Ice Machines Make Exports Possible Again for Somali Fishermen

Speeches Shim

Fishermen hauling ice onto their boats in Puntland, Somalia
Fishermen haul ice onto their boats in Puntland, Somalia.
Industry revival cuts crime and economic insecurity
“In the past, we had to throw away our rotten fish because we could not keep it fresh.”

March 2016—In the small fishing village of Baargaal on the coast of Puntland, Somalia, youth struggle to find jobs. Many turn to crime, piracy or human trafficking to earn income to support their families. Most come from generations of fishermen and would choose fishing over illegal endeavors if they could make a profit in it.

Despite having rich fish resources from the Indian Ocean, the fishing industry was dying in many coastal towns of Puntland. Fishermen from Baargaal could not make a living from their daily catch, which would spoil without ice in their boats and cold storage upon their return to shore.

“In the past, we had to throw away our rotten fish because we could not keep it fresh,” says Abdinasir Muse, a member of the Baargaal Fishing Association. “We could not make a profit and many stopped fishing all together.”

In a community dialogue organized by USAID’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program in 2011, the town of Baargaal prioritized the renovation of the building for the Baargaal Fishing Association and the purchase of a new ice machine. In addition to funding these projects, USAID purchased 2.5 tons of ice as well as machinery for fishermen to repair their boats.

Following a civil war in 1991, the association building was destroyed and cooling machines were either looted or stopped working. Because the fishermen did not have a way to cool and store their fish, it often spoiled. They only caught enough fish to feed their families, with few left over to sell.

Two years after the start of USAID's activity, the association was not only selling their fish locally, but had even entered the export market. For the first time since the fall of the central Government of Somalia in 1991, the association was trading and transporting tons of fresh fish to neighboring Ethiopia.

“We collect fish for several days and keep it frozen in the association’s building with the help of the ice machine. Without being able to store our fish, this could not have been imaginable,” explains Muse.

Somalia has the potential to export many more tons of fish thanks to its long coastline of more than 2,000 miles—the longest in Africa. Due to USAID’s support in five coastal communities of Somalia, improvements in cold storage and stronger ties between fishermen and fishing associations are reducing the appeal of piracy by promoting economic growth and food security along the coast.

“Today there is a strong bond between all the fishermen in Baargaal,” says fisherman Mohamud Ali Jama, 26. “We work together and gather all the catch, then sell it to the association, which handles the exporting and distribution. No individual fisherman is left behind, and everyone who catches fish can earn a living.”

The Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program in Somalia is designed to improve service delivery and responsiveness at all levels of government. Through the program, which runs from 2010 to 2016, Somali government institutions, the private sector and civil society collaborate to design, evaluate and deliver projects that have a lasting impact on citizens. In six years, over 850 projects in 17 of Somalia’s 18 regions have been completed, including the creation of over 13,000 jobs, the construction of 60 miles of roads and 150 government buildings, and the construction or rehabilitation of 18 educational facilities.