The Potato Seed Store in Mendefera

The EU funded the construction through the ‘Support to the Agricultural Sector/Food Security in Eritrea’ project.


The climate in the area around Mendefera (Zoba Debub) is favourable for production of potato, one of the staple crops in Eritrea. Traditional farming results in a poor yield of about one tonne per hectare; with improved seeds, combined with appropriate farming techniques, yields can easily reach up to 4 tonnes per hectare.

The tissue culture laboratory at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is contributing to this result: it cleans seeds so that they are free of pathogens (viruses, bacteria and fungi). Thus, rather than importing clean seeds, such seeds can be obtained in a cheaper and more sustainable way.

Farmers play an essential role in propagating the improved seeds. They buy virus-free seeds from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA – Zoba administration) along with fertilisers and pesticides.

Upon signing a contract with the Zoba Administration, the farmers agree to follow technical advice during cultivation so that the harvested potatoes meet the quality standards required for collection.

Farmers are offered 25% on top of the market price for their produce as an incentive to ensure delivery of quality seeds to the potato seed store. In the store, trained workers carefully select the potatoes that are suitable for further multiplication.

>> ALSO READ : EU Participated at the Baseline Survey Meeting of a Food Security Project in Eritrea

Having recently started its operation, the activity around the potato seed store cannot yet cover the demand of all the interested farmers. Currently the scheme only involves model farmers; they could play a prominent role once the MoA hands the responsibility for running the store to farmer associations in the future.

Nevertheless, with a storage capacity of 216 tonnes, the area is to benefit from the increased income brought by this activity in the years to come.

The European Union (EU) funded the construction of the potato seed store through the “Support to the agricultural sector/food security in Eritrea” project (10th European Development Fund); the Ministry of Agriculture contributed with the construction of the fence, guard room and water reservoir.

EU Delegation staff, together with MoA staff and an independent expert, visited the site at the occasion of a result-oriented monitoring mission for the project (17-25 July 2017).

16 thoughts on “The Potato Seed Store in Mendefera

  1. “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him how to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese proverb.)

      1. LOL. As you know, the Chinese love TPLFites… and they have a special proverb for them: “a mouth as sharp as a dagger but a brain as soft as tofu.” In another word, the Chinese feel TPLFites are kind of, you know, useful idiots.

        1. Bro
          They will surpass Chine they have dreamed when they were high on Khat. They will have their own sea outlet and middle income by 2025, you must be kidding the economy is growing by double digit, but when they get a waken by a thunderstorm it was just a pipe dream.

        2. Nebsi, Glad to know the Chinese have a special proverb for ugumesh, else it would be a terrible thing, or as Woyane would say ONCE Child does not With Out School !”

  2. So EU has partnered with MoA in the development and propagation of a new potato seed meant to be resistant to virus attacks and the listed other positives. But were women even consulted either at the beginning or at the production stages of this new crop? On my visit to Eritrea during the lent season (tsom) when the consumption of vegetables including potatoes is highest, I found almost unanimous agreement amongst women in different sectors, including men at groceries market stall owners and restaurant chefs, in their complaint with the excessive cooking time required and in the bland flavour of the new crop. I remember when the indigenous Eritrean potato, plain boiled and just topped with a little salt was delicious and had a distinctly inviting fragrance of its own. It was equally tasty and crispy when roasted or deep fried. Is quality now being compromised for quantity and modernity? The picture below where women farmers (or any other professionals) are totally absent indicates this would be a good time for MoA to carry out checks with all stakeholders and weigh the benefits of the newly introduced potato seeds and its positive aspects versus the public complaints currently being voiced. With the variety of soil and climatic conditions in Eritrea, surely we can introduce a variety of potato types suitable for different uses and dishes.

    1. Sister Seble i agree with your comment,but at this time we can;t afford to have all the indigenous (ORGANIC) foods.The priority is how to feed the population.And like the article said we use to harvest the traditional way one TONE per hectare but this breed will harvest 4 times that.and that means more mouth to feed with cheaper price.But my bright sis.later on we will have WHOLE FOODS GROCERY STORES.I remember the taste of KARNESHIM potatoes,the Mendefera area was known for TAFF not potato,even our lowlands were known for Masshela and bultug ,but now we have proved TAFF could grow there, so it is a good thing to experiment in different areas which crop is suitable.So the journey just started.

      1. It looks like you have missed my point Grateful Eritrean. I am not against our people being food secure. I am also not against modernising and improving on the quality of our crops including the introduction of a variety of produce. My question is why do we have to have a type of potato that many men and women are unhappy with in regards to quality and taste. If you were to check with locals most people would tell you how unhappy they are with new potatoes, tomatoes and even carrots. It is not only quantity that should be considered, but quality is very important. With regards to organic farming, again I am suggesting for people to have a choice, for example a choice between buying eggs with white or yellow yolk. There is a market for both. I am suggesting for consultation with the farmers and the public consumers. I hope this clarifies it for you.

        1. Like i said a agree with you,but i am talking about the present temporary solution is to grow more food and feed the people.My last visit home i was buying eggs directly from the farmers that was hatched from free range chickens,what a difference from those imported mass produced eggs in the market.

  3. Supporting livestock: an important source of income in Eritrea

    (European Union – Eritrea) – Livestock is an important sub-component of the agricultural sector and plays a key role in the national as well as household economy. The majority of the smallholder farmers keep livestock in the backyard as a source of food (eggs, meat, milk and honey), as draught animals (ploughing), and as a form of savings and cash to buy food and basic consumables in times of need.

    The European Union (EU) supported smallholders in all six Eritrean regions to enhance livestock production and productivity by providing improved dairy breeds, sheep, improved chicken breeds, and beehives with accessories. In parallel, the farmers also received training in livestock production and management. The veterinary clinics and laboratories across the six regions were supported in terms of animal drugs, vitamins and minerals, animal laboratory equipment and consumables, and supply of stand-alone solar photovoltaic systems, guaranteeing a constant supply of energy.

    Benefiting smallholders in the Maekel and Northern Red Sea regions received 200 improved and pregnant dairy cows. These dairy breeds are F1 generations of Holstein and Halfa breeds and have very good merits of high milk yields. Each beneficiary received one pregnant dairy cow and agreed by signing a contract to return one female calf in kind to another farmer in the same village.

    Farmers in the Gash Barka region received 1 500 sheep of a local breed (five sheep per household), while households across the six regions received 111 240 poultry chicks (25 chicks per household) and 1 540 beehives with accessories (two beehives per household). Also here, a reproduction scheme assures that the effects of the original project are multiplied, to the benefit of additional smallholders.

    The EU funded livestock development in Eritrea through the ‘Support to the agricultural sector/food security in Eritrea’ project (10th European Development Fund). EU Delegation staff, together with Ministry of Agriculture staff and an independent expert, visited some of the livestock activities at the occasion of a result-oriented monitoring mission for the project (17-25 July 2017).

    1. Like everything else, there is always another side to a given case which should not be ignored. With every “improved” breed of cattle and produce, the support and protection of the organic feeding and foraging of animals should also be considered. The health and medical attention provided to all animals is obviously paramount in the prevention of outbreaks of innumerable diseases. At the same time, there is a need to acknowledge that it is due mainly to the non organic feeding and penning of chicken that egg yolks have sadly lost the deep yellow colour and the rich taste as a result of chicken no longer free ranging. Will EU and MoA consider supporting small farmers in organic farming if they choose to specialise in such niche market?

Comments are closed.