Three Advantages of the Eritrean Water Dam Network

BY MELA GHEBREMEDHIN*

This article was published on the issue of Hommes D’Afrique Magazine on March 2017. The well-known magazine which circulates in Morocco, has took focus on water development in Eritrea. The original article entitled, Trois Avantages du Réseau de Barrages d’Eau Erythréens, was written in its 94th Edition.


Human beings can live and, even, live well without petroleum or diamond. Without water, which constitutes more than 70% of human body, human beings die. As other natural resources, water is unequally shared among countries. Some have it in abundance while others have very little. As a country located in semi-arid region, Eritrea is experimenting with an original solution to solve the issue of water access. How does it do it?



Eritrea has little water reserves, 548 cubic meter per inhabitant. It’s equivalent to 7.3 times less than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa and 90 times lesser than the amount of water resources available per inhabitant living in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Moreover, the annual rainfall of Eritrea is low. The rare regions record better rainfall, about 1000mm of rain fall annually. Conversely, major parts of the country register less than 300mm.

A comparison with a city such as Duala in Cameroon where each year rain drops on average at 3,900mm shows the significance of the difficulty Eritreans face.

Aware of the constraints in access to water imposed on the population, the Eritrean authorities put in place a water policy which has led to bear fruits. At the heart of this policy is the construction of large, small and micro water dams, which conserve every drop of water and constitute a sort of network of artificial lakes with multiple functions.

The most important goal of those constructions is the agricultural irrigation. According to the 2016 edition of The Little Green Data Book, published by the World Bank, in Eritrea, agriculture consumes about 95% of the country’s water resources.

Desperate to come out of its precarious situation in which the country was swamped by decades of war, natural hazards and a difficult climate, the Government of Eritrea made agriculture its top development priority. Water is the number one ingredient of success in agriculture. The ongoing building of a network of water dams in Eritrea is, thus, an investment where its long term value cannot be underestimated.



As the mining policy of Eritrea that has introduced in the January 2017 edition of Hommes d’Afrique, the network of Eritrean water dams can serve as a model to many African countries for the following reasons:

First of all, the variety in the sizes of the water dams. Indeed, often in Africa, immense water dams are constructed which become “white elephants” and destroy small-scale farmers and micro water dams used for local farming and the local economy.

Secondly, the so-called “Local Content”. In Africa, 99% of the time building up large and mega water dams means giving the job and the human resources to non-African enterprises. From its feasibility study to its operations and maintenance, the foreigner will be the master of the project. He will come with his know-how and will not share it with the local professionals. Things are going differently in Eritrea with the building of small and micro water dams.

The third point which makes the Eritrean system of water dams attractive is tourism. Water dams add a beautiful touristic touch to the Eritrean landscape which is quite special.

Often, Africans look out of their continent for models to emulate. There is nothing bad in being open-minded and in looking for enriching experiences. However, if this search for models turns only into one direction, it may be destructive. Instead of always looking out the window, one has to also see what is inside the home.

Africans, it’s time to reclaim confidence in yourselves. Your continent is diverse. This diversity generates multiple experiences. Some fail and some succeed. An intra-African bench marking would allow African countries to share experiences. Without doubt, the system of water dams of Eritrea is a case in point.

* Translated from Hommes D’Afrique Magazine (French)

  • Dawit

    Thank you TN, for being true to your name

  • Sam

    “Often, Africans look out of their continent for models to emulate. There is nothing bad in being open-minded and in looking for enriching experiences. However, if this search for models turns only into one direction, it may be destructive. Instead of always looking out the window, one has to also see what is inside the home.”

    That quote above needs to be repeated a thousand times. I find that most Africans, including Eritreans, have severe self-hatred and loathing. They don’t believe in their own people, let alone other Africans. That’s why the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans still own and operate most of the industries in Africa. That’s why they make excuses for dictators and fascists. Its a shame, but hopefully things will change with the younger generation of Africans taking over.

    • MYOB

      This is why it is….instead of deamining why not praise the effort….do you believe you are any different? think again!

    • jordi

      Are you telling me foreign industries are bad things? No, those investments are the key to our success. We need foreign investment like Ethiopia and you clearly see the results, look at Rwanda too. Rwanda is my favorite african country now because of it, (besides Eritrea). They went through a genocide in 1991, the same year we got our independence and still are light-years from us.

  • Berhane

    If not when but when most of irrigation systems are complete the ubondonce of fruits and veg in this country will be in par with the likes of Israel….Eritrea is blessed with hard working population. The effort by GOE to relocate farmers to near these dams is the crutial step in productivity and overall success of this endevour. By supporting the farmers in modern farming technology such as better use of fertiliser, i am confident that this time this will work.

