May 10, 2011

20 Years On: Commendable Efforts To Ensure Food Security

by Yishak Yared
Subsistence agriculture shapes Eritrea’s economy and employs about 80 percent of its population. Statistics indicate that 2.1 millions of hectares of land, which is 17% of the total area of the country, is arable. Out of which 26% depend from rainfall and 11% cultivated through irrigation. The remaining land is either used for pastoralist or is a dry land mainly covered with sand. The agro-ecological zones of the country are categorized as the highland area, the Eastern plains and western plains. These three zones have different climatic conditions and as a result are suitable for growing variety of crops, vegetables and fruits congruent to their climatic conditions.

The production of crops from rain fed agriculture is not consistent, abundant of production during well distribution of rain and less when there occurs scarcity of rainfall. Agriculture in the high land part of the country, with very few conducted through irrigation, depends from rainfall. The cultivation season in 20 Years On: Commendable Eff orts To Ensure Food Security Fo Nationa Dignity Perfect armon this part of the country is mainly from June to August. The main crops cultivated are sorghum, maize, wheat, taff, barley and beans. In the other places of the country, though rain fed agriculture is practiced, pastoralist was mainly practiced. During the Italian colonialism fertile lands were snatched from the local farmers and given to Italian farmers. And it was during this time that agro-industry was initiated in he country. Aligidir cotton farm, Elabered agro industry, Mersanni agro industry (Halhale) and others around Ala and in the western lowlands are to be mentioned. But all this were neglected and destroyed during the Ethiopian rule. The agroindustries were turned into military camps.

It is after independence that we could talk about agriculture in Eritrea. Right after independence the government took bold initiative to transfer the rain dependent agriculture into irrigation agriculture. To this end several small and big dams were built through out the country. Vast lands were leveled and made ready for cultivation through different means. To date, according to the data from the Ministry of Agriculture 67, 754 hectares of land is cultivated out of which 33, 505 hectares through irrigation, 2,257 through spray irrigation, 1,011 hectares through drip irrigation and 20,981 splash irrigation. The modern way of farming that is being introduced is assisted with modern machinery such as tractors, combine harvesters, threshers, and other small and heavy machinery. These machines are fully operated by Eritreans trained to operate and maintain in case of problems. In places like that of Zoba Gash Barka people are well acquainted with those machineries and every piece of the land is leveled, ploughed and cultivated by machinery.

According to the information from the Ministry of Agriculture 30 tractors, 12 threshers and harvesters and 56 other farming machineries were allocated to the Zoba Maekel. 100 tractors, 12 threshers and harvesters and 239 other farming machineries to Zoba Debub; 18 tractors and 48 other farming machineries to Zoba Northern Red Sea; 31 tractors 10 threshers and 48 other farming machineries to Zoba Ansaba; 265 tractors, 91 threshers and 517 other farming machineries to Zoba Gash Barka; and 3 tractors and 3 other farm machineries to Zoba Southern Red Sea. These are outstanding manifestations for the huge investment the government is exerting to ensure food security in the country without expecting hand outs from outside and relying from its internal resources and human capacity. The tomato, onions, pepper productions from Afhimble, Gerset, the tow Fancos and Ad Omer agroindustries, cotton production from Aligidir and other private farms, fruits from different parts of the country are examples on the ground what is being achieved through the help of the stated machineries.

When we talk about food security we also mean the well being of the livestock in the country. It is estimated that there are 1.9 million cattle, 6.9 million sheep and goats, 0.3 million camels, 0.5 donkeys and mules, 1.14 million hens in Eritrea. Out of these 38% of them are found only in Zoba Gash Barka. The Ministry of Agriculture though its veterinary services is doing a great job in preserving the lives of these animals by introducing up to the standard animal medicines and vaccinations. Veterinary service is provided by reaching out every village of the country. And according to the report major animal diseases are put under control and there is no more animal disease outbreak in the country. In the effort to increase milk and milk products new species of cows including buffalos have been imported from outside and effort is being undertaken to increase their number. To this end the government has established an autonomous institution, Eritrean Animal Corporation, responsible for overseeing the status and increment of the quality and quantity of the animals so that the country would be able to become one of the meat and hide exporters in the region.

The animal husbandry at Alebu is the beginning of such noble and promising venture. It would be instantiated to talk about food security without mentioning the rich resources of the Red Sea. The Red Sea, unlike the other seas in the world, is rich in all aspects and is yet fully unexploited sea. The Red Sea coastline of Eritrea is rich in lobster, shrimp, and crab and offers the potential for a valuable exportoriented fi shing industry. The land and sea of Eritrea with the policy in place and the long sighted vision of the government and its people will in the near future bear the much expected result not only on producing abundant product to feed the people of the country but also become competitive in the world market. The beginning is promising, as the famous Tigrigna saying “I know the bread which satisfi es me from its baking.” (Tetsgibeni kicha ab mokloa efelta)

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