April is warm and very dry in Eritrea and the perfect time to visit dairy and potato farms as the crops start to emerge from the earth. Vita, the Irish NGO working to combat hunger and climate change in Eritrea and Ethiopia recently led a delegation from Teagasc and Gorta to Eritrea to see for themselves this extraordinary country.
The group included Dr. Seamus Crosse, Chairman of Vita, John Weakliam, CEO of Vita, Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle and Dr. Lance O’Brien, Chairman of the Teagasc International Food Security Committee, together with Ray Jordan, CEO of Gorta SHA.
On this visit to Eritrea the agenda was to evaluate the progress on the Vita dairy and potato projects under the Teagasc agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture and explore new strands of collaboration. This week-long visit included everything from meetings to site visits. This has helped identify programme successes, how and which parts of the programme would benefit from further study.
The dairy and potato pilot project has been beneficial to 50 farming households in Eritrea. The team visited farmers in the Anseba and Maekel region. There are 25 potato farmers who had just received Electra seed potato, donated by Irish Potato Marketing, under this pilot project.
We learnt remarkable things about what was happening at the grassroots level. All the 20 dairy farmers who were beneficiaries of the pilot project had healthy cows and good milk yields. The Electra plants too were flowering two weeks earlier and all looked well for an abundant and improved harvest. The research and dairy experts were working well together with the local farmers. The barren lands looked a lot greener due to the planting of over one million trees.
This visit also enabled the delegation to identify some of the existing challenges in the area. A lack of transport seems to be a problem posing constraints to a more successful roll out of the programmes. Also, the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Eritrea is under resourced with a large number of projects and tasks. There are concerns in regards to communicating with farmers and there is a recognised but not insurmountable communications gap between the agricultural college and the agro-technical school.
The team conducted a number of meetings with the Officer in Charge of EU Delegation and Ambassadors of UK and France, Mr. Mark Bruyker. They also had meetings with the National Agriculture College and the agro-technical school. We can conclude that the partnership between Teagasc and Vita with the Eritrean communities and the government has been very successful providing a gateway to expansion in the future.
Gorta SHA believes that Eritrea will be a prominent example for the wider Sahel Region where Irish Aid can support resilience building and capacity building new models of development. The visit was a great success with the team learning where their key strengths lie and how the project is progressing as well as identifying further opportunities
The European Union is commencing an expanded bilateral 2014 – 2020 programme in Eritrea and sees Vita and Teagasc as key partners especially in agriculture.
— Vita (@VitaIreland) April 28, 2015
Vita has been working in Eritrea since 2000, as a part of its goal to tackle hunger and build sustainable livelihoods in the Horn of Africa.
Projects currently being implemented in Eritrea include:
– Energy Efficient Stoves
– Drip Irrigation
– Carbon Finance
– Seed and Crop Development
– Promoting Capacity Building and Scalability
Vita’s programmes in Eritrea include:
– EU Energy Facility project, 2011-2014 (€1,542,850, 75% EU funded)
– EU Geleb Nursery Project, 2012-2014 (€837,500, 80% EU funded)
– Irish Aid Sustainable Livelihoods Programme, 2012-Current (€336,000)
Vita’s impact in Eritrea include:
– Direct impact on livelihoods of 75,000 people
– Improved livelihoods for 13,000 female-headed households using improved cook stoves
– 26,000 tonnes of CO2 emission savings from improved cook stoves
– Solar irrigation for 200 female farmers
– National agricultural research, training and extension appraisal with Teagasc
– Successful trials of Irish potato varieties, shipped from Ireland to Eritrea
– Completion of a large dam, providing water for crops and livestock in Eritrea
— John Weakliam (@JWeakliam) April 15, 2015