    I’d like to add as part this concerted effort Hamelmalo agro college is playing a big roll and what they do is also the crucial part of the food security objective.

    Few months ago on my trip back from Tesseney to Keren met with young boy who was traveling to Asmera for a break, graduted in Diploma in crop rotation, had a descussion about his experties and the experiance and learned a lot from him and was delighted that the drivers of this huge shift are to his caliber and not only in idiology and competency but pure determination……proud!

    • ኣሌክ – Alec you

      Indeed👍🏿🙏🏿🇪🇷🇪🇷✊🏾

      Courtesy of Hagerawi Dihnet – ሃገራዊ ድሕነት፡

      ኤርትራ ሎሚ ክረምቲ ልዕሊ 325 ሽሕ ቶን እትዋት እኽሊ፡ 250 ሽሕ ቶን ኣሕምልቲ፡ እዚ ነቲ ብዘመናዊ ኣገባብ ዝካየድ ሕርሻ ኣየጠቃልልን፡110 ቶን ፍረታት እቶት ረኺባ፡ ሰናይ ዘበን።ኣብ 1997 ኤርትራ 80 ሽሕ ቶንእኽልን 30 ሽሕ ቶን ኣሕምልትን ጥራሕ ተእቱ ኔራ.”

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd602da6af7f74640a15b34013950ce461d94db3706653d63aa7c17f24cc7980.jpg

  • Misinformation campaign on alleged famine in Eritrea – see reference to the revised and corrected UNICEF report which states otherwise!

    https://twitter.com/RSCollaboration/status/843737775178420224

  • ኣሌክ – Alec you

    Nicely done. Well done people & government of Eritrea👍🏿🇪🇷🇪🇷🇪🇷
    ———————
    ———————
    “in Eritrea, agriculture consumes about 95% of the country’s water resources” —

    — Interesting!!🤔

    And this is why Eritrea needs to build water desalination plant that can eliminate water shortages for good in Eritrea. I mean if it takes 95% of ERI-water resources just for agricultural purposes, imagine what it will take if water demand increases. Eritrea will need more land and manpower to build even more dams in-order to battle food scarcity and off course to supply clean water for its citizens. And don’t forget the time that will take to achieve it. Yes now, I think Eritrea reached the half steps of the ladder by building this amazing dams, but our gov. Should hit its target by aiming higher, and that is by building seawater desalination plant, and climb those half steps quickly. Maybe the project will cost approximately $32 million to build a 2.5 MGD (Millions of Gallons per Day) seawater desalination plant, but it’s worth it. And in time we can upgrade it to 100 MGD seawater desalination plant, according to some sources it can get up to $658 million. This will make us 100% secure and eliminate water shortages in Eritrea for good.

    And we have 2,234-km-long sea-coastline and that will provides access to an infinite volume of seawater for desalination. And the development of seawater desalination along the coast will help relieve stress on existing conventional surface water and groundwater supply sources in coastal areas which in turn could make these resources available to water users located away from the coast. In this context, seawater desalination can indirectly benefit ppl living hundreds of miles away from the coastline. It’s the best option for Eritrea. And this can help our gov. secure food for decades to come in short time. Cuz instead of waiting for rain to grow crops and to fill our dams, we can grow as many crops as we want thru water desalination. And it will also help our economy grow. Yes, working hard is good but working smart is better… cuz smarter work can affords us more time.

    I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but that should be our goal to end this struggle for water sufficiency. If this happen, in just two years our problems will be over in no time.

    • Saba

      “It’s the best option for Eritrea.” Yes that is our dream and wish. Let The Almighty help us to feed our people without any hinderance.

      • ኣሌክ – Alec you

        Indeed gual Erey, that is our dream. And i hope soon we make our dream come to true. Just like this dams we build. 🙏🏿🇪🇷

  • Sentek

    “In Africa 99% of the time building up large and megawater dams means giving the job and Human resources to non African enterprises, forigners will be the masters of the project. In Eritrea things are going differently. He will come with the know how and not share it with professionals”.
    I must admit, it takes a lot of guts to write falsehood like this to satisfy few blind supporters. Who are the masters behind African dams exactly? Aswan dam was built by British, Cairo today gives classes on how to build it and transformed its economy forever with out anyone telling them how to run it. Ghana built their Volta dam using loan to start their Aluminum industry, today they have close to 5 made from our own African engineers. But, things are going differently in Eritrea alright.

