Gash-Barka region is exceptionally well endowed with vast fertile land and water and is sparsely populated. Encouraged by the region’s natural resources and the assistance given by the government for new settlers, more and more farmers have been settling in the region and engage in farm activities around the river banks of Barka River and Gash River.
Mr. Hamid Saleh, an exemplary farmer who lives in Tesenai, owns and operates poultry, fruit and vegetable farms in Shergig, Tesenai sub-zone. He had worked as a tailor in Keren, Aqordat and Tesenai for quite a long time when he decided to move to the vast plains of the Gash-Barka region to give farming a try. In 2011, he was provided with a farm land in Talata-Asher at a locality known as Sherig, 28 km west of Tesenai. Six hectares of his farm is used for banana plantation and around 10 hectares for fruits and vegetables.
Currently Mr. Hamid is making preparations to grow potatoes as he was given select potato seeds by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). His success as a farmer has motivated him to start a poultry farm with 2000 chicken he obtained from MoA. He has installed a solar-powered incubator to multiply the number of chicken in his farm and provides his chicken with select animal feed to enhance the production of eggs and meat, which are sold at markets in Tesenai, Keren and Asmara.
Mr. Hamid has drilled four wells for use in his fruit and vegetable farms. The banana plantation is doing so well that a load of one truck per month is sent to Asmara markets. He also wants to have a dairy farm and has already made plans for the cultivation of green animal feed that he can use for himself and supply farmers in the sub-zone. The Tesenai sub-zone local administration gives Mr. Hamid support in his initiative to grow animal feed. Mr. Hamid said, “The more we cultivate the farm areas, the more encouragement we have been receiving from the Government.”
Poultry farms, which are common in the highlands where the climate is conducive, are challenging to implement in arid areas like Talata-Asher. To alleviate the challenge posed by the hot weather, farmers like Mr. Hamid have designed the chicken shelters to be well-ventilated. They have been built to be six meters high, three meters of masonry walls and three meters with espalier to be used for cold and hot weather.
Although Mr. Hamid’s farms are located in an arid zone the area is rich in underground water, which is why Mr. Hamid said water is not an issue in the locality.
The poultry farm is free from pollution and impermissible human contact allowing the chicken to flourish. Also, the solar panels installed at the farm provide electricity 24 hours a day which has made it possible for the hens to lay eggs twice a day. This has increased the production of eggs that has helped cover the animal feed expense, Mr. Hamid said.
Farmers like Mr. Hamid have been doing multiple tasks and never fail to implement what they set out to accomplish. The assistance they get from the Government has enabled them to expand their farms, improve their living standards and look forward to supporting other farmers through the production of animal feed for cattle and poultry.
Most of the farm produce has been sold at Tesenai markets while banana has been sent to Asmara. Mr. Hamid expressed his deep concern that although they are the growers, the money they get for their produce is not satisfactory. He said, “The merchants have been the beneficiaries of our toils and the end users have been the victims.” Special market places where farmers can directly sell their produce to customers should be set up to ensure farmers and customers become beneficiaries, Mr. Hamid added.