Amid an everlasting global pandemic, “Neighbourhood” was a fitting theme for the 14th annual Hargeysa International Book Fair, which was hosted at the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland. The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) joined together with leaders, authors, artists, scholars and merchants from around the world to share discourse, ideas, knowledge—and of course, books—during this event from July 24-29. CCF’s Somaliland team hosted a booth at this six-day fair to educate a global audience about our mission to stop the illegal trade of cheetahs in the horn of Africa and keep cheetahs in the wild. We spoke with more than 700 attendees from both Somaliland and a wide array of countries, including Canada, France, Australia, Kenya and Rwanda, with Ethiopia featured as the guest country for 2021. Along with educating attendees, our team also sold a selection of CCF and Dr. Marker’s books, including “Chewbaaka” and “A Future For Cheetahs,” as well as some of our jewelry that was handcrafted by local communities in Namibia.
“Neighbourhood” was selected as the theme of this year’s book fair to examine the true meaning of the term. In western societies, the idea of a neighborhood typically refers to a structured residential community, which can entail either a social and/or spatial group. Whereas, in other parts of the world—such as Somaliland—where there are nomadic societies, many people are living in an infinite space without boundaries, making the term “neighbor” more of a descriptor of relationships and connections rather than a geographic indicator. These ideas of “who is your neighbor?” and “are international and national people neighbors?” tied well with CCF’s community-based conservation efforts and mission to help local communities coexist with all of their neighbors, including cheetahs. As an international organization with offices all over the globe, CCF was able to illuminate how we share knowledge and ideas and work closely with our partners, or neighbors, in order to create neighborhoods where people can support both their livelihoods and wildlife.
Throughout each day, panel discussions were hosted to address and analyze topics such as urban planning in the horn of Africa, agropastoralism, women, gender and war, higher education in Africa and translations. Notable speakers included Dr. Edna Adan Ismail, who was the first midwife to practice in Somaliland and the first female Foreign Minister and first First Lady of Somaliland, as well as Ahmed Ibrahim Awale, chairman and co-founder of the Somaliland Biodiversity Foundation and of Candlelight for Environment, Education and Health. On behalf of CCF, I spoke on a panel entitled “Environment and Climate Change,” which examined the effects of climate change seen in Africa and solutions to mitigate the damage caused by rapidly changing weather and environmental conditions. I discussed the particular challenges that climate change has caused for wildlife, specifically cheetahs—focusing on the threats of decreased water availability, altered habitat and increased parasites, diseases and human-wildlife conflicts. I also spoke about one overarching solution for regions like Somaliland that rely heavily on the land and animals, which is better livestock management. By reducing the number of livestock in each herd, practicing rotated grazing and taking better care of each individual animal with regular vaccinations, deworming and veterinary care, pastoralists can better manage the land and avoid overgrazing, which protects native wildlife like cheetahs, the livestock and inturn, the people’s livelihoods.
CCF’s participation in the 14th annual Hargeysa International Book Fair allowed us to raise awareness about the plight of cheetahs and the illegal wildlife trade, create connections and alliances to help us stop the trade and confiscate captured cubs, form partnerships to develop more education and awareness campaigns in the region and foster a love for wildlife and cheetahs among people from diverse backgrounds, fields and countries.