Progress at Eritrea's date palm production

Growing a Sweet Future: Eritrea’s Date Palm Revolution

Development News

Eritrea has earned global recognition as the ’41st Date Producing Country’. The aim is to surpass the current count of 23,000 date palm trees and reach the ambitious target of 300,000 by the year 2030. This milestone will mark Eritrea’s transition into a date-exporting country.

In a bid to transform its agricultural landscape, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in Eritrea embarked on a date palm plantation initiative back in 2003. Fast forward to the present, and the success of this endeavor is becoming increasingly tangible, with over 23,000 date palm trees now flourishing across approximately 150 hectares of land.

The initiative took center stage during the celebration of World Food Day and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 16, 2023. Five distinct date varieties were officially presented and tasted, marking a significant milestone in Eritrea’s journey toward self-sufficiency and economic empowerment.

To delve deeper into the roots of this success, the Public Relations Division of the MoA engaged in a revealing interview with senior experts and farmers who have played a pivotal role in making date production a reality.

Heading the Biotechnology Unit at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is Mr. Mussie Fekadu, the National Project Coordinator of the date palm initiative. According to him, the project set out with the ambitious goal of achieving a satisfactory level of production within five years starting from 2022. Collaboration with various development partners has been instrumental, with the MoA organizing regular capacity-building programs that include both theoretical and practical training.

Mr. Mussie highlighted the focus on strengthening existing nurseries rather than solely relying on importing in-vitro date palm seedlings. With Eritrea boasting a favorable environment for date palm production, three nursery sites have been established in Massawa, Gahtelay, and Halhale.

Farmers chosen to participate in date palm production undergo a meticulous selection process based on their readiness and knowledge. Continuous consultancy and training at every stage of production ensure the success of the initiative.

As a result of these concerted efforts, date palm production has witnessed significant growth, particularly in the Northern and Southern Red Sea regions. Eritrea’s achievements were acknowledged on the international stage when it was recognized as the ‘41st Date Producing Country‘ during the 7th International Date Palm Conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on March 23, 2022.

Looking ahead, the MoA plans to import 10,000 seedlings this month and distribute approximately 3,400 vitro-plants to 15 identified medium-scale farmers by February 2024. The revised plan aims to distribute around 60,000 date palm seedlings by the end of 2024, with the ultimate goal of reaching 300,000 date palm trees by 2030.

Mr. Mussie outlined the three multiplication methods to achieve this goal: through imported seedlings, tissue-culture, and off-shoots. Farmers receive seedlings for free under a cost recovery agreement, committing to returning off-shoots within three to four years. This approach is poised to boost the capacity of date palm seedling nurseries and enhance the production and distribution rates.

In conclusion, Mr. Mussie revealed the MoA’s broader vision, which includes the establishment of a well-equipped date packaging store. The finalized design is set to materialize in Gahtelay, Northern Red Sea region, offering not only national market opportunities but also opening doors for export. The store represents a key component in Eritrea’s journey toward economic prosperity and self-sustainability in the realm of date palm production. [TN]

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