“We have been putting up efforts to understand whether the Chinese varieties and the agricultural techniques thereof are suitable for Eritrea, and the overall result is promising so far.”
The Government of the State of Eritrea has been devising sound strategies with a view to enhancing agricultural productivity from time to time. One of this strategies is careful selection of the appropriate plant and animal species. To this end, a number of research activities have been conducted in diverse agro-ecological zones of the country.
This publication has given full coverage to the Third China-Eritrea Agricultural Technical Cooperation Project, which was launched in the year 2022 pursuing an agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of the State of Eritrea, and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Eritrea.
The Public Relations Division has conducted a brief interview with a team of experts from both sides who are taking part in this joint project, namely, Mr. Ermias Asmelash, Head of Horticulture Development Unit; Mr. Michael Ghilagabr, Fruit Production Expert; Ms. Merry Kahsay, Seed Expert, and Mr. Kibrom Mehari, Head of the Crop Development Unit (all from MoA); and Mr. Liu Yunmin, Legume Expert and Agronomist Researcher; Mr. Zhou Cheng, a senior agronomist and an oil crop expert as well as Mr. Wang Li, Horticulturalist and senior fruit tree expert who are members of the Chinese team of agriculture experts engaged in the project.
Q: Please give us brief information with regards to the general background and goal of the project.
(Mr. Ermias Asmelash): I am working as a coordinator of the two parties of this project, i.e. the Sichuan Road and Bridge Group (SRBG)’s part, and the government team. As part of the bilateral agreement, the government of the PRC has so far sent a total of 16 agriculture experts in 5 batches in a bid to provide agricultural assistance to Eritrea, i.e. in August 2009, March 2012, September 2018, October 2019 and February 2022 respectively.
SRBG is a Chinese private firm which started its activities in Eritrea in January 2022, and sharing Chinese agricultural production technologies with experts of our country. It is providing its assistance in a form of demonstration project.
The main objective of this joint project encompasses sharing Chinese agricultural technologies with Eritrea based on three pillars: Introduction, production and value-addition of some agricultural crops and fruits.
The project further involves supply of new agricultural machineries, other technical inputs, fruit seedlings and varieties of vegetables, oil crops, legumes (almost all open-pollinated seeds except for few hybrid ones) at the request of the Eritrean counterpart.
The Third China-Eritrea Agricultural Technical Cooperation Project was launched in February 2022 and it is due to wind up in February 2024. The joint activities on the part of Sichuan Road and Bridge Group (SRBG) started in January 2022 in the form of technical assistance, which is expected to continue until the life time of the project.
(Mr. Michael Ghilagabr): The project’s objective puts emphasis on provision of necessary agricultural equipment; execution of demonstrations and trials on several varieties of apple, vegetables, legumes and oil crops, besides organising training courses for Eritrean agriculture experts and farmers.
Therefore, three Chinese experts who specialize on fruits (apple), legumes and oil crops arrived in Eritrea mid-March, last year, and started working with their corresponding Eritrean experts. The implementation of the project started in April 2022.
The project sites are Merhano, Akria and Adi-Keih. SRBG’s involvement is limited to that of Merhano.
Q: What can you tell us about the achievements made so far?
(Mr. Ermias Asmelash): Around 40 farm equipment such as tractors, generators and oil-extractors were made available to this project from China. Likewise, more than 200 seedlings of new apple varieties were received in addition to several rapeseed and bean seed varieties. These were cultivated in selected areas of the sites after necessary preparations were made on the ground.
Meanwhile, apple, oil crop and bean varieties that have existed in Eritrea were also planted at the same time with a view to carrying out necessary comparisons between the two under the same management.
So far, we could initially notice that the new rapeseed variety (Maweiba) is early maturing with a higher yield compared to our indigenous rapeseed variety. There are also similar trends on beans. However, the demonstration should continue until reliable and conclusive results can be achieved. Concerning the new apple varieties, we can only say that the planted seedlings are developing well, and that they are in good condition. We cannot say more until they bear fruit.
Generally speaking, I feel that this project can make a positive impact on our agriculture sector. Once well-identified, more productive new legume and oil crop seeds, as well as apple seedlings can be distributed to local farmers for initial processing.
(Mr. Ermias Asmelash): In addition to the apple varieties, we have planted an open-pollinated Maweiba rapeseed variety along with Thamarin, a local variety (from National Agricultural Research Institute/ NARI).
