Goluj Sub-zone: Growing and Flourishing

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Goluj subzone is found in the southwestern part of the Gash Barka region and it is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, Laelay Gash sub-zone in the east, and Tessenei sub-zone in the north. The town of Goluj is about 45 km southeast of Tessenei and 400 km from Asmara. There are 52 villages located within 16 local administrations in the sub-zone. A total of 120,000 people live in the sub-zone and 6,000 people reside in the town of Goluj. The majority of the people (about 90%), depend on agriculture and herding for their livelihood, while the rest are engaged in trade.

Mr. Desie Zerimichael, administrator of the Goluj sub-zone, said that the sub-zone is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the Gash Barka region. This year, about 86,000 hectares of land have been cultivated, from a potential total 120,000 hectares. While the sub-zone is blessed with a great amount of arable land, the annual rainfall it receives is very low, being around 300 to 700 mm. To overcome this deficit and boost production, agricultural research institutes, sub-zonal administration offices, the Ministry of Agriculture, and local farmers are working together on soil and water conservation projects.

Land in the sub-zone is allocated in two ways: to the local inhabitants who have completed their national duties and to investors. According to the new land proclamation, local farmers are permitted to own 2 hectares, while investors can acquire more than 5 hectares. Currently, there are more than 500 entrepreneurs in the sub-zone who came from different parts of the country. Moreover, the sub-zone has around 12,000 hectares of grazing land, which means it is one of the most livestock rich areas in the Gash Barka region.

According to Mr. Daniel Tewelde, head of the Economic Development Unit in the sub-zone, yields have recently been increasing as a result of public awareness campaigns and training programs for local farmers. Prior to these initiatives, yields per hectare were about 3-4 quintals. However, after farmers were taught about proper farmland management and soil and water conservation, yields increased to an average of more than 10 quintals per hectare. The dominant crops harvested are sorghum (about 70%), millet, and sesame. The Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Goluj sub-zone branch provides farmers with what are regarded as the best sorghum seeds. The sub-zone also provides consultations to farmers on how to conserve soil and water, and it also distributes selected seeds for cultivation. Thus far, the farmers have not fully exploited these opportunities and the Ministry of Agriculture is working to increase the awareness of the people to utilize the opportunities. The administration arranges routine soil and water conservation campaigns.

The Goluj sub-zone has a large amount of arable land and it is rich in water resources. However, irrigation-based agriculture in the sub-zone remains limited. Most of the irrigation farming is conducted in the Setit river basin. Mr. Daniel disclosed that a study on the issue was recently conducted and the sub-zone plans to encourage irrigation-based agriculture in the near future.

Most of the farmers in the region are satisfied with the land redistribution policies. Mr. Daniel said that the land redistribution was important in order to ensure the right to own and utilize land. The farmers who receive 2 hectares of land can even acquire more land if they are able to show that they have high production levels and meet certain harvesting requirements. Farmers are then required to submit a study of an area they want to cultivate. After they are assigned land, farmers’ output is evaluated in order to ensure they are properly utilizing the land. The Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture provides farmers with continuous training on how to increase yields through proper planting schedules, weed removal, and harvesting at the right time. Mr. Daniel said that despite the sub-zone’s large amount of arable land, production can be improved. He also revealed that the local administration is planning to introduce intensive mechanized farming toward that end. Currently, most intensive farming is conducted in Ketay and Gerset. Encouragingly, this is helping to increase local employment.

The local Saving and Micro-credit branch is also expanding its activities in the sub-zone. It is extending loans to individuals and groups based on various criteria. One positive outcome is that productivity and the number of livestock has increased.

The town of Goluj is the administrative center of the sub-zone. With the gradual influx of people into the town, social service provision has increased. Additionally, trade and agricultural activities in the town have begun to flourish. Mr. Daniel said that according to the town’s present master plan, people may face challenges in establishing businesses. However, access to water and the development of infrastructure in Goluj sub-zone and the 15 administration zones is steadily improving. The inhabitants of the town of Goluj receive their potable water from three wells which flow into seven water stations located inside the town.

The sub-zone, in collaboration with the regional administration, has decided to relocate towns along main roads. This will help in the distribution of services by bringing together several scattered villages. It is also cost-effective.

Education, health, and other services are also improving in the Goluj sub-zone. Every local administration has its own school and health center. As well, most of the sub-zone has Eri-Tel coverage and a project is underway to provide services for the remaining administrations.

Currently, there are 8 kindergartens, 23 elementary, 9 junior, and two secondary schools in the sub-zone. However, to reduce the high student-teacher ratio and help establish a conducive learning environment, more schools must be built. Adult education is also provided in 11 location in order to reduce illiteracy.

In terms of health services, there are 9 health institutions, 2 health centers, and 7 health stations in the sub-zone. There are 5 local administrations which do not have health centers. However, local barefoot doctors provide services. Mr. Gilay Mosazghi, a nurse and director of the health service institutions in the Goluj sub-zone says, “The health centers provide services to permanent and outgoing patients. When highly serious cases arise, they are referred to the hospitals in Tessenei and Barentu.”

All of the health centres provide vaccinations, pre- and post-natal care, and children’s health services. “We are driven by the motto ‘A mother shouldn’t lose her life while giving birth’” Mr. Gilay added.

Importantly, the region has made considerable progress in reducing mother and child mortality rates, female genital mutilation, underage marriage, and the prevalence of HIV and malaria. However, despite the progress, Mr. Gilay revealed that health facilities need to be expanded in order to meet the needs of the sub-zone’s growing population.

Several all-season roads have been paved that connect the sub-zone with the local administration. The sub-zone is also connected with the main Tessenei-Omhajer road. Importantly, these developments have helped facilitated trade and eased transportation challenges. The roads should also help encourage investment.

The large Gerset and Bademit dams in the sub-zone have the potential to support intensive agricultural activities. In particular, they have opened opportunities to develop large fields of land for agriculture. There is an abundance of fertile land in the Goluj sub-zone around the Setit river basin, as well as a large number of different animals.

There is a nationally recognized 12000 hectare enclosure for use by the 16 administration zones of the Goluj sub-zone. This enclosed area is mainly used for grazing during the rainy season. Farmers are encouraged to collect food for animals during good rainy seasons. Apart from this enclosure, every administration zone has its own reserved park. With Goluj sub-zone sharing borders with Sudan and Ethiopia, sometimes shepherds and animals move across

the borders. Unfortunately, this can result in the spread of diseases among animals. To address this issue, the sub-zone established 4 veterinary health stations in the towns of Omhajer, Goluj, Gergef, and Ashela. Additionally, all livestock in the sub-zone are immunized 2 times per year in order. According to Mr. Daniel, such efforts have played a positive role in ensuring that the sub-zone has not suffered outbreaks of animal diseases.

The inhabitants of Goluj participate in various development campaigns and their contributions have been immense. All the towns in the sub-zone are also experiencing significant growth in agricultural and trade activities.

Furthermore, local farmers remain committed to improving their output. With the support of agricultural experts and the Ministry of Agriculture, they expect to have an abundant harvest this year.

Like a flower, Goluj is slowly growing and flourishing.