Oases of Eritrea: Nature-Based Solutions for Development

Development News
Eritrea access to water Nature-Based Solutions for Development
Given access to water, nomadic communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change can escape poverty and food insecurity. (Photo: Elizabeth Mwaniki/UNDP Eritrea)


Eritrea is a country of varied landscapes. But driving from Asmara, the capital city, towards Keren town in the Anseba Region, you will notice a number of common features: Oases and water sources along the way are true hives of agricultural and economic activity.

People are busy planting crops, transferring seedlings from the nurseries to the farms, or weeding and spraying. A few years ago, when the river Anseba dried off during a drought spell, the same people would move from one place to another in search of pasture and water for their livestock, and the river banks would be deserted.

Now, as encouraged by the Water Action Decade launched this year on World Water Day, communities are turning to nature-based solutions to sustain their livelihoods.

In alignment with Sustainable Development Goals 6, 13, 14, and 15, the project Climate change adaptation programme in water and agriculture in the Anseba region of Eritrea works with vulnerable communities to increase their resilience to climate change through integrated water and land management.

The project was initiated in 2012 by the Government in partnership with UNDP and is financed by the Adaptation Fund.

One of the most innovative aspects of the project is the construction of diversion structures on the seasonal Anseba river. During the dry spells, the structures boost water recharge, ensuring constant water supply to the farms in a seven-kilometer radius. In addition, flood water is harvested, stored in reservoirs and pumped using solar energy to irrigate farms.

Other initiatives include the development of a community-based early warning system to reduce climate risks, through the construction of weather monitoring stations.

Community participation

Solar pumps are used to irrigate farms Eritrea
Solar pumps are used to irrigate farms. (Photo: Elizabeth Mwaniki/UNDP Eritrea)

To ensure sustainability, the project involves local communities through cash-for-work initiatives including soil erosion control measures such as hillside terracing; reforestation and building check dams.

Village development committees are in charge of identifying priorities, organizing and facilitating activities, and participating in rangeland management.

About 9000 households targeted by the project also received drought-resistant seeds and early maturing crops like sorghum and millet. Dairy cows, chickens, and beehives were distributed to farmers, to encourage alternative livelihoods and provide a much-needed protein boost to their diet. A savings scheme is helping farmers purchase farming inputs and spare parts for the water harvesting and irrigation systems.

Plans are underway to launch a networking platform on climate change for stakeholders throughout the country, and to replicate the project in the communities of Hamelmalo and Habero, both ranked in the top five (out of 11) sub-regions most affected by food insecurity due to drought.

Besides this project, the Government is building more dams to ensure the continuous supply of water in the country.

Check dams and other diversion structures Eritrea
Check dams and other diversion structures ensure constant water supply during dry spells. (Photo: Elizabeth Mwaniki/UNDP Eritrea)

Elizabeth Mwaniki is the Communications and Knowledge Management Officer at UNDP Eritrea