WHERE WE WORK
Start Year: 1996
End Year: 2000
Country Program Director/Coordinator: Dr Marco Quinones
History and Primary Activities:
Agriculture accounted for 50% of Eritrea’s GDP in the mid-1990s. Given the country’s semi-arid climate, most food production takes place in the highlands. Sorghum accounted for 40% of cereal production and farmers used traditional methods to produce the crop. Traditional methods were also used to produce pearl millet, finger millet, barley and teff. Eritrea was unable to meet its own food needs and imported several hundred thousand tons of grain in most years.
SG 2000 launched a new food crops technology transfer program in 1996, in collaboration with the Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture. No SG 2000 employees were stationed in Eritrea; rather, the Program was supported by SG 2000 staff in Ethiopia and relied exclusively on Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture staff to carry out the work.
Ministry extension agents played a prominent role in demonstrating and disseminating the new technologies, and SG 2000 provided theoretical and practical training to strengthen their skills. They obtained hands-on experience with the Extension Management Test Plots (EMTPs) and took part in field days and workshops. SG 2000 helped to ensure that extension supervisors went into the field by providing needed vehicles and motorcycles.
Nearly 300 farmers in 46 villages participated in 190 EMTPs (involving maize, barley, wheat, sorghum and teff) in 1996. About 10% were women. The participants received credit for 80% of the cost of the recommended package and were expected to pay back the balance at harvest. Loan recovery that year was 72%. Low repayments were concentrated among wheat and sorghum growers whose yields were depressed by low rainfall. In 1997, the number of PTPs tripled, and better rainfall led to better yield results and loan recovery.
In 1998, the government set a target of reaching 100,000 farmers in a government-financed agricultural intensification program. SG 2000 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also sponsored some farmers to grow demonstration plots. In 1999 the government wanted to expand the program significantly, possibly doubling these numbers.
In 1998, war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the SG 2000 Eritrean Program had to stop in 1999. In 2000, the country asked SG 2000 to return, but it was not possible to do so at that time, given all the political tensions and problems linked to war, as well as the large number of countries in which SG 2000 was already involved.