Editor’s note: This is the latest look at issues taking place in Somaliland – Taiwan’s newest diplomatic ally.
On September 1st, the Minister of Agricultural Development in Somaliland, Mr. Ahmed Mumin Seed announced that his ministry had reached an agreement with a Chinese company to farm castor plant on the Wajale plains.
Minister Moumin, accompanied by Chinese company representatives and Mr. Abdullahi Abdi Moussa who announced that the company, known as Africa Agriculture Development, will create employment opportunities for the youth and food security of the nation.
According to Mr. Abdullahi Abdi Moussa, the company has been working on its investment in the Wajale Plains with the Ministry for a period of time, and will start to plant the castor plant across 2000 hectares.
He added the most immediate benefit of the project to the nation is the employment of 200 people, and that the first year’s production will be distributed as seed to farmers in the area so they can also farm castor plants.
“This is the first investment of agriculture or food production that has arrived in Somaliland,” Mr. Abdullahi said.
Minister Ahmed Moumin Seed who spoke briefly, stated that this is in line with President Moussa Bihi Abdi’s leadership policies to bring more investment to Somaliland.
He did not provide any details on what the project entails or why the castor plant was selected for this project.
Efforts to locate any details about the company known as Africa Agriculture Development were unsuccessful.
This is not the first time the Somaliland government might have signed deals with shady or non-existent Chinese companies.
The most recent of these was Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy Company, and Africa Agriculture Development share a common denominator in the form of Mr. Abdullahi Abdi Moussa.
Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy Company has entered into an agreement with the Somaliland Government to build an oil refinery and employ 400 National Service Graduates.
Nothing has thus far materialized.
Mr. Abdoulahi was one of the representatives of Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy Company.
Mr. Hamse Khaire, a member of the opposition party of Waddani meanwhile has warned of the dangers of ricin, a poison found in the castor plant, and questioned the need for this type of plant at a time when there is a more immediate need for basic vegetables in Somaliland.
Although used to produce oil, the castor plant is also the source of the ricin poison and according to the United States Centers for Disease Control, “Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury. Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans. It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.“.
It is unclear why the Ministry of Agriculture chose the large scale plantation of the castor plant across 2000 hectares which makes up more than 40 percent of the plains when Somaliland is still importing basic vegetables such as tomatoes and onions from Ethiopia.
As recently as last month Somaliland experienced a vegetable shortage due to the clashes in Oromia.
Currently, supply of vegetables produced in Somaliland is not sufficient to meet market demand.
Efforts to reach Mr. Abdoulahi and Minister Moumin Seed for details on what type of due diligence his ministry has done to ensure the company known as African Agriculture Development is legitimate, and if they have reviewed their past track record, were unsuccessful.
Questions sent to Mr. Abdullahi Abdi Moussa about Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy Company, the oil refinery, and the employment of the 400 National Service graduates, and, given his track record so far, why the public should trust him and the new company Africa Agriculture Development went unanswered.
This article first appeared in the Somaliland Chronicle and is republished with permission. (small edits have been made)