    • Alem Mehari

      Ayte Ugumish
      You live in repudiation that is why you could never find solution to your problems, did you say “few blind supporters” hum… you used the word few frequently, is it you feel you are few no matter how many junk you and your cousins in crime are writing day and night you cannot be more than 5%. It is sad to see a sold soul like you who practically knows nothing but seen very often commenting both issues you have bare knowledge or issues you have not idea on how or why they are. Sentiko your lack of composure is an egregious illustration of who you are, as a foot solider of the dying junta you are exposing you and your tiny cliques inner feeling right now.
      We know your anguish has no limits considering the events unfolding in Ethiopia, stay tuned change is coming by real Ethiopians who concern about their country until then try to provide at least one meal per day to your poor children, forget the cynical remark of your midget ” three meal a day” gibberish

    • ኣሌክ – Alec you

      Ala senteq, even with all the Aid-handouts from ur handlers..u are still hungry and getting humiliated in front of the world. So, u see the differences. Imagine all the Aid-handouts that was given to u for ur servitude, now imagine if it was given to Eritrea, and don’t forget all the hostility from ur handlers… Eritrea would’ve been something else. But Eritrea chose to fight for its interest. So u get the idea, that u have hard time swallowing. And with all the hostility Eritrea is building it without aid-handouts. Ur handlers and u was saying Eritrea is going to collapse in 6month because it rejected Aid, but still standing thru our own might.😈

      And u well, hunger, non-Tigrayans rebellion against Tigrayan dominated power, ethnic divisions->>courtesy of TPLF apartheid regime, etc etc. እቲ ንዓና ዝሓሰብኩሞ ናባኹም ተገልቢጡ. And now Eritrea has turned the table..😏

    • B.Adal

      Ugumesh, forget what/who is created in Egypt or Ghana. Those two big countries already know how to feed their people. The question you should ask your retarded woyane leaders is, When will Ethiopia start to build anything on its own? When will Ethiopia start to feed it self? So far, the only thing Woyane seem to know to home grown creation is Hunger.

  • cane libero

    This quote reminds me about Frantz Fannon’s essay “black skin white mask” where he point out the complex of inferiority inflicted to “black” by colonialism, and today still existent in Africa.
    “Often, Africans look out of their continent for models to emulate. There is nothing bad in being open-minded and in looking for enriching experiences. However, if this search for models turns only into one direction, it may be destructive. Instead of always looking out the window, one has to also see what is inside the home”.

    I had to re-edit my point as the modern Eritrea’s history rooted in EPLF’s (PFDJ’s) self-confidence or self reliance motto, Eritrean Mass is immune from this collective illness of inferiority which our weyenti suffer since ever..thus N’qhat, Et’qi, W’dabe free us.

  • Jimmy

    Okay Deki መሪት a couple years back we talk about solar technology happy Eritrea Government is doing something about it now if I put my two cents on dam it’s great our government plans to conceive every drop water our challenge will be how we transfer water from dams to consumer in cheaper way using gravity and concrete way will be a lot cheaper than tubes ;pump they use low energy on solar will b the ideal thing to go !! At the end better living to Deki Eri

  • HIDROM

    Mela Ghebremedhin you said it all and thanks.

    By the way for every cubic meters of water stored behind the dam there is 10 cubic meters of water stored below the dam free of evaporation. and where hidden secrete of Eritrea and that is how the Eritreans have stopped the Sahara Desert from reaching the Red Sea. Here are Eritreans to have created “Garden of Eden” in the middle of Sahara Desert.

    Eritrea show me more and tell more how you have stopped the Sahara Desert from the reaching the Red Sea?.

    Yikealo, stay on course, I am with you!

    Warsai, stay on course, I am with you!

    Shaebia, no need to worry for we are with to the finish line

    Wedi Afom Beri, stay on course for we are with you all the way.

    Eritreans, my people, no matter from where and when, I shall be there with you!

    • Saba

      I second you Hidrom. As said imagination is important than knowledge, sometimes back the Gov’t of Eritrea stressed to stick and focus on water catchment due to the reasons widely stated in the article. It was proved that the implementation of water project was very expensive after using huge resources and expertise due to its natural scarcity and the less amount of rain. The focus and option taken by our farsighted gov’t in constructing dums has resulted very promising!

  • Teddy Sheda

    Thank you Mela for translation and bringing this article to our attention and TN for sharing. This short , but factual and real article should be read by every African scholar and Leader. Thank God for having such a far thinking Government and for having such hard working and blessed people.
    “Eritrea ATI Shewit Lemelem.”

  • New lakes
    • Thanks for sharing. It’s beautiful and handy to scrutinize the dams in real size.

  • The beautiful Gergera dam in southern Eritrea, it looks like a Sea as far as my eyes can see (#Samuel Igbu‏ @S_Igbu) PLAY the mini video

    https://twitter.com/S_Igbu/status/844585171529674754