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A Spotlight on Nakfa Sub-Zone

Nakfa has a special meaning for Eritreans. It is endowed with immense history and the relics of the long armed struggle. Topographically, the Rora-Habab area is the location with the highest point, reaching an altitude of 2300 meters above sea level. The town of Nakfa lies on a flat landscape surrounded by hills covered with cacti, grass, and other thorny shrubs. According to local elders, the name Nakfa is derived from the Tigre word Naqf, which means “high”.

The Nakfa sub-zone is located about 200 kilometers northwest of Asmara. It bordered by Karora in the north, Adobha to the northwest, Sel’a sub-zone to the west, Habero sub-zone to the south, and Afabet sub-zone to the east. It has a population of approximately 55,000 inhabitants.


The region’s climate varies from warm and hot to cold. Most of the sub-zone enjoys a mild climate, which is beneficial for habitation, farming, and herding. The majority of the people of Nakfa sub-zone rely on agriculture for their livelihood, while some engage in pastoralism and trade.

Since independence, the Eritrean government has undertaken different initiatives to improve the standard of living in the sub-zone. These initiatives, based on the principles of social justice and equality, have aimed to alleviate poverty and promote inclusive development. For example, the Government invested in developing basic social service institutions for the rural population in order to ensure that the benefits of the nation’s economic growth would trickle down to all segments of the population.

The Nakfa sub-zone is mountainous, which makes it difficult for transportation. As part of the Government’s plans to connect the country’s remote areas with main market and transport routes, efforts have been made to pave new roads and repairing existing ones. Through these efforts, a number of seasonal and dirt roads have been paved.

Nakfa town is the center of administration in the sub-zone. It provides a range of social and civil services to the local population. During the long independence struggle, Nakfa was completely destroyed by the Ethiopian regimes. There were no social or civil services to speak of.

Investment in rural infrastructure, health, and education is critical to poverty reduction. It is also pivotal in helping to ensure sustainable development and can also enhance national well-being. After independence, access to education has greatly improved in the sub-zone. There are a number of pre-school to the secondary schools, while two boarding schools have been established in order to serve those who come from remote areas.

Regarding the health sector, there is one hospital in Nakfa, one health station in Agrae, and two clinics in Rora-Habab. Additionally, there are three ambulances that serve these health institutions.

The administration of the sub-zone regularly organizes community work campaigns in different areas. These campaigns have played a positive role in soil and water conservation. For example, water reservoirs of various sizes have been constructed in Nakfa and Rora-Habab administrative areas. As a result, residents have access to potable water.

The river that crosses through the town of Nakfa, although flowing throughout the duration of the year, is salty and not great for drinking. Mr. Yakob Edris, the administrator of the Nakfa sub-zone, said that the administration recently began a project to pump water in from Eila Wegriet, which is approximately seven kilometers to the west of Nakfa. He revealed that the project is near completion, with the final stages expected to be finalized through the support of the regional administration.

Nakfa was an important location during the long struggle for independence and its history is unparalleled. The famous underground trenches and canals, which were critical for the independence fighters, can still be found within an area bordered by the Apolo and Tsebayt mountains in the north, Mount Denden in the south, the Hedai flatland in the east, and Embalko and Tsabra in the west.

Locals, as well as the Government, hope that these locations, rich in history, are can attract tourists. The archeological and sport branch of the Northen Red-Sea region administration is allocating funds to preserve the areas and establish infrastructure to attract tourists.

Most people live in the Rora- Habab, Mariet, Baqla, Endilal, and Laba administrative areas. These are also the areas where most of the agriculture and herding activities practiced. Locals are also working to alleviate water scarcity problems through various activities, including soil and water conservation and planting trees.

Rora-Mariet is approximately 27 kilometer west of Nakfa. Mr. Ali Mohammed Abdela, administrator of the local administration, said that the community and the administration, with the help of the Government, are working to improve local living standards. Recently, a seasonal road, connecting Rora-Mariet to the town of Nakfa, was paved.

Thanks to this year’s good summer, the farms are in good condition. People are expecting a bumper harvest. The area is also unique because the extent of its forest cover is greater than most other areas. An important factor has been the community’s work in conserving soil and water.

Regarding social services, there are a number of schools, ranging from the pre-school to junior school level. The junior school began operations in 1999. It was recently renovated, helping to increase enrolments and improve the quality of education. There are also a number of mobile schools that provide educational services to nomadic populations.

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