Eritrea’s Ministry of Agriculture has been shouldering a responsibility to implement strategic plans of the Government which mainly gives emphasis on food security, improvement of living standards, environmental protection, protection and preservation of natural resources and other targets aimed at alleviating challenges of traditional farming practices through the introduction of modern techniques and other interventions. Based on the set out plans, the Ministry of Agriculture prepares annual, biennial and three year strategic and development plans in collaboration and consultation with the farming communities, farmers ‘associations and cooperatives, village development committee members, youth, students and women associations and unions and other stakeholders. The short, middle, and long term plans of the ministry mainly focus on institutional and human resources capacity building, developing and strengthening indigenous knowledge of natural resources management, provision of minimum integrated package and improved agric-inputs, establishment of school green clubs and enclosures, distribution of modern alternative household energy sources, students ‘summer campaign, developing and strengthening semi-Urban and Urban Agriculture, and marking Greening Day annually on May 15. Preparation and submission of Aligned NAP (2008-2018) Eritrea Document to the UNCCD secretariat is also among its activities.
The Ministry has so far prepared a-five-year (2014-2018) Strategic and Development Plan which gives due focus to the aforementioned areas of activities.
The plan envisages activities that improve agricultural production and productivity per unit area through preventing land degradation, halt deforestation, increase soil fertility and biodiversity, adaptation and mitigation measures to climate change, and developing institutional and human resources capacity to sustainably manage land and water resources. The plan has definite targets of improving the livelihood of the Eritrean population. judicious and sustainable use of natural resources namely, soil, water and water bodies, forests, wildlife, livestock, rangelands among others are actions plans covered in the strategic plan.
Submission of Aligned NAP (2008-2018) Eritrea Document:
It is customary that UNCCD Secretariat prepared a Ten-Year (2008-2018) Strategic Plan. The document puts emphasis on the need for and the importance of environmental rehabilitation, sustainable use of land and water resources, equitable sharing of resources, roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, gender mainstreaming, developing institutional and human resources and technology transfer. The document contains strategies and objectives on what should be done to sustainably manage land and water resources so as livelihoods of farming communities could be improved.
As per the requirements of the Secretariat the Ministry of Agriculture, the UNCCD focal ministry, has prepared an aligned NAP (2008-2018) Eritrea Document and submitted a validated Aligned NAP–Eritrea Document to the concerned organisation on March 2015. According to the feedback received Eritrea is the first country in the region to submit such a document.
What is more is that the German based office of the UNCCD secretariat requested the MoA to have the Eritrean Aligned NAP document appear in the UNCCD website and the UNEP office Nairobi, Kenya requested the MoA to share the methodology used in processing the Eritrean aligned NAP document with other member countries so that they could be used as examples to other member countries. The MoA agreed to the request made by the two international organisations. And as promised the UNCCD secretariat posted the Eritrean NAP document in its website and the UNEP office in Nairobi, Kenya shared the Eritrean experience/methodology with other UNCCD member countries.
Institutional and human resources capacity building:
In the endeavors it has been exerting the Ministry has been very keen in institutional and human resources capacity building. To put this into effect practical and theoretical training and workshops/seminars, farmers’ days and exposure visits are arranged both in-country and abroad. The training courses include techniques of construction of physical soil and water conservation and harvesting structures, tree planting, crop land leveling, principles of small-scale irrigation, construction of alternative energy sources such as the indigenous improved biomass saving stoves locally know as‘Adhanet Mogogo’, etc. The training courses upgrade the skill and know-how of male and female trainees on the judicious management of natural resources which plays a positive role in improving the livelihoods of the trainees.
The MoA in collaboration with the Ministry of Information plays a major role in raising the awareness of the public in general and the farming communities in particular in that it publishes weekly articles on different agric-based subjects on ‘Hadas Eritrea’, the daily Tigrigna newspaper. In addition to these the Ministry prepares information, education and communication (IEC) materials such as pamphlets, brochures and manuals which are distributed to farmers and extension agents to help them manage their resources and upgrade their skill and knowledge.
The Ministry of Agriculture trains on average about 1,500 male and female farmers and about 1,000 extension agents annually on different agriculture related topics which include among others, practices of climate smart agriculture, improving seed storage, distribution and marketing techniques, integrated upgrading best practices of indigenous agricultural knowledge, pest management techniques, small scale irrigation techniques, rain-water harvesting techniques, urban and semi-urban agriculture, improving livestock production including poultry and bee rearing practices and animal health improvement techniques. These training enable farmers and extension agents to sustainably manage land and water resource leading to the improving of livelihoods of farming communities.
Developing and strengthening indigenous knowledge of natural resources management:
Eritrean farming communities have many different indigenous skill and know-how on how to judiciously use and maintain natural resources which include climate smart agriculture such as techniques on the construction of physical soil and water conservation structures, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, timely weeding, establishment of enclosures, grazing patterns, techniques of farmland preparation which includes contour ploughing and farmland levelling, construction and maintenance of vegetable and cereal crop storage, livestock rearing, tree planting, small-scale irrigation, bee raring, etc.
To give an example of crop yield improvements obtained due to the practice of cropland levelling is that there is an increase of 50% to 60% and in some cases more than these figures in crop yield in areas where cropland levelling is practiced as compared to non-cropland levelling.
The role of the MoA in all these interventions and investments is to provide technical support, training, provision of modern agricultural inputs at a reasonable price and to supervise and monitor activities.
Provision of minimum integrated package:
The Ministry of Agriculture is currently introducing a minimum integrated package which consists of the provision of one dairy cow, 25 one–month old vaccinated chicks, 2 sets of beehives with accessories, improved varieties of vegetable seeds, 10 fruit trees, 5 forage tree seedlings/forage seeds and 5 tree seedlings for firewood.
In its Five-Year(2014-2018) Strategic and Development Plan mentioned above the Ministry of Agriculture works diligently to implement the minimum integrated package which includes an average of 2,500 beneficiary households every year effective from year 2015 and adequate resources.
The system enables farming communities to judiciously use their resources and improve their living standards in a very short period of time, while these intervention and investment will improve household income, increase job opportunities and are expected to play a role in the sustainable management of natural resources.
(Condensed from Agriculture Ministry’s report)