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Livelihood Systems in Gash-Barka Region: Endless Endowments’! Part II and Final

Fanko Dam
Traditional Sedentary Agro- Pastoralism in Low Land-1

Found in Sub-Zone Mogolo, Barentu and Gogne, the communities in this LS are sedentary that have permanent villages with some members of the household migrating seasonally with their livestock to the banks of Gash and Setit rivers. The ethnic groups that belong to this livelihood are the Nara, Tigre and Kunama. Crop and livestock are roughly of equal importance in this livelihood. It must be noted here that the migration is during dry season only for the livestock with one or two members of the family and not the entire family. Some households in these areas make arrangements to send their livestock with other persons for fee or other services. Major crops grown in this LS include sorghum, pear millet, and sesame.


The landform varies from hilly to flat alluvial planes. The livestock types include cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkey. Camels are used for animal traction and donkeys are used for transportation and fetching water. Other income generating activities include handcraft from doum palm leaves, sale of crops and livestock and employment in the towns.

Traditional Sedentary Agro- Pastoralism in Low Land-2

This livelihood covers Sub- Zone Lalay Gash, Shambuko and Kebabi Tokibu, Brar, Dase, Kuluku, Fode, and Shakat from Sub-Zone Gogne and Sosena, and Asheti from subzoba Barentu. The ethnic groups that are found in this livelihood system are the Tigrigna, Kunama, Tigre and Saho. The Tigrinya whose ancestors migrated from the highlands are agropastoralsts like the Kunama who are the indigenous inhabitants of the areas. Both communities are sedentary that live in permanent villages and share common Christian belief although there are some kunamas whose religions are outside Christianity. The Saho and Tigre are also descendants of migrants from other parts of Eritrea but are followers of Islam. For all the communities’ agriculture and livestock have equal importance. The major source of their livelihood is agriculture and livestock; however all communities are engaged in trade of livestock, livestock products like butter and crops and other off farm activities. For instance in Sub- Zone Lalay Gash around Augaro, gold panning is practiced by many households to supplement their income.

Traditional Crop Based Mixed Agriculture in High Land

This system is part of the moist highland agro ecological zone found in Sub-Zone Logo Anseba and small part of Sub- Zone Molqi at an altitude between 1600-2400 meters and depends mainly on rain fed crop production. Only 9.7% of the total area of Sub- Zone is suitable for agriculture. The crops grown in the LS are barley, wheat, sorghum, finger millet and pulses. Limited livestock raised include small ruminants and cattle. The oxen are mainly used for traction. The inhabitants of the LS are sedentary agriculturalists that live in large villages and depend mainly on rain fed agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods.

Because of the limited agricultural land most households migrate to Gash Barka to cultivate crops and return after harvest to their villages in the highland. (This arrangement is called locally Wefri Zemet) However, the communities in this livelihood also engage themselves in trade of livestock and livestock products to supplement their income. The inhabitants of this livelihood depend on food aid for most of their subsistence. In addition bee keeping is another income generating activity in this livelihood. During the dry season the livestock migrate to the banks of Gash and Settit rivers.

Traditional Crop Based Mixed Agriculture in Low Land

Found in Sub-Zone Molqui, the LS depends on traditional rain fed agriculture combined with livestock rearing. Although most of the Sub-Zone is hilly, there are some plains towards the west bordering Sub-Zone Shambuko. The major crops grown include barley, wheat, and pulses in the highland part and sorghum and finger millet in the plains. Livestock is mainly cattle but some ruminants are also available. Other income generating activities include trade in livestock and livestock products and crops. During the dry season the livestock migrate to the banks of Gash and Settit rivers.

Rainfed Commercial and Small Scale Mixed Agriculture

This livelihood system is found in Sub-zone Goluj. The commercial farmers have an average farm more than 100 hectares while the small holders have between 2-15 hectares of land. Most of the large commercial farms are owned by absent land lords who live outside the Sub-zone but come during the Kremti to cultivate. The majority of the returnees from the Sudan are settled in this livelihood system in permanent villages or settlements.

Most of the land is plowed with tractors. Major crops in this livelihood are sorghum and sesame. The livestock include cattle, goats and camels. Camels are used for transport and oil crashing. Some households carry out the camel driven oil-crashing activity during the off-season. The major sources of income generating activities in this livelihood are sale of crops such as sorghum and sesame, sale of livestock and livestock products and sale of sesame oil.

Traditional Pastoral in Arid Lowlands

This Livelihood System is found in Hykota and Tessenei. There are three major ethnic groups namely the Hidareb and Tigre and Nara and a minor group Rashaida that belong to this LS. Both the Hidareb and Tigre are agro-pastoral sedentary communities while the Rashaida are very mobile and migrate in and out of the Sudan. Agriculture and livestock are the main source of livelihoods of the communities. Beside sales of livestock, doum palm leaves, handcrafts from doum palm leaves and cross-border-trade. The other income generating activities include employment opportunities in the irrigated farms along the Gash river, the agro industry of Alighidir and the town of Tessenei. There is also some gold panning in this livelihood. The livestock, which include sheep, goats and camels, contributes substantially to the livelihood of the communities.

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