The Sub zone of Mai Ayni located in the southern region at the foot hill of mount Tokilo, is one of the places being harnessed in the fight to secure food in the country. It borders the sub zone of Dekemhare to the north, Segneiti to the north east, Adi Keih to the east, the sub zones of Adi Kuala and Emni Haili to the south west as well as Tsorona to the south. Mai Ayni sub zone has 14 administrative areas and 60 villages with a total population of 55,000.
Three rivers- Gensel, Hadas Agulae and Mereb flow across this sub zone. The rivers are the main sources for the rich underground water that farmers use for irrigation. For this reason, the number of people who are working relentlessly in the fields is increasing from time to time. The sub zone of Mai Ayni has been one of the agriculturally competitive sub zones in the country producing several types of vegetables and citrus fruits.
Mai Ayni is known for its good climate which is suitable for plants and animal herding. Irrigation has been practiced by the Eritrean societies for a long time. It has been a while since Eritrean societies is linked with irrigation based agriculture. People in the eastern plains have for more than a century practiced Verdure irrigation, locally known as Mesno Lemi’e. Moreover, furrow irrigation or Mesno Neghe has also been practiced since the advent of the Italians in the area. Such modes of cultivation have contributed to the economy of the country. The number of individuals investing in Mai Ayni sub zone has been increasing dramatically.
Mr. Tadiyos Micheal, head of the branch of the Ministry of Agriculture in Mai Ayni sub zone, said that there was only one agricultural field in Mai Ayni built during the Italian Colonization, but through the government‘s effort many farmers have been introduced to the fertile land. Today, there are 632 farmers working on the land. These farmers have great impact on food security as they send their products to the markets of the sub zone, Asmara and other markets all over the country. Mr. Tadiyos added that about 1120 hectare of land is owned by the 632 farmers in the sub zone. The farmers grow fruits such as Mango, Mandarin as well as Oranges.
Mr. Tesfamariam Teklay is a model farmer in the sub zone growing fruits. He had to build a 7 km summer road to transport farm equipment easily to and from his farms. He has also increased his know-how about agriculture, which has resulted in an increase in production. As agriculture is an energy-intensive venture, farmers require energy to supply water to their farms. The inconsistent supply of fuel and eventually affects the overall production, Mr. Tesfamariam said. Also, the underground water cannot sustain the fields throughout the year. So, the Ministry of Agriculture has planned to build water reservoirs and pump the water using solar energies in the near future.
Mai Ayni sub zone is rich in water, especially because of the Mereb River. This river is one of the main rivers in Eritrea. The completion of dams such as Gergera and contribute to the agricultural fields in Mai Ayni. Farmers of the sub zone have now no concerns about water. Overall, building such dams helped to conserve water from the nearby rivers such as Mereb.
Farmers of the area were initially engaged in soil and water tests to prepare the agricultural fields with the aim of sustainable production. Mr. Tesfamariam said that the first thing that has to be assured is whether the area holds enough water for cultivation. The fact that the area has rich underground water encourages to build reservoirs and dams for sustainable agriculture. This devoted farmer said that it has been 13 years since he started harvesting.
The total area of the land cultivated by this farmer is about 43. 7 hectare, and around 70% of the land is cultivated at the moment. Almost 4000 trees have been planted in Mr. Tesfamariam field. It is easy to understand that such huge number of trees would have huge contribution in reducing soil erosion.
Mr. Tesfamariam focuses more on planting mangos and has a plan to plant more trees. He focuses more on mangos because mango trees have the ability to absorb more water from the river and protect soil erosion. In the coming year, this farmer plans to plant more than 100 mango trees. He added that there had been careful procedures and research in planting the trees. The research to design the farm took almost two years; the hard work has paid off in remarkable harvest of fruits.
Most of the people in the sub zone depend on the farms for their lives. The farms are also creating job opportunities and shaping lives of many. Mr. Tesfamariam recommends to farmers like him to involve themselves with technology and enhance their farms.