Eritrea has been investing in types of machinery and, most notably, its human resource development in agriculture to utilize the expanding farms and achieve its goal of ensuring food security. In particular, graduates from Hamelmalo Agricultural College have been making substantial contributions in increasing crop and livestock production mainly in farms at Adi-Omar, Gherset, Ali-Gider, Fanko-Rawi, and Fanko-Tsumue.
The farms in Gherset have been mostly utilized during the rainy seasons. A good harvest was obtained in 2020 from 2000-hectares of sorghum, 140 hectares of millet, and 20 hectares of sesame. This was expanded in 2021 and the plan is to increase production every year through the cultivation of select seeds.
The farms in Gherset are so fertile they are suitable for a variety of crops. Wheat and taff, crops that are common in the highlands, have been tried in Gherset and gave promising results. The agronomists in Gherset work intensely on crop protection from weeds and pests. Mehari Haile, who has been working as head of the Agronomy Department in Gherset farm since 2014, said that surplus produce will be obtained in the area with the expansion of farm activities and particularly with the enhancement of irrigation systems.
Noting that a variety of crops have been piloted in Gherset farm, Mehari encourages farmers in the areas to have confidence in the cultivation of crops that are common in the highlands. The agronomists in the area are always ready to assist local farmers in the provision of select seeds and in the protection of crops from pests and weeds.
Veterinarians in the farms have been giving assistance to herders. Helen Medhanie, who has been working as a veterinarian in Fanko farm, works in a livestock department of Fanko farm mostly at the sheep treating section. Emphasizing that there is a huge gap between theory and practice, she said, “What we have learned while we were in college is very comprehensive and theoretical but we are now having a venue where we can have practical experience through the transfer of knowledge from our seniors.”
The agronomists and veterinarians, who graduated from college, are working at farms in the Gash-Barka region to boost the production of crops and livestock. They have done a lot with the tools they have at hand and are very optimistic that their efforts will be more productive with the introduction of modern machinery and laboratories in the future.
Experts in horticulture, agronomy, and plant protection have been working in collaboration for the development of the farm project in Adi- Omar. Habtom Tesfamariam, an agronomist, said Adi-Omar farm has a capacity to meet local demands of tomatoes and onions once the farm project starts operating at full capacity.
Like the other farm projects in the Gash-Barka region, Fanko- Tsumue farm has plant and livestock development sections. The livestock development section has focused on camels, cattle, sheep, and goats while the plant development section has focused on the cultivation of crops, fruits, and vegetables.
Fanko-Tsumue farm is very fertile and conducive for the cultivation of a variety of crops. But it has been mainly used to grow tomatoes for Banatom processing plant. The cultivation of fruits was introduced in 2017 with the planting of 12 hectares of orange and two hectares of mango trees. Orange and lemon trees were also planted in Fanko- Rawi.
Livestock development in Fanko was introduced in 2015. Currently, there are more than 3000 sheep, over 500 camels, and 200 cattle in Fanko-Tsumue. In terms of human resources, the farm projects in Fanko have over 300 experts work in a variety of fields such as agricultural engineering, plant and animal science, agronomy, and horticulture.
Since 2010 the farm project in Fanko has created employment opportunities for local communities of Fanko- Rawi, Fanko-Tsumue, and Alebu administrative areas. In addition to their assignments at the farm projects, the agronomists have also been giving technical assistance to local farmers in the area. One of the primary objectives of the farm project is to assist a large population of farmers in the Gash-Barka region. For this reason, Mr. Mahmud said, the farm project has centers in Barentu sub-zone, Shamboko, Molqi, Lalay-Gash, and Golug that have been offering veterinary medicines, pesticides and select seeds to the farmers in the area.
Agronomists working at farms in the Gash-Barka region have been making efforts to help ensure food security. Mr. Mahumd said he believes the graduates have been honing their skills through practical engagements in the farms and he is very optimistic that the technical know-how they have acquired will enable them to overcome much greater challenges in the future.