Date: Tuesday, 23 January 2018
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) arranged a field trip for its members to visit historical and developmental places inside Eritrea, believing that it will help them develop a well-rounded understanding of the country’s challenges, achievements and prospects; gain an insight into the development projects underway; and, express their support and solidarity to those who are arduously struggling day and night, in cold and hot weather to make the ongoing projects succeful.
After traveling about 800 kms of rough, bumpy and almost flatland road from the capital, we arrived at Rhaetia, a border town between Eritrea and Djibouti, 85 km from Assab. The road is built along the sea coast with charming seashore scenery in the east and the same length of chain of high and craggy mountains in the west. You can also see from distance white fine sands on top of high mountains which look like snow and give the region a more appealing landscape.
The Southern Red Sea (SRS) is a prefecture for the Afar ethnic people and a home to a number of dormant volcanoes, which lend to the region’s reputation as ‘natural geological museum.’ We had a good opportunity to see the Red Sea vistas and landscapes dominated by volcanic emissions with a carpet of black lava rocks scattered widely in vast areas and tens of kilometers of ‘stone-plantation.’
The SRS faces real challenges and opportunities: Poor road conditions and roads washed away by flash floods block road communication during heavy rain seasons in Eritrea and Ethiopia. There are very few vehicles toing and froing between Massawa and Assab and the only town along the road, Edi, is far from Tio and Assab (320 Km) and is almost half-way between them. Because of this, it is difficult to get immediate assistance in case of emergency. Sparsely populated area, vast desert parched by sun, water shortages, scant vegetation, harsh and hot weather, sand storms to name just a few. But if there were no challenges, there would be no progress on earth. So, we have to deal with our challenges in order to rise above them.
What is more, the SRS boasts vast geographical area brimming with natural resources. It is an ideal tourist destination due to its pristine sea water, beautiful beaches and islands convenient for scuba diving and other sea sports. Small-scale farming is practised in some areas for subsistence crops.However, we can further extend the existing farming and turn the barren and unproductive land to fertile farmlands by building dams and using modern technology. We shouldn’t also forget that the SRS is teemed with fishs.
After traveling 60 kms of rough road built on a narrow valley from Afabet, we reached Nakfa, a mountainous area perched at 1780 meters above sea level, located in Northern Red Sea and inhabited by Tigre ethnic group. It is the land of tenacity, a symbol of hope and an icon of steadfastness for our people. The Eritrean freedom fighters held out bravely against repeated enemy attacks and intensive bombing for 14 years, from 1977 to 1991 making the place a stronghold for the E.P.LF. The Eritrean heroes accomplished extraordinary feats in Nakfa which earned them fame, reputation and honour for generations to come.
Nakfa is a landmark symbolizing the spirit of the Eritrean people. Many young Eritreans visit Nakfa to pay their respect for the fallen heroes, to learn tolerance and courage from yesteryear’s tougher times and to renew their commitments. We held a minute of silence for our martyrs and pledged to honor their trust. Nakfa, more than a mere place of resistance, has become a textbook example for other people who seek justice and dignity.
After we wrapped up our trip in the Northern Red Sea region, we headed towards Gash Barka crossing Anseba region. By far, Gash Barka is one of the largest regions in Eritrea and home to Kunama, Nara, Bedawit and Tigre ethnic groups. Most of the country’s development projects are taking place there. Many rivers from the highlands flow towards the lowlands which are endowed with vast flat, fertile and virgin land suitable for agriculture and natural pastures.
Eritrea is scaling new heights in order to boost its economy so as to lift its people out of poverty. To this end, conservation of water to ensure food security has become the overriding priority of the country and, as such, many dams have been erected successfully and captured sufficient water to nourish vast cultivating lands. The development projects are geared towards improving the livelihood of the people in the short run and to export agricultural products in the long run, which is not far from reach.
A number of dams have already been constructed and crops are now grown using large mechanized equipment and different irrigation methods which utilize minimal labour and conserve water. The irrigation systems include pressurized distribution which include sprinkler, trickle and other similar systems and gravity flow distribution.
