Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood Programme in Zoba Maekel

Food SecurityUNDP is working with local communities to diversify production by supporting non-crop based activities that are favorable to the poor and reducing dependence on natural rainfall. Photo: UNDP Eritrea

Over 80% of Eritreans are engaged in subsistence farming and the government has made substantive efforts in improving food production. However, food sustainability remains a major problem for the country. With good rains the country can produce up to 60% of its food requirements, with bad rains the productivity can decrease to as low as 25% of national food requirements.

Time series data on crop production indicates that the overall picture is one of erratic food production, and a growing gap between trends in food production and demand. Thus, the country faces food shortage every year, and household food insecurity is the major challenge for the country. It is estimated that 66% of the Eritrean population is unable to obtain adequate food both in quantity and quality for their physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

Malnutrition is a common problem. The Food Security Strategy (2004) paper indicated that 38% of the Eritrean children are stunted; 44% are underweight while 50% suffer from anaemia. About 59% of the Eritrean population consumes less than the daily calorie requirement. The average daily per capita calorie intake is about 1750, which shows a shortfall of 26% on the basis of the WHO standard of 2,350 calories per day.

In terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Eritrea is off track with respect to eradication of poverty. About 30% of households in Eritrea are headed by women, of which 18% are widowed. Women bear a disproportionately large share of the country’s poverty and food insecurity. They earn less than half of their male counterparts, possess fewer household assets, are less likely to be literate and numerate, and suffer more from poor nutrition.

Various documents show that a considerable proportion of households in Zoba Maekel regional administration suffer from wide spread periodic to seasonal food shortages 


The objective of the project is to support the Government of the State of Eritrea’s goal of ensuring sufficient quantity of acceptable quality food at an affordable price at any time and place in the country, and the first Millennium Development Goal – combating hunger –, and in line with the Food Security Strategy (2004), Interim Poverty Reduction Paper (2004), and UNDAF Outcome 3. The project aims at improving the household food security status of about 6000 people

Expected Results

  • Build and support the capacity of smallholder households to increase productivity of food crops;
  • Diversify agricultural production by supporting non-crop based activities that are favourable to poor households;
  • Reduce dependence on natural rainfall;
  • Enhance agricultural intensification. 

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