Many forests add beauty and attraction to the site. They are not only pleasant to see but also comfortable to live in. They are home to many species on earth. Forests can also be a source of multitude environmental, social and economic benefits to a country.
Eritrea is endowed with many natural resources. Years ago, a big part of the Eritrean land was covered with trees. However, there have been significant changes to the landscape due to drought, war and deforestation. But still there are a few places like Semenawi Bahri that are ever-green and provide shelter for wild animals.
One of the most stunning places in Eritrea that I prefer to call “small Amazon” is found in Gash Barka region, at the sub zone of Selea, near a place called Tahran. This ever-green forest area is located in the middle of an arid land near Anseba River. It covers around 10 km of the land alongside the Anseba river bank. It is rich in different kinds of plants, birds and other animals.
The “small Amazon” has different kinds of trees: date palms, pines, tamarisks and other trees which are locally called htum, kulmt, qsla, ramfa, gumare, gaba, chea and oala. The trees in this area are classified in to two – sweet such as gaba and oqba and bitter such as tamarisks and kulmt. The “small Amazon” is a favorable place for different species of animals and birds. The availability of various wild animals is one reason that makes the place unique. Among the largest predatory animals that are found in this area are the hyena, leopard and fox. Other animals found in the area include kudu, warthog, monkey, rabbit, springbok and snake.
The benefits of the forest to the local people are also numerous. The people of this area partially depend on the forest for their daily lives. People use trees as firewood and for building houses and making household furniture. They also use the forest as grazing land for their domestic animals. Furthermore, since the forest is located near the Anseba River, the trees help in protecting the river banks from erosion. The trees also serve as a shade providing shelter and comfort to the shepherds and their animals.
The “small Amazon” had historical significance in the history of the Eritrean struggle for independence. During the early years of the war for libaration it served as a safe haven for Eritrean freedom fighters. Also, weapons, medicine and food of the freedom fighters were kept in this place. The trees and bushes in the forest provided an ideal cover against aerial surveillance and attack.
If managed and promoted effectively this historical place can be turned into a cultural heritage that attracts tourists.
In order to protect the place the administration of the sub zone has selected members to be in charge. Fortunately, there has been no evident damage in the place as verified by staff from the Ministry of Agriculture who visited the area. Even then, the administrator of the sub zone of Selea and the local administrators have agreed to guard the place with the help of the local community.
The “small Amazon” has undeniable benefits to the local people, in particular, and the whole country, in general. In this place, one can easily start a small-scale agriculture using water from the river and harvest vegetables and fruits without much problem. The place also has a potential to be a good destination for tourists. In short, the socio-economic potential of the place is boundless. Therefore, a concerted effort must be made for its protection as well as for its growth.