Eritrea: Managing Water Resources to Achieve Sustainable Food Security

BY ALEM FISSHATZION

As Eritrea marks 26 years of Independence, I can’t help remembering Professor Abraham Kidane’s sober reflection last year of the country’s development policy progress during the first 25 years of independence in three magnificent essays.

One reflection in the first part that I found to shine out in luminous brilliance is:

“In the midst of widespread poverty therefore, it was pragmatic and farsighted for the Government of the State of Eritrea to have ranked food security and rural development as top priorities in its national development strategy”.

Well, that farsightedness and visionary acumen is evidently paying off now in these turbulent times of Climate Change and eluding rainfalls.

Two parallels that come to mind are King Solomon’s thousands years reflection that: “All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again” (King James Bible); and Reggae King Bob Marley’s: “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty”.

The prevalent challenges facing the horn of Africa; poverty, climate change, fast growing population and food security are directly tied to water resources. Today, Eritrea is bench-marking the art of harvesting water and managing water resources for sustainable food security in a part of the world where farmers have to cope with droughts and crop failures.

Water is a very precious and scarce commodity in the whole of the Horn of Africa. With support from the government and development partners, farmers and herders are expanding spate irrigation, an ancient form of water management. By harnessing floodwaters and collecting run-off, building dams and reservoirs farmers can provide enough water for the crop season. Now some farmers can obtain yields that are six times what they used to be.

The People of Eritrea are very cognizant of their plight pertaining to water and have developed great resourcefulness in the art f conserving it, managing it and using it.

During a visit back home, I was once driving from Asmara to Massawa and picked a lady who was hitching a ride to one of the villages en-route called Arberebue. This village is situated in an area where a lot of dew falls during the night and fog is almost permanently present. We got to talking during the journey and this lady explained to me that in their part of the country, they have indigenously developed an art of trapping the water droplets from the dew in fine-meshed nettings and funnelling them into cisterns. She said the water accumulated in those cisterns is so pure and fresh that they reserve it for brewing tea and coffee.

All this goes to show that water is available all around us and that it just needs some painstaking efforts, resourcefulness and the will to harvest it.

The Government of the State of Eritrea has effectively pursued all avenues to manage its water resources to maintain sustainable food security. By partnering with various United Nations organs and other organizations in the numerous projects, it has undertaken in recent years, together with sound development policy strategies that are guaranteeing bumper harvests and healthy livestock, where alarm bells are shrilly ringing in close proximity to Eritrea.

To all Eritreans at home and abroad, I wish all a happy 26th Independence Celebrations, with many more to come in peace and stability.

Eritrea Gergera Dam - Water Security
The Government of the State of Eritrea has effectively pursued all avenues to manage its water resources to maintain sustainable food security.

Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly,
who despise the gain of oppression,
who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it,
who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shut their eyes from looking on evil,
they will live on the heights;
their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks;
their food will be supplied, their water assured.”

(Jeremiah 2:13)