Eritrea’s Agro-industry and Agro-tourism
Eritrean dam and landscape
By Berhane Woldu
Asmara’s morning Sun had inflamed, increased with greater intensity felling more like mid-day thirty eight Diaspora’s from USA and Europe set to Anseba and Gash Barka Region for a four day trip organized by Eritrean American Community. What came to my mind was the “El Nino” effect of drought and expecting to see a desolated, deserted land and starving animals. To my surprise and contrary to my taught the land and herds were in good shape the cattle as big as a buffalo. To avert drought and expand farming the Eritrean government has constructed strategic dams in major river basins and potential catchments for the purpose of increasing the land under irrigation. The nationwide soil and water conservation programs have been on going to revitalize the environment and boost potential of the agriculture sector. The Government has been vigorously investing in varies water harnessing mechanism and climate smart agriculture. Western low lands Agro-industries; Gereset, the two Fancos, and the newly constructed agro-industry Kerkebet were our destination to wetness the development on the ground.
Keren is one of the picturesque old cities in Eritrea located on the rocky plateau of the Anseba region. Keren is famous for its distinctive residential architecture, mosques and churches. The houses are astounding with their rough exterior view and high stone fences that contrast with the pretty inner yards and the unique coziness. Having breakfast at Keren was enjoyable. With full stomach we headed to Bisha a mountain landscape that is part of Arabian Nubian Shield a large stretch of mineral deposits of gold, copper and Zinc. As we approached the gate we meet up with Ms. Melena Berket who welcomed us facilitating our tour of Bisha Mine. Bisha Mine is a modern mine that generates Two hundred million dollar a year not a large source of income, but a hub of technology transfer a learning center for young Eritrean college graduates. In Bisha the experts that we meet were young Eritreans who have taken over jobs form expatriates. These young people explained to us the working of the mine; the engineering, environmental impact and that Bisha will last until 2025 with two future projects that are underway Harena and Mogoraib River basin Mining projects. After a light lunch we left Bisha headed to Agordat a beautifully serene landscape a small city. The houses are few in number and are built on both side of the road leading to Mogoriab, Sawa and Kerkebet. We stayed in a hotel that had six rooms and an outdoor sleeping area for 30 beds nice dinner and breakfast to your liking. Heading to Kerkebet we drove through Tekreret, Land of Awashiate, Herbet-kurboye, Kerue, Adi-hamete. These small villages a monumental of Eritrean natural architecture huddled on the Northern flanks of Sahel Mountains. Built on the banks of rivers narrow cobblestone houses, school, clinic with high fences, and shops has the unique feel of heavenly village. where one can find peace and quiet being carried away back to a world long gone. Passing these spectacular landscapes we arrived at Kerkebet Alemayet sub zone rich in ecotourism and natural attraction.
To promote sustainable development based on climate smart Agro-based industries The Eritrean crops, fruits, vegetables and live stock cooperation has taken over several agro-industry projects Kekebet agro-industry is one of them. With a water capacity of 130 million metric cubic of water and hundreds acres of cultivatable land the Kerkebet agro-industry has become the largest agro-industry in the Anseba region. Having tested on a several thousand acre of land wheat, maze, Taffe and other cereals as well as vegetables for suitability of soil and climate Kerkebet is expanding into large agro-industry. Drip, splash and other suitable water system are being used it has also included animal husbandry and fattening. Its ones dream come true to see the Kerkebet area that was a barren land a few years ago changed into a large agro-industry city with abundant of water, electrification and its own helicopter landing. Completing our visit of Kerkebet we drove to a small city called Afhimbol where we eat lunch. The restaurant with its outside sitting was pleasant the food hot spicy with aromatic herbs; variety of vegetable dishes and caprito (goat meat) eaten communally was a ceremonial lunch.
Arriving in Tesensy a larger city and a commercial center with its two four star hotels abundance of water and electricity was our next destination for agro-tourism. There are several large agro-industry centers in Tesenay sub-zone. Gerset, Fanco Rahwye and Fanco Tsume are located in this subzone. Upon arrival we were welcomed by two young men experts in agriculture. These young men explained that Gerset agro-industry has three different dams that supply the farm with a capacity of 65 million metric cubic of water. Gerset has been a functioning farm for several years with different kind of cereal crops, vegetables, sugarcane, cotton and fruits. Gerset is cultivated with orange, lemon, mango, papaya and palm trees that have started to yield date and citrus fruits. It also has cattle ranch, over ten thousand sheep and goats are nourished and housed in Gerset. Gerset Agro- Industry has opened employment opportunity for 3,000 local residents who otherwise would be house wives sitting home doing house chore. The city of Gerset has transformed from a back ward village to a modern village with all the social services in place. Gerset village which is adjacent to the farm has a church and a mosque telling of the communities’ diversity and harmony. Fanco Rahwe and Fanco Tsemue have planted citrus fruits, vegetables, onions, red pepper and tomatoes; the two Fanco farms are suppliers of tomato to Alibu Bantom factory for export. Our group was fortunate to have arrived at Alabou while Banatom was in full gear; offering us opportunity to see how tomato pastes was produced packed and shipped out for export. Our four day trip however short gave us a good understanding of Eritrean governments priorities in its economic development strategy. Food security, rural development and wide spread social justice.
The Western low lands have not only become the agro-industry hub of Eritrea it has also offered us the agro-tourism industry, changing agent of the echo-system. Eritrea is a rich country in terms of diversity of plants and animal life. These resources have created a ground for nature based ecotourism. Flora due to the constructed dams and varieties of climate, level of precipitations and evaporation has allowed the territory of Eritrea to be rich in indigenous flora. Fauna-Eritrea spectacular wild life have benefited from greenery and water abundance converting the land as a habitat for rare and endangered species of animals.
In summation; at the end of the four day trip everyone was in agreement that the Eritrean government and people are working hard in developing the Nation and that Eritrea has gone through an economic transformation from traditional farming economy to agro- industrial farming. Anseba and Gash Barka region farming and grazing of animals coupled with large dams that support the Ago-industries with its modern industrial equipment are achieving the desired outcome and has started to pay off averting the El Nino drought, with ample food supply and creating a favorable climate for an economic boom in the agricultural sector.
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