- The story of Adi Debri
The determination and willingness to contribute to society is seen everyday in Eritrea by individuals who often are staying in the shadow while they are achieving great results for the wellbeing of local communities. This is the story of a man among many others.
A former freedom fighter who was sent to Beirut during the armed struggle, Mr. Hadish Derar Malu spent his young age fighting with his comrades for the liberation of the nation and since independence he has been working for the development of Eritrea the best way he can. I met Mr. Hadish a few days ago to hear his story of how he managed to make a formidable idea to develop his native village a reality. Mr. Hadish comes from the village of Adi Debri located in the Gash Barka region, subzone Logo Anseba, under the Debri- Adi Hanse local administration. Surrounded by mountains, the village is situated in a valley at about 32km West of Asmara.
Close to the capital city, the village has great potential to become a hub of integrated farming. This is the idea that Mr. Hadish has in the long term but his initial idea was to make his native village viable for generations to come by rebuilding the village first and slowly developing sustainably by involving the local community throughout all his endeavors. “We learned from the front to strive for the wellbeing of the people. During the armed struggle it was about liberating the people from foreign domination and now it is about bringing sustainable development to the people”, Mr Hadish said.
In the mid-1990s, after witnessing a destroyed village, houses in ruin, a population dependent on rain-fed agriculture, Mr. Hadish quickly put in place a strategy by meeting with village leaders and experts in irrigation and integrated farming. “At first, it wasn’t easy to convince villagers to change their habit in terms of agriculture but in the end through dialogue, it worked”, said Mr. Hadish. “The idea was to ensure that the people can sustain themselves by providing water, agriculture and livestock. One family can then live in peace and that’s what I wished”, Mr. Hadish added.
The first few years a feasibility study was made to assess the land, its resources and potential. “The most urgent priority we had was water and its management because during the rainy season, it would rain heavily but then there was no system to contain this water for the whole year”, he added. In fact, for generations, villagers used to take their livestock to the seaside, the next season to another region and they may stay in their own village for only a month or two during the best season due to lack of water all-year long.
Before starting the integrated farming program, the village was evaluated in terms of opportunities and challenges including the interests of the local community and how to manage it. Thus, priority was given to water resources management.
Seeing how the local community depended on rain-fed agriculture, Mr. Hadish and the villagers planned the construction of a water dam and with the support of the government, a water dam, which looks like a lake today, was built with the hard-work of all villagers. The village had electricity since 2008 installed by the Government and a school and clinic were also established. “All the basic necessities are now met in Adi Debri and because it’s very close to Asmara, I now stay in the village and when needed I come to Asmara. At least you can enjoy the peace and nature of Adi Debri”, said Mr. Hadish.
“In the past we couldn’t even find drops of water, forcing us to go kilometers away. Now, thanks to Mr. Hadish’s dedication, we even have fish in abundance”, said Mrs. Measho Ayele, an inhabitant of Adi Debri in an interview made by Mr. Tesfalem Ghebreselassie last month.
Fishing started soon after and marked the beginning of a successful project made possible by creating an association of Adi Debri Development. It includes villagers but also experts in integrated farming. Mr. Hadish was elected the chairperson of the association. “We have four divisions within the association – the bee farming, fruits and vegetable farming, poultry farming and water resources”, he said. This great idea created a sense of ownership to villagers by understanding how it would change the life of the inhabitants in the long term.
The 250 household strong village organized the division of land for farming through a system of lottery of plots under the idea of having a sustainable land management project including areas reserved for greasing and tree planting. After the feasibility study was made, the village showed immense potential in agriculture with more than 155 hectare of agricultural land and good climate, with a maximum temperature of around 25.1°C in summer and a minimum average of 7.2°C in winter.
Trees, which disappeared during the war, are now growing; olive trees and fruit trees are now covering the landscape. Wildlife, including birds, is coming back to Adi Debri. Beehives are also being introduced with the long-term plan of introducing Kenyan beehives made out of local materials, which are less costly and environmentally friendly. “A farmer can have four integrated farming activities now”, Mr. Hadish said proudly. In actual fact, farmers used to work the land once a year due to lack of water but today they have three harvests a year.
Since 2005 the villagers have engaged in terms of manpower but also in terms of financing. Accordingly, when I asked Mr. Hadish about where the financing comes from, he explained that the village has a banking account where donations from Eritreans in the diaspora, others in the country and the villagers themselves come from. Mr. Hadish also contributed the best way he can in investing in the village. “The community had a bank account for the development of the village and already in 1998, the account held 300, 000 Nakfa”, said Mrs. Elsa Ristom, Head of agricultural development for the Logo Anseba subzone.
Since 2012, the program has shown great results in farming. Villagers are now able to feed their families all year round and sell their surplus to surrounding villages and to Asmara. The idea is to ensure a sustainable way to sell their products by having a store in Asmara under the lead of the association and make sure the rights of farmers and the pricing are respected. In line with this, Mr. Hadish and his peers are planning to build storage in the village as the production of potatoes, among others, are showing great results with quintals of products throughout the year. There is also ongoing work in terms of including a sustainable drip irrigation system to the arable land.
Starting from scratch with only a wish of doing good became reality for the village, which manages to fight climate changes and the impact of thirty years of war. The story of Adi Debri is, thus, “an example, which can easily be duplicated to surrounding villages and to the country as a whole”, stated Mr. Hadish. Clearly, the wish of one man became a reality by including the local communities and raising awareness and consequently becoming the owners of the project. “People should take their own initiative instead of always waiting for the government to do it for them; this is what I always believed in”, concluded the chair of the association.