Eritrea Transforming Villages into Urban cities
Eritrea Transforming Villages into Urban cities
By Berhane Woldu
Summer is the awakening of the body, when life calls us to action and adventure, where we seek to observe and experience the external world around. The awake of the sprit occurs. Many from the Diaspora had joined the Eritrean Americana Association of Eritrea in venturing villages of Central and Southern region. There were over 60 persons from USA and Europe who had joined the expedition on an early Sunday morning. As we drove off; golden ray sun light starts flickering to life; you can see movements of people Mothers covered with their white Vaile, fathers with their traditional white cloth, priests and deacons with colorful decorations adding to the morning sun; yet one hears nothing but a profound silence.
Gone are the fertile plains and meadows far from the road one can see mountains spotted with shrubberyand scattered humongous stones of different shape and texture. My mouth fell open from wonder and admiration, taking in the place around me. The massive water edge here was covered in coarse granular stone, brownish-gray in color. The day brighter sky lovely pale blue and the water a deep aquamarine the many dams and water reservoirs are wonders of miracle. “We’re looking at history being made” said an 11 year old Eritrean American understanding the ingenuity of Eritrean culture “self reliance”. Huge and expanse are the dames of Diga-Mi-Meslam and Diga-Logo. Tributaries that flow from Lege-Chewa district Emba Teqera, Mi-Leham, Keteme-awlee, Gabla Kelaye, Adi-Rasie, Deke-Tsenea, Menguda-shekete, and Awlee-zoreue have nourished these dams to capacity. Prior to Diga-Logo Dam River flows from every direction with mountains all around; rivers creating a large water body as it approaches the dam. Seeing the dams is much fun. As the water flows it turns the sun cooked valley into streams. The dried up area the ambitious down ward shorelines that had retreated now move much closer together, creating a depthless basin of reddish brown water. These areas are refurbished, trees swallowed by fresh water, meadows turning from reddish brown into green. Diga Logo Dam is fed from all directions by innumerable streams, creeks, rain drain off mountains and rivers that travel for miles to reach the dam. The existence of all theses tributaries unavoidably have given rise to a good number of spring water nearby.
There are many villages in a distant but six small villages are in close proximity to Diga Logo dam. The vast land extends west of Adi-Barda and one has to drive on a new paved dirt road diagonally to reach the city of Tera-Emne. Walking towards Diga- Logo Dam one follows the paved dirt road that twists downhill, at-times open and flat. Zawle, Adi-Seldaite, Adi- Kelkelete, Adi Halow, Adi-Gebre, and Keflete are on top of mountains. Cities of the same force ancient in tradition yet contemporary in their daily life these timeless cities were quite literally the place to be. Fitting to Diga Logo These six villages are now being transformed into urban city with abundant of water. World Water Council reports that 1.8 billion people will face water shortages and African countries can’t feed their population unless they increase their irrigated farming by 40-50%. UN habitat has reported that presently 1/3 of Africans live in urban slums by 2030 half of the African population will reside in urban slums.
Eritrea national urban policy is creating “best city” knowing full well urbanization as a transformative force for economic growth the Eritrean government has facilitated ample water resources by erecting water catchments and dams. Villagers are the primary beneficiaries of the dams, land and the agricultural transformation. Unlike most African countries that have provided their best fertile land to foreign firms who farm for profit in a hungry country. The six modern day urban cities have clinic, electricity, tap water, elementary and junior high schools. High school in close proximity the student has been provided with 5,000 bicycles to transport self. The residents have now transformed from traditional farmers into commercial farmers. They have been allotted two hectares of land to start with for cash crops and vegetables. Adequate infrastructure is in place public services and local administrations are within 5 kilometers distance. College of Agriculture is in close proximity. Owing their own living quarters free from rent with adequate social justice services the villagers and villages have now transformed into urbanites and urban cities.
As we drove to Diga-Mi-Mislam the hill sloping down to the valley is covered in quavers and remains similar to places like the great canon. There is little vegetation on the valley. As we bisect the city of Tera-emne one comes to a vast expanse of meadow. Nearing Diga-Mi-Mislam dam the terrain changes hills of different size appear. As I stood on top of a hill, it wasn’t just an ordinary hill but one that rose remarkably high and magnificently round. Round like a ball. The place was alluring. There’s no cloud, only blue sky. Hills wrap around me, as if I am standing at the personification of the earth, within a surge of a great waterfall, dancing on a clear threatening canal all the way to the meadow. I began to envy the mountains which seem to laugh, elated, ecstatic, while I was staring intently on to a large mass of water. The surrounding landscape is amazingly gorgeous and breathe taking. The mountains are huge some smaller inter-connected one over the other; mountains locked to each other. Looking at the Diga-Mi-Mislam Dam from top of the mountains one can see that it is built with dark stones standing majestic like a bastion in the middle of nowhere; spectacular, stunning, amazing human work.
Urbanization inclusive of sound transportation, appropriate public services, educational institutions, and adequate infrastructure is what Eritrea is building. Transforming villages to urban cities “Island of wealth” is the new phenomenon of the present day Eritrea.
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