[Dehai-WN] Icrc.org: Eritrea: fields ploughed mostly for women headed households

[Dehai-WN] Icrc.org: Eritrea: fields ploughed mostly for women headed households

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2011 23:30:12 +0200

Eritrea: fields ploughed mostly for women headed households

06-10-2011 Feature

In 2010, nearly 3,000 resettled or returned families in the Gash Barka
region of Eritrea used tractors hired by the ICRC to plough 3,000 hectares
of fields prior to the planting season. Unusually, most of the heads of
these families were women.

The 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea brought about a shortage of
labour for ploughing since most farmers were called upon to fight or
required to do their National Service, a situation which persists today.
This has resulted in many women becoming heads of household. According to
the local culture, however, it is taboo for women to plough their fields.

To overcome this labour shortage, most farmers arrange share-cropping deals,
which reduce their take home harvest by as much as 50-75%. As such
arrangements are not always available, some farmers plant late, which very
often results in crop failures, while others leave their land fallow.

In 2010, and for the second consecutive year, the ICRC, in conjunction with
the Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture, launched a programme to help affected
families by renting tractors to plough fields in a number of villages in the
sub-zones of Goluj, Barentu, Laelay Gash and Shambiko in the Gash Barka
region. From 2005 to 2010, the same ploughing programme benefited farmers in
the Debub region.

A maximum return

One of the beneficiaries of this project, Mrs Tirhase Abreha, who lives in
the Shambiko sub-zone, said: "Unlike previous years when I would get just 25
per cent or 50 per cent, this year I got 100 per cent of the harvest from
one hectare of my land that was ploughed by the ICRC. Previously I did not
have the means to rent a tractor, so I had no other option other than to
give my land over to share-cropping or to face the risk of leaving my land

Another beneficiary, Mrs Zewdi Tekeste, from Anagulu village, said: "I was
getting assistance from my close relatives to plough my land, but it was
never on time. This meant that I was losing up to 30 per cent of what was
supposed to be harvested." In 2010, by ploughing one hectare of Mrs Zewdi's
land, the ICRC helped her to achieve 100 per cent of her harvest.

Mrs Letebrahan Tekeste, the head of a resettled household in Girme village,
explained: "My husband is carrying out his military service and is able to
send a small remittance for the family, which is fully used to cover part of
our basic needs."

All our livestock were lost during and after the war, and it was impossible
for me to cover my ploughing expenses. As a result, I had to negotiate a
share-cropping deal with a better-off household who ploughed the fields and
provided me with 50 per cent of the harvest. Now the story is different. My
family and I can get 100 per cent of our harvest thanks to the ICRC
programme. I can sell some of the crop and save some money to plough my land
next year by renting a tractor."

A bountiful year

During the ploughing programme, farmers were interviewed and the ploughed
fields were checked for level, depth of ploughing and their general
condition. The ICRC assistance, combined with abundant rains, contributed to
a good harvest in 2010, with average production of sorghum per hectare more
than doubling in comparison with the previous two years.

The project will be maintained in the Gash Barka region in 2011, when,
according to the ICRC economic security team, close to 4,000 hectares of
land will be ploughed for vulnerable families - most of which are headed by


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