The agricultural development project is now getting off the ground to achieve its intended goal. We visited a number of captivating projects in Kerkebet, where we saw ostriches ambling along the grasslands, Bademit, Gerset, Fakur and other water diversion projects. We saw hundreds of hectares of irrigated fields which grow wheat, sorgum, maize, millet, sesame and the like, and horticulture production of date plantation, mangoes, oranges, banana, lemon, vegetables and the like. We also saw thousands of hectares of land ready for growing crops which stretch on all sides as far as the eye can see. In fact, Gash Barka will be the bellwether of agricultural success in Eritrea.
In addition, the government has built other dams on the highland plains in Debub region, Mislam and Teqera dams and other small dams, to irrigate vast farmlands and provide clean drinking water to their surrounding villages. Already oranges, mangoes, coffee, vegetables are vastly grown and are in good condition. It is also planning to build many dams in other regions. For example, we witnessed the construction of a new dam in Demas, North Red Sea region, expected to water vast fertile land around Gahtelai.
In addition to these agricultural programs, the government is engaged in raising cattle intended to meet the shortage of milk and other products for the people. There is also another similar project of breeding and raising camels and sheep for internal and export purposes.
We also visited a number of factories in the Free Zone in Massawa. We saw a manufacturing plant that produces PVC and fittings of different size and other productions. For the time being, the PVC production of the water and electric pipes are aimed at supplying plastic pipes to the projects. But in the long run the factory intended to export its products.
The Eritrean people set to achieve the development projects by their own steam. All the dams built bear witness to the country’s capacity and confidence to get through its socioeconomic problems without foreign technical and financial support and to its adherence to the policy of self-reliance and national independence. Besides, they are always optimistic no matter how many difficulties they face.
Given the reality on the ground, there is high possibility that we can reap bountiful harvest at least twice a year when all these development projects get in full swing, which could ensure food security of the people and improve their living standard. Without a shadow of doubt, all the projects that are under way across the country herald that poverty will be history in Eritrea.
That being said, along with the heartening development programs underway, much work remains to be done and many challenges ahead need to be overcome. We have to strengthen and improve our technical, managerial and organizational capacities, learn from our past experiences, recognize our shortcomings and alleviate our obstacles in due course. Besides capital, we have to bring all our values (hard work, honest/work, determination, higher sense of ownership, endurance and the likes) into full play. Because, a well-planned development strategy cannot be a surefire way to achieve its goal alone.
The Eritrean people stood by each other in weal and woe and fought together and sacrificed their lives to liberate their country. Based on this fact, there is not an iota of doubt that they will stand together again to revitalize the country’s wrecked economy. From past experience, they are committed to the belief that success is not a low-hanging fruit. As a matter of fact, they have to go to great pains to bring about visible results.
After we came back from the trip, did anyone of us ask him/herself the following questions: what have I gained/learned from the trip? What does my country expect from me?
The trip has broadened our horizons more than anything because it has helped us to view Eritrea objectively. The members of the Ministry have got an opportunity to see the developmental projects with their own eyes as well as know the challenges and prospects that the country and its people face. Besides, they have got a chance to be acquainted with people living far from the capital, to feel their love and the touching reception that we were treated with.
Furthermore, the trip has inspired us to follow the long-cherished dream of those who have sacrificed their lives and dedicated their entire life to. It has helped us strengthen our confidence and honor our commitments to achieve the goal set by the Ministry as well as the country, serve with heart and soul our country and fulfill the trust placed upon us by the people and fight against false rumors and those who attempt to tarnish the true image of Eritrea. Finally, it has reminded us to fulfill our responsibility to carry the development projects forward and share the successes achieved through sweat and hard work and the challenges that our country faces with our colleagues and friends.
To sum up, the implementation of a multi-faceted agricultural program using modern farming techniques is a clear manifestation of the government’s endeavors to improve agricultural production and assure the economic vitality of Eritrea. With this in mind, the young generation needs to work with immense vigor and enthusiasm to keep the ball rolling. Indeed, the future belongs to those who make unremitting efforts to build a prosperous nation and believe in the saying that the smoke of our own country is brighter than the fire of another. Come what may, the lofty aspiration of the Eritrean people will be fulfilled in the not too distant future.
Finally, wherever we go, we were treated with great hospitality by the local inhabitants, which is so characteristic of the Eritrean people. Furthermore, we would like to express our profuse thanks to our defense forces, members of the national service, and administrative members for their warm reception, and we express our deep appreciation to those who sincerely dedicate their lives to promoting economic and social developments.