Amid shocking reports of persistent drought and famine that hit horn of Africa countries like Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, all benevolently endowed by mother nature with large amount of water resources, a semi-arid terrain country in that same horn of Africa has so far unaffected by any drought or famine. That country is Eritrea, a small impoverished but proud country while some researchers start to call it ‘the Land of the Can do People’.
But one immediately begs to ask the simple question, how come a country that just come out of a brutal boarder war with Ethiopia and most significantly without donor aid can achieve this much?
Eritrea, with a GDP per capital of a little more than $423 (2010), spends 6% of its mining revenue for social development and 14.4% of its GDP on agriculture. Eritrea argues the main reason for those countries being persistently hit by the natural calamity is because of poor management practices of their water resources coupled with low input and dependency on charity.
The country gave its utmost priority to food security by advancing its agricultural sector based on the philosophy of self-sustainability.
In the past five years, Eritrea has introduced a wide range of agricultural technologies and machineries and built hundreds of micro-dams in every part of the country alongside carrying out various agricultural researches and experimental activities in order to boost its agricultural productions. The country’s two agricultural colleges, Hamelmalo and Halhale, together with the National Research Institution (ENRI) took the center stage in conducting researches and organizing trainings for farmers.
With the country’s annual rainfall ranges between 200mm – 250mm, the country was forced to introduce a tough water utilization policy along with popular campaigns in the construction of hundreds of water reservoirs, land terracing and leveling activities nationwide to prevent erosion and enhance soil conservation. After successfully implement those plans, the government has slowly shifted its traditional rain-fed method of agriculture with an advanced method of using irrigation systems. Within short period of time, 120,000 hectares of land has been put under irrigational cultivation. This is only 17% of the total agricultural area that could be cultivated through such farm practice.
In this regard, varied technical procedures have been applied to effectively use pressurized, drip and sprinkler irrigation, as well as surface irrigation systems so as to implement extensive agricultural undertakings that suit with the respective agricultural area.
The other challenge at which the government was focusing was in enhancing the local and national reserves and minimizing post-harvest losses. To this end, the country established a number of cool and ventilated storages along with trainings that have been offered to the farmers on preservation of agricultural yields.
The country’s research and experimental centers have made extensive efforts that aimed in boosting agricultural harvest. Some of the major undertakings include like crop production activities for preservation of indigenous genetic resources, proper management of irrigation system, processing of agricultural products, conducting research and experiments to maximize yield per hectare through the provision of improved verities of selected seed and studying soil textures for their impermeability of water and mineral content.
This Eritrean model indeed is very important and it can be taken as an exceptional example to be quickly emulated by other Horn of Africa countries who right now suffer despite owning abundant water and arable land at their disposal.
Through the collective endeavors that have been carried out towards realizing food security, the limited- resourced Eritrea is now safely sustain in the drought stricken region by aiming at enhancing its national food reserve beyond annual consumption. Indeed, self-reliant Eritrea is looking beyond seasonal harvest.