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Elabered Subzone: Weaving Social Services into a Rural Community

By :- Mussie Efriem

Elabered subzone is located along the vital line that connects Keren and Asmara. It is known for its greenery and pioneering modern farming. Farmers in the subzone produce a bountiful supply of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. The subzone has undergone significant changes since Eritrea’s independence. This transformation has specifically addressed the pressing needs of its population, which depends heavily on agriculture for a living. Undeterred by the terrain dominated by mountains, the communities in Elabered subzone have created a verdant oasis through their unwavering dedication and tireless work ethic.

There are approximately 720 hectares of fruit and vegetable farms and 5,500 hectares of seasonal crops’ farms in Elabered subzone. On around 300 hectares of farmland, farmers grow tomatoes, reaping 500-700 quintals from a single hectare. Last summer, farmers in the subzone planted selected barley and wheat seeds that yielded promising results.

There is substantial evidence that social services play an important role in reducing poverty and boosting people’s overall well-being, and expanding social services in Eritrea’s rural areas holds immense significance for the nation’s overall development. These services, which include education, healthcare and transport, empower rural communities. Through easy access to quality education, the youth in rural areas can gain the skills needed to secure better jobs and contribute immensely to the national economy. Improved healthcare services lead to healthier populations, reducing absenteeism and boosting productivity. Upgraded transportation networks connect rural communities to markets and resources, facilitating trade and fostering economic growth. Furthermore, expanded social services foster a sense of inclusion and belonging within these communities, encouraging them to thrive and contribute to a more prosperous Eritrea.

In response to the country’s growing population, the government has always prioritized expanding access to education. The fundamental goal is to ensure that every kid has the opportunity to learn and grow, allowing them to contribute toward the transformation of the society and the country’s long-term growth. The Ministry of Education’s (MoE’s) branch in Elabered subzone has been engaged in providing literacy and post-literacy programs to adults, as well as schooling opportunities the youth that haven’t had the opportunity to go to school. It has also been endeavoring to create literate communities and prevent relapses through the establishment of rural libraries.

Elabered subzone has undergone a remarkable transformation in its delivery of social services, especially education, following Eritrea’s independence. With only five elementary schools located along the main Asmara-Keren road and catering to a mere 300 students, access to education was severely limited before Eritrea’s independence. Today, there are 24 elementary schools scattered across all 14 administrative areas in the subzone, ensuring that every village has access. So many schools have been built over the years, with the subzone now boasting a total of 52 schools that give service from preschool to high school.

This level of accessibility has resulted in a surge in student enrollment, with numbers rising from less than 300 before independence to over 11,000 now. Compared to any other subzone in Anseba region, Elabered also holds the distinction of having the highest number of high schools (five). There are also 12 adult education centers in Ira Lalai, Hitsit, and Igar, among other locations.

Women’s enrollment in schools has been increasing over the years. Speaking on the progress made in efforts to empower women, Mr. Solomon Niguse, director of the MoE, says that not only has women’s enrollment in schools risen, which is 47%, but women’s performance has been impressive. The majority of the women in the subzone make up the top five in their respective categories.

The primary goal of extending social services is to ensure that all people have access and bring about economic development. One of the essential services is transport. To make transport service effective, roads in the subzone are renovated and maintained by the community and members of the defense forces. Mr. Kiflemaryam Hajay, head of finance and administration at Elabered subzone’s administration office, says that although those who live along the bustling Asmara- Keren road have more access to public transportation because Harat Transportation Corporation provides public transport service regularly, Harat buses also venture off the main route to serve communities in the subzone that live in remote areas connected by a network of dirt roads. Like public transport, telecommunication services also cover most of the subzone, allowing community members to stay connected. And efforts are being made to extend telecommunication services to areas that have not yet been covered.

Plenty of rivers flow through Elabered subzone, making it rich in surface and subsurface water. For this reason, most villages have access to potable water with the exception of few communities that live on hill tops. The best way to address the challenge faced by those that live on hill tops, Mr. Kiflemaryam says, is to relocate these settlements to nearby plains where there are water sources and it is easy to build infrastructure for potable water storage and distribution. Overall, there are 16 dams in the subzone.

Elabered subzone isn’t just blessed with fertile grounds, it’s endowed with a network of life-giving rivers and tributaries. The major water body of the subzone is the Anseba River, its presence enriching the subzone’s underground water reserves. For over a century, Elabered has been renowned for its exceptional potential in irrigation agriculture. Farmers have harnessed this resource to cultivate crops, transforming the subzone into a veritable oasis. Fruits and vegetables, nurtured by the lifeblood of the Anseba River and its tributaries, have graced the national market for over a century. Elabered’s agricultural prowess extends far beyond subsistence farming; it’s a cornerstone of the subzone’s identity and a testament to the harmonious relationship between its people and the land.

In the pursuit of sustainable development, ensuring access to basic healthcare services takes center stage. Elabered subzone exemplifies this principle. The five strategically placed healthcare facilities in the subzone – a community hospital in the town of Eden and a health station each in Shieb Seleba, Hadish-Adi, Edrba, and Halib Mentel – reflect the MoH’s commitment to ensure that “nobody is left behind.” The community hospital of the subzone, which is located in Elabered, has 35 beds and provides inpatient and outpatient services, antenatal and postnatal care, and laboratory services. Medical workers travel to villages in remote locations such as Iran and the Dembe Habteziyon to give medical services to children and mothers.

The maternity waiting rooms in Elabered subzone are making it easier for pregnant women who come from remote areas to get the much needed healthcare services before, during and immediately after delivery, but the high number of home births still remains a major challenge. To address this, the MoH’s branch in the subzone conducts ongoing campaigns to encourage more women to give birth in healthcare facilities. The healthcare facilities in Elaberad subzone have 35 heath workers with college education and two ambulances.

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