Ireland and Eritrea: Promoting Development and Food Security

Irish food security projects in Eritrea
Seamus Crosse (Greenfield Dairy Solutions); Conor Ryan (Dovea); Professor Gerry Boyle (Teagasc director); Ger Ryan (general manager, Dovea); and James O’Loughlin (Teagasc), at a meeting of the Dovea Genetics, Teagasc and Vita partners in the cattle breeding programme in Eritrea

By Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion,

In 1994, Eritrea released the Macro Policy Paper (MPP), articulating a broad national development policy with a special focus on agriculture. Specific points raised in the document include: the need to create of a modern, technologically advanced and competitive agricultural sector; the importance of producing high value agricultural commodities through the development of irrigation and water collection systems; how to better utilize water for irrigated agriculture and new irrigation schemes; and the need to promote research and extension.

Since the publication of the MPP, Eritrea has undertaken a series of important steps toward implementation and enactment of tangible, positive change, including the fostering of numerous development-related ties with international partners and organizations.

As an instructive example, consider growing Irish-Eritrean ties. Over the past several years, Ireland and Eritrea have developed an increasingly strong partnership, particularly within the areas of agricultural development and general capacity building. A number of initiatives and projects across Eritrea have involved the participation, inter alia, of Irish Aid, the Irish non-governmental organization (NGO) Vita, and Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority of Ireland, which seeks to support science-based innovation in agriculture and bioeconomy.

Of note, Irish developmental support to and collaboration with Eritrea have been influential in the development of unique fuel-efficient cooking stoves. Significantly, the stoves, which are now utilized by tens of thousands of households across Eritrea, reduce the consumption of wood for fuel by up to 50% (which is absolutely vital for Eritrea, since environmental degradation through deforestation has long been a critical problem), improve ventilation and working conditions, and may prove extremely beneficial toward producing a variety of positive socio-economic development outcomes (e.g. through reducing time spent on searching for wood).

Another key area of Irish-Eritrean cooperation has been in improving potato farming and developing technology underpinning the dairy industry in Eritrea (e.g. research, extension, and capacity building of farmers and marketing).

Last year, recently established dairy pilot programmes in Eritrea were found to have produced highly successful results, with a doubling of milk yields. Additionally, Teagasc introduced a world class seed potato, Electra, which can more than double the yield of local varieties. Notably, although potatoes have historically not been widely cultivated in Africa, nor included in food security discussions, they provide high nutrition and are adaptive to many climates. Moreover, they use less water per nutritional output than many other crops, are high in calories and essential nutrients, and are a great cash crop for small farmers because they can be stored for long periods of time until market prices are favourable.

A pilot diary and potato programme in Eritrea with the collaboration of Irish NGOs Vita, Teagasc, Gorta and Séamus Crosse are part of the ambitious, large scale national potato and diary programme.

These multifaceted initiatives by Irish and Eritrean partners are particularly significant to supporting sustainable livelihoods, improving food security, and helping transform the lives of thousands of farmers, families, and communities across Eritrea. Hunger and famine, as convincingly shown through numerous detailed studies by Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize-winning economist, are often not caused by flooding, drought, or other “natural disasters,” but through social, economic, and political conditions. Guaranteeing the right to food requires not only genuine political will, committed leadership, and firm commitments, but also strong support from and collaboration between local communities, international partners, development organizations, and civil society.

Ireland’s cooperation with and support to Eritrea also involves the development of unique drip irrigation schemes, dams, and water collection points, crucial since water is precious in Eritrea; average annual rainfall is only approximately 380mm and farmers have to cope with regular droughts and crop failures. As well, Irish-Eritrean ties extend to efforts to address environmental degradation, a problem dating back to Eritrea’s period under colonialism and foreign administration. Remarkably, due to universal land systems, agricultural expansion, and deforestation policies successively implemented by the Italians, British, and Ethiopians, Eritrea’s national forest cover decreased from 30% in the late 1800s to a meager 5% of the country by 1960 (Fiore 1952; MoA 1994; Renato 1911). Other influential factors for widespread degradation include the long, destructive war of independence, harsh climatic conditions, and various population practices (such as the mass utilization of wood as fuel for cooking purposes).

Overall, Eritrea’s close partnership with Irish organizations and government institutions is proving extremely beneficial to promoting sustainable livelihoods and establishing a strong agricultural sector, as well as ensuring that Eritreans, in particular the poor and vulnerable, have access to sufficient and nutritious food.

MEP Hayes Visiting Cutting Edge Irish Projects

Irish sponsored potato farm - food security
Irish Member of Parliament Brian Hayes during his 5-days Eritrea visit aimed at observing a number of cutting-edge Irish government sponsored agricultural programs.


Irish MEP Brian Hayes [visited] Eritrea [recently], where Irish Aid, Teagasc and Irish development partner Vita, have forged a partnership that delivers next generation knowledge-led programmes.

“Over the past 5 years Ireland has committed over €500,000 to projects in Eritrea,” Mr. Hayes notes. “It is great to get the opportunity to visit Eritrea and see first-hand these programmes in action. I believe that enabling sustainable livelihoods is a critical factor in determining Eritrea’s future.”

“What Irish Aid, Teagasc and Vita are achieving with the Ministry of Agriculture in Eritrea is as far removed from traditional aid models as it is possible to get,” says John Weakliam, VITA CEO. “This is about investment and technology transfer, supporting Eritrean farmers by using the very best of Irish research, agronomy and commercial experience.”

