Agriculture development and food security policy in Eritrea - An analysis
The main economic activity of the people of Eritrea is agriculture: crop production and livestock herding. Agriculture mainly comprises mixed farming and some commercial concessions. Most agriculture is rain-fed. The main rain-fed crops are sorghum, millet and sesame, and the main irrigated crops are all horticultural crops like bananas, onions and tomatoes and cotton. The major livestock production constraints are disease, water and feed shortages and agricultural expansion especially in the river frontages. The agricultural sector employs eighty percent of the working population, but its production has not managed to cover internal food demand and is forced to cover nearly 50 per cent of its annual cereal requirements through importscommercial and food assistance. Like most African countries, Eritrea is also a victim of the problem of food insecurity. In good years the country produces only about 60 per cent of its total food needs and in poor years, it produces no more than 25 per cent. On average, once in 10 years, the country is threatened with famines. Annual crop production depends on rainfall that is variable and unevenly distributed from year to year. Therefore, the primary goal of Eritrea is to guarantee food security by introducing modern technology, irrigation, terracing, soil and water conservation, with less dependence on rainwater. Thus the Government has articulated its food policy, which stresses national ownership of grant food assistance and to achieve food security in the coming five years. The policy indeed encompasses all sectoral policies and represents the Government’s engagements with regard to food security. Despite the general trends of improvement in the economy of Eritrea, it has not yet fully recovered, and thus will still continue to require variable degrees of food assistance for the coming few more years. Based on this historical and recurrent food insecurity in Eritrea, an attempt is made in this paper to assess the agriculture development and food policy in the country. Furthermore, the paper captures the available food security policy proposals of Eritrea and eventually draws conclusions.
Key words: Agriculture, Food Security, Food Policy.