In the vast arid and semi-arid areas that characterize the Somali-populated territories of the Horn, pastoralism and agro-pastoralism are the dominant mode of livelihood. The northern Somali livestock trade involves the annual export of at least $200 million worth of live animals through the ports of Berbera, Bosasso and Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden. This is said to be the largest movement of live animal – ‘on the hoof’ – trade anywhere in the world.
The ports are linked to the interior rangelands through a series of clan-based corridors through which the trade is managed. These networks penetrate deep into Ethiopia’s Somali Region where many of the animals are raised. The livestock trade forms an economic system – providing jobs and livelihoods for a majority of people – that underpins the social and political relations between Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Somaliland Republic and the state of Puntland.