Somali insurgent group al Shabaab is extorting money from farmers, causing a fall in production, the country’s agriculture minister said.
Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade said members of al Shabaab were asking farmers for $150 per hectare of crop harvested in the fertile lower Shabelle region.
“Somalia’s crop harvest has dropped because of al Shabaab’s strict orders on farmers.
The farmers were already experiencing hard conditions. But worse, their little has been deprived for what they call jihad,” Habsade said.
He did not say which crops were affected.
Al Shabaab, which Washington views as al Qaeda’s proxy in the region, is intent on imposing a strict version of Islamic law in the country.
Somalia has had no effective central government for 19 years, and Western and neighbouring countries say the country provides sanctuary for militants intent on launching attacks in east Africa and beyond.
At least 21 000 Somalis have been killed since the start of 2007, another 1.5 million have been uprooted from their homes and nearly half a million are sheltering in other countries in the region.
Food shortages worsened after al Shabaab ordered UN food agency World Food Programme to leave Somalia earlier this year.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that nearly half of the Somali population need aid and the country has the world’s highest malnutrition levels.
Separately, Mogadishu’s mayor said yesterday the government had ordered residents living in makeshift shelters near the airport to move away, as al Shabaab fighters were using them to launch attacks into the airport.
“We have intelligence reports that these people have received money from al Shabaab to build houses around to endanger the airport,” Abdirisaq Mohamed Nune told reporters.