Somalia is located in the easternmost region of Africa, in an area known as the Horn of Africa. It is situated right along the coast with shorelines on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Inland, it shares borders with Ethiopia and Djibouti. This country encompasses an area of 246,201 square miles, which is covered by plains, plateaus, and highlands. Its climate is arid to semi-arid with low precipitation averages throughout the year. Despite this low level of rainfall, Somalia has some major rivers that are important to its landscape. This article takes a closer look at the major rivers of this country.
The longest river running through Somalia is the Shebelle. This river runs a 702-mile long course, beginning in the highland area of Ethiopia and ending in Somalia. The section of the river that runs along the coastline of Somalia is not year-round, but rather seasonal, existing only during rainy season. A combination of natural occurrences such as evaporation and man-made activities such as irrigation have been known to dry the river up during times of low precipitation. During rainy season, the Shebelle river flows into the Jubba river and then empties into the Indian Ocean.
The Jubba River flows for 624 miles and, similar to the Shebelle, it also originates from Ethiopia. From the border with Ethiopia, this river runs south. The area around the Jubba is considered some of the most fertile farmland in Somalia. The alluvial plain between the Jubba and Shebelle rivers is home to a number of wildlife, including hyenas, lions, gazelles, giraffes, and hippopotamuses. Additionally, this flat area is important to local agricultural production and export crops. Corn, sesame, fruits, and vegetables are produced for the local market, while rice and sugarcane are typically exported. Flooding and lack of water present an obstacle for continuous agricultural production.
The third longest river in Somalia is the Ewaso Ng’iro. This river runs 435 miles, beginning in Kenya and flowing southeast through Somalia. In Somalia, the Ewaso Ng’iro empties into the Jubba river. This river has water year-round and runs through several very dry regions of the country. Because of its constant water supply, the Ewaso Ng’iro is important for both wildlife and humans as it provides an oasis for animals and irrigation for agricultural practices.
The Dawa River is the fourth most significant river in Somalia in terms of size. It runs 279.6 miles through the southeastern region of the country, although it begins in the mountains east of the Ethiopian town of Aleta Wendo. It goes on to form part of the border between Ethiopia and Somalia and then, Ethiopia and Kenya. In Somalia, this river feeds into the Jubba. Gold and titanium minerals have been found in its valley.
Environmental Threats to Somalian Rivers
One of the most pressing threats facing the rivers of Somalia is the trend for decreasing rainfall levels in the regions and the subsequent droughts that occur as a result. While several of the rivers listed above are year-round, their tributaries have been drying up in recent years due to climate change. This lack of a constant water source will lead to desertification, disappearing wildlife habitats, and disrupted agricultural production. In addition, water scarcity in this country will contribute to decreasing and stagnated economic progress, declining human health, and increasing poverty. It is imperative that the government of Somalia enact a natural resource management plan to address these issues before it is too late. Other governments and organizations also need to work towards preventing the effects of climate change in order to preserve the biodiversity and well-being of the country.