Areza Sub-zone is one of the 13 sub-zones of the Southern region. It is located in the border between the Southern and Gash Barka regions. The sub-zone, in addition, is a route to major business centers of Maymne, Molqi and Mendefera, all of which are densely populated and commercial hubs of the Southern region. To give us an overview of the sub-zone, we had an interview with administrator of Areza Sub-zone, Mr. Russom Kiflemaryam.
- Thank you for your time, Mr. Russom, could you please introduce us with the sub-zone?
Okay thank you. Areza Sub-zone is among the biggest sub-zones of the Southern region and is bordered
by Mendefera to the east, Gash Barka (Molqi) to the west, Maimne to the south and Dbarwa to the North. It has a population of 81,000 people, which makes it the third most populated sub-zone in the region. The sub-zone encompasses 22 administrative areas,13 community courts and a central court that oversees cases from all the other community courts. The local inhabitants in Areza include Tigrinya, Tigre and Saho ethnic groups. Like most of the population in Eritrea, the people Areza sub-zone are mostly engaged in farming, herding and small scale commercial activities.
- I see that the topography of the sub-zone is mountainous, how convenient is it for farming activities?
Yes, it is indeed difficult because in addition to the landscape, the land is not as fertile as the other sub-zones in the area. The typical arable land of the sub-zone is mostly the plains, particularly the plains of Ubel, an area that borders with Maimne. While half of the sub-zone is a sunken area, the other half is an upland; therefore, different types of crops that are suitable to each climatic zone is harvested in Areza. For example, flax-seed, beans and chickpeas are grown in the cold part, while wheat, dagusha and taff are some of the commonly grown crops in the relatively hot areas of the sub-zone.
- What tourist attraction places can we find if we toured the sub-zone?
The Monastery of Aba- Menqeryos is one of the distinctive attractions of Areza Sub-zone, along with many other monasteries that have many artifacts, historical landmarks and written documents. Additionally, there are monumental buildings of feudal lords of Areza.
- How is the availability and distribution of social services in Areza Sub-zone?
If we started with education; compared to the status before independence, I can say that education in the sub-zone has improved exponentially. From 8 schools before 1991, it has leaped to 44 schools in 2021; ranging from preschool to high school. The educational structure encompasses two High schools and seven middle schools with elementary and preschool accounting for the rest 35. As for the distribution, there is at least one school in every administrative area.
- How aware are the people about the benefits of education?
Generally speaking, there is no problem on the part of the society. Parents do not hesitate to send their Children to school. However, though there is a school in each administrative area, there are villages that are a little remote for beginners. That is why the distance of the schools from the villages, especially high and middle schools, is a little worrying for the parents. Nevertheless, people’s awareness about education is very high in the society.
- What about the provision of health services?
There are seven health institutions in Areza Sub-zone; one health center and six health stations. The health stations give service to all the inhabitants of the sub-zone and others outside the sub-zone as well. For example, there is a health station in Ubel area that also gives service to local inhabitants of Maimne in addition to its designated service range. Therefore, this in itself says a lot about the health stations’ dedication and surplus service to the people. There are three public administered ambulances and are at the disposal of the sub-zone.
- Mr. Russom, what can you say about the supply of drinking water?
Water supply is okay except in villages that are located over alpine areas. Compared to the past few years, the problems have eased a lot. At present, there are two dams; one was built in 1996 while the other in 2017. Water is relayed to distribution stations through pipelines using generators but the new solar power plant in the sub-zone is hoped to come in handy for water distribution in the near future.
- Please tell us about the electricity supply in your sub-zone.
Before 2018, we had no electricity in the sub-zone. But then the Areza-Maidma Solar power plant was launched. Though it has been delayed due to technical issues, it resumed in 2020 and has been finalized. The solar plant supplies the population of more than 30 villages with 24 hours service. The farthest village from the plant is about 22 km away and concerned bodies have done the best they could to provide circuits to the remotest areas of the sub-zone, including the high altitude parts of Areza. The Electricity Authority has drafted a convenient mechanism of payment of bills until taximeters are installed. Moreover, the solar plant supplies power to service giving enterprises.
- What state is transportation and communication in Areza sub-zone?
Most of the sub-zone is located on the side of the major rout that extends from Mendefera to Molqi. There are no designated transportation vehicles for the people that are off the main road, so people gather in the town of Areza to get transportation services along the main road. Mobile network used to work just fine in our Sub-zone but now we are encountering network failures in many parts of the sub-zone and we are working with communication authorities to restore it.
- What development programs do you carry out at a sub-zone level?
During winter, people engage in administration-led soil and water conservation activities such as terracing and afforestation. We conduct such campaigns in winter because farmers engage in their farming activities in summer. For instance, in the coming year, 105 thousand seedlings are planned to be planted.
- Thank you Mr. Russom; if there is anything you would like to add…
Though the general social service provision is going well, I would like to urge the villages that are located in the highlands to consider relocating. Recently, two administrative areas have cohered and relocated to more convenient plains of the sub-zone and are now provided with basic social services including water supply. It makes things much easier for the government but we cannot enforce it at the same time. Nevertheless, I would like to reassure that the requirements of our people is definitely going to be fulfilled in accordance with the priorities and timeline of the government. Thank you very much for having me.