Irish agricultural businesses have recognised Eritrea as a key entry point to Africa, with Dovea Genetics and Irish Potato Marketing already creating successful business synergies with local farming groups. Eritrean dairy farmers are upgrading their dairy herds through genetic material supplied by Dovea Genetics while potato farmers are improving their livelihoods by importing minitubers from Irish Potato Marketing.

The Minister of Agriculture in Eritrea, Mr. Arafaine Berhe, says “The Ministry of Agriculture of Eritrea believes that the bilateral cooperation with Irish agricultural institutions and development agencies in the areas of agronomy – mainly potato and livestock with special focus on dairy is exemplary, effective and addresses the cardinal issue of productivity at a community level.”

Larry O’Loughlin from Teagasc is accompanying Brian on the trip. He represents his organization firm belief that progressive, smart agriculture will create the level playing field that Eritrean farmers need to thrive. “We have so much expertise and skill in Ireland and in Teagasc we recognise the contribution we can make by combining science, experience and investment. Eritrea, with its wealth of opportunity and a people noted for their work ethos, is a natural development partner for Ireland.”

The trip [took] place from May 14 to May 18 and the group [also] met with the enterprising women of Eritrea, over 42,000 of whom have transformed their lives by building the award-winning fuel efficient stove in partnership with the EU, Vita and Gorta Self Help Africa.

13 thoughts on “Ireland and Eritrea: Promoting Development and Food Security

  1. Nice Article Doc!
    I am not sure what your speciality beyond Economics and Political Science but as expected,as an ERITREAN Genius ,you seem to know neyond Politics and Economics.
    Kudos to you.
    Not sure if U know about Food Indistry potential in Eritrea but it seems that we have a big potential like in all other Resources.
    Since you brought Agriculutre as a General and the Main Source of Food Security,any idea about:
    -Akat Processing Industry
    -Camel Milk and Meat Processing Industry
    -Beles Processing Industry?
    Thanks for eye opening Article as usual!
    TN should invite Scientists like you so as to detoxify the toxic politics we are overwhelmed with.
    I kindly “challenge” and invite you to come up with more enlightening Articles like this focusing on:
    -Human Resources Development in Eritrea
    -The Potential Positive Role of Private Sector of the Eritreean Economy and The Private Education System
    Am not interested in Sectarian Gossipy Style Politics here but to deal with hot and urgent topics that should be addressed constructively.
    I understand that our problems cannot be resolved overnight but it is only fair to address issues of utmost importance.

    1. If you where a person of a decision maker, what would you do different that is done yet ? please be specific

      1. Dear # Hewan Asgedom. I can’t read any thing that #Hope writes he would do this or that better. I guess he is just trying to say let’s discuss our weakness.

        ካብ መልእክቱ ዘረባ ለባማት እምበር ፡ካልእ ኣነ ይፈልጥ ወይ እዚ ምገበርኩ ኔረ ዝብል ኣየስተባሃልኩን። he pointed out some important issues to be discussed. that’s all my dear Hewan.

      2. Selam hewan:

        “ካብ መልእክቱ ዘረባ ለባማት እምበር ፡ካልእ ኣነ ይፈልጥ ወይ እዚ ምገበርኩ ኔረ ዝብል ኣየስተባሃልኩን። he pointed out some important issues to be discussed. that’s all my dear Hewan”.

        Fair enough?

        Courtesy of Danibo!

        As a matter of fact, I have ONLY asked honestly to know more as to why things are not being done the way they should be and as to what we have missed.
        And if we Eritreans have been allowed to have a say on/about our Country’s business as concerned citizens, I guarantee you that we could have been in a better shape and situation. And NO one could have dared us to mess up with us,if history is to be the witness.
        Take my word on this and u can quote me…

        If your answer is that things are perfectly done in Eritrea, either you are naïve or a hypocrite..

        If I have the luxury of time,I would list hundreds of problems and respective solutions but I do not need to do so as it has been debated and discussed every where…

        There is a reason why I visit the opposition webs including the major one,the Awate.Com/aka The Awate University,where every single important issue about Ertrea is discussed despite the negative role of few nayers/deniers and the spoilers;and the opportunists and Pseud-Eritreans and Cyber Politicians trying to mess up Eritrea and Eritreans.

        Of course, I do have reservations about the same web for not talking about the positive things about Eritrea and about the negative role of our enemies, for whatever reasons only known to them.

      3. Selam Hewan:
        To your satisfaction,TN blocked me and my comments!
        You see,if we ERITREANS do not open up our mouth and mind,we will not reclaim what we deserve.

    2. LOL … Mr/Ms “Long sighted”
      You should read your own comment before you post it, if you want to know who is short sighted and hypocrite.
      Please don’t try too hard, it is very obvious.

      As @wedinakfa told you,
      “Mr Amselu, you can fly like a pig and quack like a duck but you are still not one of us, period!!!! “

      1. I don’t see anything negative in his request. I would not rash to libeling contributions like this. S/He has clearly condemned Eritrea’s detractors who have been busy spoiling our history. As a contributor whom I have considered as solid defender of Eritreanism, I would rather expect you to carefully identify and embrace true hagerawian as opposed to mercenaries. Because such judgments can either scare humble contributors or lead to unnecessary side-argument thereby creating animosity.

  2. Viva the people and government of Ireland. We thank you for your continued assistance and experience sharing on agriculture with our farmers. This partnership can be developed to serve as an example to others inside Eritrea and beyond.

    May God/Allah bless your efforts. Thank You!

  3. ኣሌክ - Alec you · Edit

    Just imagine how big this is going to be in the future. Well done Eritrea and thanks to the Irish partners.

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