Kerkebet sub-zone is found in the western plains of the Gash-Barka region. It is found around 150 km North West of the town of Agordat. On the way to this sub zone you f by different landscapes, vegetation and wild animals such as Ostrich, Nubian ibex, Gazelle and wild boars.
Traditional Agdos (huts) from palm trees are common to see on the river banks. Clinics, schools with high fences, shops and other small service rendering outlets provide a unique feeling of heavenly villages. Gong past these spectacular landscapes you arrive at Kerkebet (Amalayt) sub zone, rich in eco-tourism and natural attraction.
Kerkebet has an arid climate with little rainfall. The large river basins that flow to the western lowlands are the main source of agricultural activity in the area. To avert drought and expand farming, the government is constructing strategic dams in major river basins and potential catchments for the purpose of increasing the land under irrigation. If abundant water can be reserved, the opportunity for agriculture is very attractive, given that there are extensive plains with good potential for agriculture.
Kerkebet sub-zone is bordered with Sudan in the north, Forto- Sawa in the west, Dge in the south and Sel’a sub-zone to the east. It has 13 administrative areas namely the Himbol-Qechech, Hamashdiba, Amalyet, Drfa, Lakayeb, Atay, Harnayet, Agmayet, Hewan, Kayede with around 42 thousand populations living within these administrative areas. The majority of the ethnic groups in this sub-zone are Bidawyeet and Tigre. The people mostly depend on pastoralism while some are engaged in trade and agriculture.
According to the administrator of the Kerkebet sub-zone, Mr. Abdelkerim Idris, the sub-zone is one of the oldest sub-zones. Despite this, it was not able to make progress significantly due to different reasons. Inhabitants of the area used to live in a traditional way of life until few years back. Prior to independence, the inhabitants used to lead nomadic life in dispersed places. At present, however, various social services, including education, health and potable water have been introduced and enabled the inhabitants to lead stable and settled lifestyle.
Investments in rural infrastructure, health and education are key to poverty reduction measures and are critical to sustainable rural development and can enhance national well-being. As a result, the people of Kerkebet sub-zone are becoming utilizers of the mega-projects in the western lowland of Eritrea. The Kerkebet dam is opening new employment opportunities in the area. Around 1000 farmers on 500 hectare of land are currently engaging in agriculture under the auspices of Crop and Livestock Corporation. With the construction of this dam and other social service rendering institutions, the people are experiencing some changes in their lives. Water supply and other agriculture-related training are given by local authorities to make the Kerkebet agricultural area into a hub of abundant agricultural products that can feed the nation.
A healthy and dynamic agricultural sector is an important foundation of rural development, generating strong linkages to other economic sectors. Due to the expansion of agricultural activities, the number of people who settle around Kerkebet is increasing by the day. Rural livelihoods are enhanced through effective participation of rural people and rural communities, particularly women and youth. Several women are moving to this place to work and own land. Moreover, there is considerable potential for rural job creation not only in farming but also in agro-processing and rural industry in the future.
One of the main goals of the government is to achieve justice and equal access to the state’s resources. Accordingly, to attain the objective of promoting growth rate in the backward regions and to reduce regional disparities, the plan of regrouping villages and enhancing the provision of adequate social services in areas where the people live in scattered areas is being implemented in the rural development projects. In line with this, Mr. Abdelkerim said that about 30,000 people have been regrouped in nine administrative areas of the sub-zone. Moreover, the construction of the big dam around Kerkebet and the expansion of agricultural activities and market center are making contribution in improving the lifestyle of the people.
In line with the regrouping of villages to a new settlement area, the provision of social services such as education has led to remarkable progress in Kerkebet sub-zone. All of the administrative areas are now provided with elementary schools that educate children in their mother tongue and the students who manage to pass the junior level continue their education in Asmat Boarding School. As a sign of the improving educational services, the number of students who participate in the matriculation examinations in the twelfth grade is increasing.
Since independence four health institutions have been established; one health center in Amlayetm and health stations in Hamasdiba, Himbol-qechech, Agmayet and Lokayeb. These five health institutions serve around 40 thousand people of the sub-zone. Given that the Agmayet and Lokayeb health stations are far from the Amalayet health center, they have their own ambulances in addition to the one ambulance of the Amalayet health center that transport patients with acute health problems to referral hospitals. The four health stations give only outgoing patient (OPD) service and cases beyond their capacity to handle are transferred to the Amalayet Health Center. Mr. Awed Ahmednur, a nurse in the Amalayet Health Center, says the health center in Amalayet gives service to emergency, permanent and outgoing patients and has mothers care (pre and post-natal) and child care units. It carries out vaccination campaigns and has its own laboratory and pharmacy. As a result, satisfactory achievements have been registered in reducing the mother and child mortality rates, FGM, underage marriage and malaria caused deaths.
To maintain these achievements, health professionals provide awareness campaigns to the communities on different health related subjects in collaboration with partners such as the NUEYS, NUEW, schools and village administrations.
Mr. Abdelkerim further explained that in line with efforts to relieve the inhabitants from water-borne diseases, in nine out of the 13 administrative areas solar energy, hand-pump and generators have been put in place to provide reliable potable water. An effort to provide potable water supply to the remaining administrative areas is underway. The power plant installed to provide energy to the Kerkebet agro-project is planned to cover the surrounding vicinities. Mr. Abdelkerim calls for increasing coverage of the communication and transportation services in the sub-zone to enable better connection with neighboring regions.
The dam constructed in Kerkebet sub-zone has held back water 18 kms from the bridge. This has influenced the bio-diversity of the area positively. As a result, different wild animals are starting to come there. The Nubian Ibex an endangered animal is one of them. Taking account if the growing number of wild life in the area, setting up reserve areas in the sub-zone is of vital importance.