After independence the government of Eritrea has taken different initiatives to raise the standard of living of the rural people based on the tenets of social justice and equal development.
In pursuit of this objective, the government invested in the rural areas based on the belief that unless the rural areas are given attention, the benefits of economic growth and development are not likely to trickle down to the majority of the population, particularly those in the rural areas. This article gives an account of the development activities in the Adobha sub-zone.
Adobha sub-zone is one of the 16 districts of the Northern Red-Sea region. This sub-zone is inhabited by around 12 thousand people in six local administrative areas — Adobha Nues, Mdgag, Hasta, Ela-babu, Ararb and Hager. The sub-zone of Adobha is mainly known for its mountainous landscape around the plateaus of Rora-Habab, Nakfa and Ayget and dry plains along the borders with Sudan. Eitaro (which is also called Drit, its second name) is 75 KM to the north west of Nakfa. The remotest parts of the sub-zone are Ararb and Hager, 112 km far west from the center of the administration. Most of the people live as pastoralists and a small percentage engage in trade and agriculture. This sub-zone is home of Bidawyeet and Tigre ethnic groups.
According to the local inhabitants, Adobha was difficult to pass through let alone to settle for a long time due to its desert-like climate with little rainfall and difficult-to-access underground water. The name of the sub-zone is indicative of its climate. The name Adobha was originally Adoha, which means enemy of cattle. When herders were migrating through this area from Barka (south western part of Eritrea) to the east for the rainy season, their cattle used to die here due to lack of water and, as a result, they called the place Adoha.
Mr. Edris Ali, administrator of the sub-zone, says that as there was not any social service in the past it all “had to start from scratch. Since then this sub-zone has grown fairly and its population is now increasing”.
After independence, lots of projects have been implemented to improve the livelihood of the people of this sub-zone. Until the administrative restructuring in 1996, the local administrations of the sub-zone were administered under different subzones, causing the people additional costs of administrative service. Then Adobha was founded in 1996 with Etaro as its center. It is the farthest most and largest sub-zone of the northern Red-Sea region. However, it is the least populated sub-zone. The primary problems of the sub-zone were transport, education, water-supply and the like.
Adobha sub-zone is one of the areas where village regrouping is promoted due to the scattered nature of settlement of the population. Village regrouping is an attempt aimed at creating relatively larger settlements by bringing together several scattered villages to make it easier for the government to provide them with facilities and services.
For people to lead a sedentary life, the availability of potable water supply is critical. To ease the potable water supply problem of the sub-zone different mechanisms have been adopted. Water is provided using generators, solar panels, and manually-operated pumps. This has been a motivating factor for the regrouping of villages. During the armed struggle for independence, the area around Adobha served as one of the bases of the EPLF. The fighters got their water supply from the wells dug around Etaro, himbol and Ela-babu, which are still serving the local population. Agriculture was also developed around Badn but ceased to function after the end of the struggle. When the people of the sub-zone regrouped they have become beneficiaries of services such as education, healthcare and drinking water near where they live.
One of the sectors that has made a major progress in this sub-zone is the health sector. There is one health center in Adobha and one health station in Ela-Babu. In the remaining localities health service is provided through foot medics. The health professionals are giving commendable service in raising communal awareness and disease prevention, in general, and in reducing child and mother mortality rates, in particular.
Though there is one ambulance in Adobha’s health center, it is not enough to give service to all of the local administrations because they are far from one another, says Mr. Edris Ali.
As far as education is concerned, Adobha sub-zone was one of the places without schools before independence except that of the literacy campaigns carried out by the EPLF. Mr. Abubaker Ali, director of the Ministry of Education’s branch at the sub-zone, says that nine schools have been opened, from pre-school to the middle school level, and are registering some promising results in enhancing the educational opportunities of the people. Around 627 students are currently enrolled in these schools, which is still very much lower than the required enrollment level. Mr. Abubaker said that they are working to increase the number of students who should be enrolled in the next academic year.
One of the endeavors of the Ministry of Education in the sub-zone has been encouraging students to be committed to their studies by providing different kinds of assistance that would facilitate the teaching-learning process, including free meals during school days and material support.
Adult learning is also offered, which is playing a key role in reducing the illiteracy level. Most of these students are women and some of them will participate in the upcoming eighth grade general examination. Mr. Abubaker said that a plan is underway to start programs for those who couldn’t learn according to their school age.
The predominant economic activity of the sub-zone is pastoralism. Only a small scale and few agricultural businesses are operational today. Most of the people of the sub-zone live by purchasing food products from Sudan. The administration of the sub-zone has a plan to expand the Badn agricultural potential to increase local produce.
The biggest unsolved problem in this sub-zone is the question of communication and transportation services. Mr. Edris said that the available road links are in need of renovation and expressed his hope that this will be solved in the coming years.
Mr. Edris said that as the vicinity of Adobha was a rear base of the EPLf throughout the independence struggle, they are working to preserve the relics of the armed struggle. He called on the Ministry of Tourism’s branch of the region to give attention to preserving the the historic places because of their significant value and contribution to domestic tourism.