Eritrea farmers embark on sustainable land management practices, increase land productivity

Eritrean girl carrying a rock to build a check dam
Eritrean girl carrying a rock to build a check dam

Tesfay Bariagaber, a 74 year old farmer from Keih-Kor village in Debub region is looking forward to a bountiful harvest. He hails from Dekamhare sub-region, and is a beneficiary of a community based sustainable land management project that aims to reclaim 45 ha of farm land.  As the team leader, Tesfay oversees water and land conservation activities such as land levelling, terracing and construction of check dams. “Look at our farm, our maize is doing so well. This year, we will have a good harvest” He said. The project benefits about 800 community members.

Highlights

  • The average rainfall in Keih Kor is 470mm. People depend on rain fed agriculture.
  • The SGP project is targeting reclamation of 45 ha of farm land through soil and water conservation activities.
  • The project is benefiting 800 community members.

According to Dawit Frezghi, the administrator of Metsalu, the area suffered soil erosion and consequently led to poor yields in the farms. The run-off water from the hills was wasted instead of been used for productive agricultural activities like farming and the crop was eroded by water and wind. Once they levelled the land, build terraces and constructed check dams, their farms can retain fertile soil, and rain water is retained for crop cultivation. The community plants maize, teff and barley.

The community has understood conservation issues and are actively engaged in all the project activities. Letekidan is 48, a mother of 5 and leads one the community groups. “We are working very hard to construct more check dams. The check dams reduce the speed of run-off water from the hills and as a result, protect our farms from erosion. We are happy about the progress we have made in the last 3 months. Everyone is happy!” She exclaimed.  “People keep asking us, why didn’t you tell us to build these check dams before?” added Dawit Frezghi.

With the support of UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) and the government institutions in the region, the community has reclaimed their farm land. The community is committed to continue the conservation efforts. The project is implemented in partnership with Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Agriculture and the National Union of Eritrean Women. Idris Mohammed from the Department of Agriculture, provides technical support for the project. He said that the project has been productive because the people owned the project and are eager to keep up with the conservation work. “More work needs to be done in the catchment area. We need to plant cactus and reeds to increase the vegetation. In future women can use reeds to make baskets”.

Though the project has achieved good results in the last three to four months, it has not been without challenges. Michael Syom, head of economic development in Dekamhare sub-region said that they lack machinery to lift, carry and break the big stones, which they need to construct the check dams. “Over the years, there has been a lot of erosion, we couldn’t do everything in three months, so we will have to continue with the conservation work.” He emphasized.

In future the community would like to construct a dam for water harvesting and use it for irrigation during the dry spells.

Dawit Frezghi pointing at completed checkdamsDawit Frezghi pointing at completed checkdams