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Eritrea
Source: wikipedia
 
 

Eritrea, located in the Horn of Africa, along the Red Sea, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is slowly recovering from three decades of war for independence against Ethiopia. Long-term enrolment of youth in the army, unequal access to education for women, a difficult business environment and the country's inability to provide enough food for the population even in good rainfall years, hamper the recent economic recovery. There is ample room for quick agricultural development as only a small proportion of arable lands is cultivated. 

181 - Eritrea's Human Development Index rank out of 186

60 to 70% - Share of Eritrea's food demand covered by domestic production in good rainfall years

>50% - Average downy mildew prevalence in pearl millet in some regions of Eritrea (ref: VP Rao et al)

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General context

Eritrea, located in the Horn of Africa, along the Red Sea, is one of the world's poorest countries, slowly recovering from three decades war for independence against Ethiopia. Continuous border and sea access disputes with its neighbor and isolationism are adding to an already precarious situation in this arid and drought-prone region. Long-term enrolment of youth in the army, women's unequal access to education, a difficult business environment, and the country's inability to provide enough food for the population even in good rainfall years, hamper the recent economic recovery. Remittances from the large Eritrean diaspora represent a third of the GDP and the largest source of foreign currency.

About 80% of the population relies on subsistence farming and herding. A large share of fertile lands is unused because of land mines. Two-thirds of the population receive food aid.

Improving food security is an essential step for Eritrea to improve its human development records. Eritrea is highly vulnerable to climate change, as well as volatility in global food price (due to food imports).

There is ample room for agricultural development as only a small proportion of arable lands is cultivated (3.6% ref: Eritrea MinAgri) and most farmers practice traditional farming, without much use of inputs and water conservation techniques. 

ICRISAT research in Eritrea

Sorghum is the most important staple crop in Eritrea, followed by pearl millet and finger millet, teff, barley and maize. Marker-assisted Striga-resistant sorghum and downy mildew-resistant pearl millet are some examples of the research collaboration areas between ICRISAT and Eritrea.

Development and adoption of improved pearl millet seeds through farmer participatory research led to significant yield increase (+40%) compared to the Tokroray traditional landrace (ref: Roden et al).

Over 10,000 farmers have already benefited from an early-maturing and high- yielding sorghum variety called "Seare" (meaning winner) (ref: HOPE project). It has good household use qualities in local dishes like injera, a local flat bread.

Intensification of sorghum-legume cropping system, combining better seeds, fertilizer microdosing, tile ridging for water harvesting and legume (green gram) intercropping helps farmers obtain better yields and adapt to climate change.

Research collaboration also focuses on better water and soil conservation practices at watershed level. Eritrea is part of a regional initiative supported by ASARECA organization to understand what knowledge gaps to fill (eg trade-offs between livelihoods and environmental benefits), policies (eg water rights), institutions and collective actions are required to scale up best integrated practices in water management.

Photo: ICRISAT
Developing Striga-resistant sorghum varieties through marker-assisted breeding (Read First marker-assisted bred sorghum)

Downy mildew-resistant pearl millet variety Hagaz, a cross between the local landrace and ICRISAT ICMV 221 variety (ref Negusse 2005).

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