Alternative Livelihoods Project: A young Man's Way out of Piracy


Mohamed, 21, attending a class of the Alternative Livelihoods Project, where he attends school for the first time. Credit: UNDP Photo.

Mohamed is 21 years old and the eldest of 10 siblings. Mohamed is the son of Boyah, a former Pirate boss. Mohamed, a young boy, joined his father in piracy. He had no other choice – his family relied on the money brought in their crimes. His father was later sentenced Government of Puntland for his involvement in piracy throughout the region. In 2009, Mohamed and his mother started a family business to sustain their lives.

Clan elders informed Mohamed that a programme was available for youth who are at risk of becoming involved in piracy or armed conflict and that the programme will focus on social and economic rehabilitation.  “When I joined the Eyl Resource Centre for Peace I encountered many new things.  I have never attended school in my life.”

Mohamed was He also mentioned that he now feels different as person with improved self-esteem and is happy with his current social standing in the community which would lead to better economic status.    Thanks to UNDP, I have started to learn how to read and write.  My past was with piracy, but I’ve changed my attitude, and this will change my future.”

Extreme poverty and lack of employment opportunities leave many young Somalis, like Mohamed, with few prospects for the future.  Over 70 % of Somalia’s population is under the age of thirty. However, the unemployment rate for youth in Somalia is 67% - one of the highest rates in the world. Many vulnerable young people turn to piracy, militias, or radical groups like al-Shabaab for income and a sense of purpose.

Established in February 2013, UNDP’s ALP activities target 2000 vulnerable at-risk youth and those associated with armed groups and in conflict with the law.

Reducing risks for young people means ensuring improved security, greater access to jobs and increased educational opportunities for all Somalis. To address the high rates of unemployment, UNDP’s Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy and Youth for Change programmes include vocational and business skills training to help equip young Somalis to enter the job market. These alternative livelihoods and vocational trainings introduce concepts of peacebuilding, leadership, development, and community security through engaging classes and in a welcoming environment.

Today, Abdikarim is making a living and giving back to his community. Applying the skills he learned from his vocational training, Abdikarim is now working for a solar electricity company that operates throughout Somalia’s Bari region. Youth employment training helps young people explore their options: opening up their choices and helping them realize their potential. In addition to vocational skills – such as artistry, welding, and plumbing – trainings including literacy, numeracy and Islamic education classes. Students are also encouraged to participate in sports, arts and community volunteer activities. Participating in the programme helps build confidence and empowers young people to take control of their lives.

Abdikarim is excited about his future. Through the youth empowerment project, he was able to gain the confidence and skills he needed to make a change. “This programme changed my life, not because it provided me with money but because it changed the way I think about myself.  I am not some helpless person who things just happen to. I matter and have control over my life,” Abdikarim said. “I am not a voiceless orphan – I am a contributing member of society”. 

UNDP works to strengthen Somali institutions and promote development. To this end, all social rehabilitation and reintegration activities are in line with the local government’s priorities towards poverty reduction and increased security. By the end of 2013, over 2175 people (including 329 women) benefitted from UNDP’s social rehabilitation and integration programmes.