‘Hard Work is What We Need and I Trust that Most Eritrean Farmers have that Quality,’ Farmer Mahder Mantay
By: Asmait Futsumbrhan
Meet Mr. Mahder Manta, a recipient of the Minimum Integrated Household Agricultural Package (MIHAP) introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in 2015. Mr. Mahder, a farmer, lives in Elabered sub-zone, Anseba Region. His desire to change and work hard on his farm has enabled him to be recognized as one of the exemplary farmers in his area. This is an interview he conducted with Filmawit Measho from the Public Relations Division at the MoA.
- How did it all begin, Mr. Mahder?
To begin with, I started working as an employee at agricultural farms in Hagaz, Adi Berbere, and Alebu. The experience I gained there and seeing what people can do and produce if they work hard gave me the inspiration to want to have something of my own. By 1998, I tried to dig a well and shared a water pump with a neighbor of mine before the Ministry of Agriculture gave me a generator. That was all before the third offensive during the border war in 2000, and just like everyone else, I left home to defend my country. This put a hold on my agricultural activities for quite some time.
In 2015, I became one of the beneficiaries of MIHAP; I was given 25 chickens, two beehives, fruit seedlings, and vegetable crops. I now have half a hectare of land where I grow Alfalfa and elephant grass for animal feed, guava trees, and orange trees. I also crop-rotate all kinds of vegetables and my land is suitable for any type of plant.
- Any reason why the land is suitable for any type of plant? What can you tell us about the importance of good land management in agriculture?
Well, initially the land was not fertile, but then we were given training on the benefits and preparation of compost by the Ministry. Immediately, I dug up two holes and started to prepare it for a trial in making compost. Then I started treating my land with it. I was so surprised by the results; my land started to regenerate and give me more harvest. After that, I even stopped using artificial fertilizers. I use only compost for my crops. I trust that having the right land management is vital in agriculture. I would prefer to have a small agricultural area and work to expand it through work and experience. I honestly don’t believe that there is bad land; I just think that farmers have to know what the crops need and pay attention to what is missing and what is required for the land to yield good products. Having this theory has allowed me to have good harvest, better than those who own much larger farms.
- Mr. Mahder, what are the benefits you got out of MIHAP?
In the past, we used to go to the Western low lands and Semenawi Bahri to look for job opportunities. We wouldn’t even have time to spend the night at home. Nonetheless, after what the MoA has offered us, everything is easier for us, farmers, since we are provided with everything we need. Now, I don’t have to travel long looking for job opportunities; I have everything I need right in front of me. My family gets milk, yogurt, butter, ghee, eggs, meat, crops, vegetables, and fruits right from our own farm. I also make money by selling my products to the public. My wife, along with other women farmers, was trained about the benefits of sweet potato and we have planted some for trial and are expecting good harvest soon. Besides, having understood the benefits of dairy products, I have exchanged my oxen for a cow and raised the number of my cows to four, which has enabled me to pay my debt.
- Any challenges you faced in the process?
I believe if you have love and understanding with your family, challenges can be dealt with. My wife and kids are always by my side, and we get a lot of advice and help from the Ministry of Agriculture. The only challenge we have now is a sustainable water sources. We have a check dam but the rain has not been helpful. And at times, we don’t find a market for our surplus products. Nevertheless, I am thankful.
- Any message you would like to convey?
I am very blessed to be one of the farmers to be part of the MIHAP. I never thought that I would be where I am today. I believe if we keep on going like this, we will provide our products not only for our subzone but for the whole country. Hard work is what we need and I trust that most Eritrean farmers have that quality. I see a bright future for all of us. Also, I applaud the Ministry of Agriculture for all the work it does and the opportunities and assistance it is giving farmers. Thank you.