Community spearheads conservation of Dembe Tikul catchment area in Gullie, Zoba Maekel

Mohammed Ahmed, flanked by his sons at their Gullie farm Photo: © UNDP Eritrea/Freweini
Mohammed Ahmed, flanked by his sons at their Gullie farm. Photo: © UNDP Eritrea/Freweini

Mohammed Ahmed, a farmer in Gullie is 80 years old. He has been working on his land for the last fifteen years. He grows fruits such as guavas and oranges. He also has maize crop under irrigation. “In this area one cannot depend on rain fed agriculture that is why we dug a well for irrigating our farm.” He said. His sons, Saleh Mohammed (50) and Ahmed Mohammed (40), have since taken over the management of the farm from their elderly father. They supply fruits to vendors in Asmara city. Their land is on the periphery of the river, but not everybody is so lucky.

Many of the community members have to depend on rain fed agriculture. The rains have not been reliable and most of the lands have been degraded by soil erosion whenever it rains. Against this backdrop, the Gullie catchment rehabilitation project was started to address the land degradation problem. The project engages the local stakeholders to create sustainable livelihoods options for the poor rural community of Gullie in Galla-Nefhi district.

The project targets 615 households of about 2,454 people who take part in conservation of 50 hectares of land. So far, conservation work on 48 hectares is ongoing. The community is organized in groups who take part in activities such as terracing, building check dams, planting eucalyptus and sisal. The community members said that they decided to plant eucalyptus trees because they grow fast and they can use the timber to build their houses. “If we plant eucalyptus trees, we will be able to build nice houses.” said Omer Mohammed (60), a guard of the conservation area.

About the project

  • The project contributes towards rehabilitation of degraded land and conservation of 50 ha of land that form the Gullie catchment area.
  • About 615 households of around 2,454 people in Gullie village, Galla-Nefhi sub-region, Maekel region benefit from this project.
  • The project has support from the Maekel regional administration, Galla Nefhi sub-regional administration, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Land, Water and Environment.

Majority of the women participate in soil and water conservation activities. There are women representatives in the committees. Each committee is made up of 50 community members. Nejat Abubaker (20) and Jemeo Hiyabu (55) said that they were not members of the committees, but they understood the advantages of the community based afforestation, soil and water conservation work. “This is not just for us, it is for the future generations.” Said Jemeo. Two other women, Fatna Ali Gide (48) and Zahra Jaber (60) are heads of their households. They have been inspired by the project and planted 70 and 120 eucalyptus trees respectively around their homesteads.

The youth are also represented in the committees, they are involved in bee keeping activities and are motivated in the conservation work because more trees will attract bees into the ecosystem. Idris Mohammed (27) is a father of one son and two daughters. He is one of the youths involved in the conservation work. He said that one of the challenges they faced was the fact that the ground was very dry, making it tedious to dig the terraces and plant the trees and sisal. “It is hard work, but we understand that we depend on the environment for our survival. We have to take care of the environment, so we will keep working.” He added.

There are four guards, members of the community who ensure that the conservation work is not vandalised. They also protect the trees in the ecosystem. Based on community rules and regulations, community members are penalized if they are caught cutting the trees. The villagers are only allowed to use the dry twigs for cooking. All the homesteads use Adhanet improved stoves – energy saving stoves distributed by the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Department of Environment makes regular monitoring visits to the site and surveys the survival rate of the species.  Extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture support the conservation work in Gullie. According to Mr. Tesfom Mesfin, a Ministry of Agriculture official in the sub region, they have noticed that the survival rate of sisal in the conservation area is better than eucalyptus.

This project is supported by the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme and is implemented by the Gullie Community Development (GCD) in collaboration with the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW). Other stakeholders of the project include the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment.

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