The southern Denkalia sub-zone is the biggest sub-zone in the Southern Red Sea region in terms of population and size. This strategically situated sub-zone along the Bab el Mandeb is home to the majority Afar ethnic group. It has ten local administrations: Abo-Kiloma, Harsile, Debeshima, Beilul, Berasuli, Wede, Sduh-Ela, Sireru and Mindg. The southern Denkalia sub-zone stretches about 300 KM from Ascoma to Ras Dumeira and has a population of over 27,000. The sub-zone includes around 30 islands among which Halib, Fatma, Berasuli archipelago are islands where most fishing activities are conducted. Most of the islands have spectacular landscapes suitable for tourism activities like swimming, diving and camping. The coast is rich in mangroves and a wide variety of fish.
The majority of the population lives on fishing, pastoralism and trade while subsistence farmers engage in agriculture. The sub zone has hot and temperate climates. Most of the land in the sub-zone is covered by palm, acacia and other indigenous trees that serve as a habitat to different species of wild animals such as the Zebra and Ostrich. Palm trees known for their multi-purpose cover most of the land, and local people use them for making huts, carpets, as well as for food and drinks to people and animals.
The southern Denkalia sub-zone hardly had social service provisions before Eritrea’s independence. Therefore, all social service provisions had to start almost from scratch. In the last 26 years, the government, as part of the strategic rural development projects, has laid numerous social service institutions which include water supply, education and healthcare services that have enabled the people to lead better life conditions. Today, solid foundation has been laid out to facilitate future undertakings. Here we will see some developments.
Farmers of this sub-zone produce fruits mainly date palms and vegetables in Rehaita, Abo-Kiloma, Harsile, Beilul, Berasole and Bhaita. The Rehaita agricultural site was founded by the Afar Sultanate of Rehaita Abdeelkaader Dawud. Mr. Abdu Ali, governor of the southern Denkalia sub-zone says that the farmers are encouraged by the Ministry of Agriculture branch in the southern region to increase their produce both in quantity and quality.
This sub-zone is one of the areas rich in history in the Southern Red Sea region. Before their expansion towards the north, the Italians were initially stationed in this region in an area known as Harsile Mergabla. It was there that the Italians encountered their first indigenous opposition from the Afar in Beilul and Sireru where many of the colonial army were killed. One can find archeological remnants of the Turkish around Berasole. Moreover, the PLF1 was founded in Sduh Ela by Eritrean fighters who escaped from the ELF and crossed to Yemen. One of the renowned battle ground in the 1998-2000 Ethiopian offensives known as the Burie Trenches where the Ethiopian regime suffered a heavy loss is found in this sub-zone. The Ministry of Tourism in the Southern Red Sea region is engaged in protecting the archeological sites and discovering new ones.
Tourism in the sub-zone is helping to ignite business for the underground hot springs in Sireru, archaeological sites such as a buried city of Hasereba (situated near Rehayta), and ancient Mosques of Tio and Edi. There are also historically important paintings and stone scriptures in Ayumen, Beylul and other places of the region. Along the coasts of the Red Sea the Berasole, Halib, Gdr and Fatima are rich in maritime resources such as the Dugongs. This sub-zone is located in the middle of the East African rift valley where several cases of volcanic eruptions and tectonic movements occur. As some historical evidences show there have been several volcanic eruptions in the region. The recent volcanic eruption at Sireru is a good example for the volatile nature of the region. The volcano that erupted in 1856 was felt beyond the region in some parts of southern Yemen and deep inside Ethiopia. The incident is still remembered as “the year of smoke.” That of 2010 was also deeply felt and had an impact on lives in Ethiopia, and the ash reached many parts of the Sudan and northern African countries. Besides, it is well placed in the map of important archeological sites in Africa.
Education is a fundamental human right and the main driver of development. A nation with higher percentage of literacy is likely to have better economy and is necessary for social empowerment. Educational service, though inadequate, was given until 3rd grade during the Italian colonial era and remained so until independence. Thanks to the government’s investment in education, 18 schools from kindergarten to high school have been opened and are rendering service effectively. There are more than 2500 students enrolled in 2017 and these students are taught by teachers who speak their mother tongue. Furthermore, in order to reduce student dropouts, students of the sub zone are taught in the fully equipped boarding schools in Assab, Wede and Beilul. Female participation has also improved after independence. In order to increase their participation, a committee composed of members from NUEW, NUEYS, PFDJ, and their respective local administrations was formed. Besides, a wide spread campaign is carried out to enlighten communities about harmful practices of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), underage marriage and the like. Adult education is introduced in the sub-zone with a special focus to help parents and those who do not get the chance to be educated, which is bearing satisfactory results in reducing the illiteracy level.
There was only one health center in Abo established by a religious institution in 1981. After independence, six health institutions have been opened in Wede, Beilul, Debeshima, and Rehaita and are rendering the needed services to the locals. Moreover, there are mobile health workers assigned to each of the local administrations. There are two ambulances that serve in the six health centers.
“FGM and underage marriage are the cultural practices that needed attention in our sub-zone” says Mr. Abdu. To enforce the laws against this kind of practices, a committee was formed from associated Ministries such as the NUEW, Ministry of Health, administration and religious leaders. Since the people have been getting viable healthcare access, behavioral changes that come along with such developments have been playing major roles in the reduction of maternal and child mortality rates.
- -Water resources
Poorly sanitized water sources were also causes to poor health conditions for a number of people. Providing secure potable water supply has been one of the necessary requirements for promoting a healthy environment and a well-protected society. Mr. Abdu says through the establishment of solar pumps, potable water supply has been secured in most villages that are endowed with underground water resources.
Varied projects of water supply have solved the problems of a number of villages and particularly that of areas that stretch along the coastal lines like Rehayta to Beylul. Varied administrative areas that have become beneficiaries of solar and motor pumped water supply services include administrative areas of Berasuli, Rehayta, Abo-kiloma, Harsile, Beylul, Berasole, Debaisima and Wade. Other villages of this sub-zone in which deficits of water supply is prevalent have been getting access through the construction of underground water reservoirs that could accommodate surface water sources.
- -Transportation and communication
There were three main routes in the sub-zone that connected Assa-Burrie-Adis Abbaba, Assab-Beilul and Asab-Rehaita- Djibouti. Today additional roads have been added and the transportation problem has been minimized.
Regarding communication services, Mr. Abdu says that from Assab to Abo-kiloa, Harsile to the south east, Berasuli administrative area to the north east and Beilul are now beneficiaries of the mobile telephone. Future plan of the Sub-zone in cooperation with respective partners is to provide communication services to the remaining administrative areas. The source of energy for this sub-zone is the port city of Assab.
- -Social justice
Communities have always developed rules and procedures for settling disputes that arise among their members. The Afar people has a long tradition of local dispute resolution in accordance with their respective customary laws. This tradition is considered part of the day-to-day life of the communities and is a reflection of the desire to maintain peace among all of its members. There are three community courts in Beilul, Rehaita and Wede. Before the introduction of community courts, people had to travel long distances and spend a large amount of money and time to make use of the legal system. This long distance together with time and money involved heavily restricted poor people from having access to state justice. Today, however, this is no longer a problem.
Resettlement of scattered villages is one of the primary objectives of the sub-zone to enable the people to enjoy the social service provisions in close proximity.