have died, crops have been destroyed and more than a million Somalis have been internally displaced. Climate change, global market volatility and recent flare-ups in insecurity and violence are compounding the already devastating situation, leaving the country on the brink of catastrophic famine on a scale not seen for decades.
Somalia Coffee Production Regions
The Al Madow mountain range is situated to the north of Somalia, within the autonomous region of Somaliland. It is here that small quantities of coffee are said to be produced. The narrow mountain range runs parallel to the Gulf of Aden and is home to lush land in an otherwise arid country. Extending west from Bossaso to the northwest of Erigavo, altitudes average around 800m above sea level with its highest point, Mount Shimbiris, standing at 2460m. Average rainfall in Al Madow is also higher than that of the rest of the country, ranging from 750 to 850 mm in addition to fog and mist. Because of such favourable climatic conditions, Al Madow has richer flora and fauna than many other parts of Somalia, and is home to some rare and endemic plant species.
Somalia Coffee Flavour Profile
Traditional Somali coffee, known locally as Qaxwo, is made up of a mixture of coffee, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. The coffee beans themselves, however, tend to be imported and originate from outwith Somalia.
Somalia Coffee Annual Export Volume
Somalia is not known to be a coffee exporter. At present, the country’s domestic coffee industry relies on imports and the small quantities of coffee produced within the country are believed to also be consumed domestically.
Somali Coffee Culture
Civil war within Somalia is still ongoing, and groups opposed to the Somali government regularly carry out attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere around the country. Yet despite current insecurities, a wave of Somalis previously living in the diaspora have returned home in the past decade and are now driving a wave of physical and economic reconstruction in Mogadishu. One outcome of this reconstruction has been the re-emergence of a once collapsed coffee industry and the opening of new coffee shops. In fact, the first Mogadishu Coffee Festival was held in October 2022.
Banadiria Coffee Roasters is a company said to be driving growth in the country’s coffee industry through sourcing, roasting and supplying coffee as well as training Somali coffee professionals. The company’s founder and CEO, Ibrahim Ali Shiddo, hails from a family that first started roasting coffee in the 1970s. Like many Somali families, however, they left the country in the 1990s before Ibrahim returned in 2012 and re-established the family business. The vast majority of the coffee they supply domestically is imported from other coffee-producing countries, though they also buy a small amount from local producers.