Furthermore, the following activities are conducted by the SRBG group. It introduced a total of 71 new varieties for this demonstration project, namely, 2 apple varieties, 31 varieties of oil crops (including 23 hybrid rapeseed varieties and 8 open-pollinated soybean varieties) and 38 vegetable varieties, and all of them performed well, which implies that the introduced varieties can do well in Eritrea, particularly in Merhano.
There is still a need to undertake more trials in different localities for comprehensive results, and we plan to implement trials of this type in Mendefera area this year.
The majority of the introduced 8 open-pollinated soybean seeds showed satisfactory results, although we need to re-try them in the mid-lands, such as Mendefera area, this year. The reason behind the partial failure of some varieties of soybean is attributed to the fact that this crop is generally grown in a warm area where the average daily temperature is about 25 degree Celsius.
(Mr. Liu Yunmin): I am the leader of the Chinese team and my job is to facilitate communication with the team of Eritrean experts. I believe that considerable steps have been taken to achieve such promising achievements. However, we need to do more and better to impact Eritrea’s agricultural output. We have been putting up efforts to understand whether the Chinese varieties and the agricultural techniques thereof are suitable for Eritrea, and the overall result is promising so far.
(Mr. Wang Li): I am Horticulturalist and senior fruit tree expert in the Ministry of Agriculture of the PRC. If I am to talk about the achievements of the cooperation project, we planted 210 Chinese apple varieties (Qinyang/150 and Yuhuazaofu/60) in Merhano and Adi-Keih sites. So far, the planted seedlings have shown good performance. They are almost daily monitored and supervised. Moreover, there are 100 local apple seedlings (Anna) which are planted for the purpose of comparing with that of the Chinese varieties. The local varieties are also in good condition.
(Mr. Zhou Cheng): I am a senior agronomist and an oil crop expert. With regards to rapeseed, we have planted an open-pollinated Maweiba rapeseed variety from China along with Thamarin, a local variety. With regards to yield, we witnessed an excellent result. It has been proven that Asmara is an appropriate agro-ecological area for rapeseed and lays a good ground for grain and oil production. There is a good chance for Eritrea to make significant progress in this field with better cultural practice and high performing cultivars.
Q: Would you explain if the project is serving as groundwork for knowledge and experience-sharing?
(Ms. Merry Kahsay): My role in this project is following up and doing comparison on the rapeseed varieties which are from the PRC and Eritrea. Hence, I would like to indicate that there were no challenges faced from the germination phase to harvest. Of course, we need to remember that if the varieties of superior productivity are identified, they will need to go through additional validation by the Department of Regulatory Services and NARI before they are proved worthy of distribution to farmers.
With reference to the project’s suitability for knowledge and experience-sharing, yes, it indeed has served as a means towards such an end. As for me, the type of engagement I have in the project is very relevant to the very profession of mine and it has given me an opportunity to acquire significant experience and good exposure to Chinese agricultural technology, in addition to enhancing my team-work skills.
(Mr. Kibrom Mehari): I am tasked with conducting demonstration on the productivity of the introduced new bean varieties, i.e. comparing them to the indigenous varieties in collaboration with my colleagues, including the Chinese counterparts. Although the results we have noted thus far are promising, further work is still necessary until their overall merits can be conclusively recognized. I would also like to elaborate that this project’s activities are useful for they served as a good means in terms of extensive fieldwork exposure and exchange of knowledge and experience.
(Mr. Ermias Asmelash): As part of this Sino-Eritrean joint project’s plan, a total of 250 experts and farmers (30 experts and 220 farmers) have been trained on general management of apple, legume and oil crop cultivation. The training courses entailed theoretical and practical aspects. Additionally, SRBG organized a training course for a total of 150 experts and farmers (40 experts and 110 farmers) on management of different varieties of apple, vegetables, legumes and oil crops with a commendable success. It is equally worth-mentioning that the project served as a platform for exchange of pragmatic knowledge and experience between the experts from both countries.
(Mr. Liu Yunmin): As members of the Chinese team of experts, we had to strive to understand well the climatic setting of Eritrea since we had no previous exposure. This is the only challenge we can mention in the course of our work in this project.
On the other side, we had a chance to share experience with our counterparts and carry out pragmatic training on some agricultural technologies. We always share agricultural technical experience with local farmers and experts from NARI and other offices of the MoA during demonstration sessions. Besides, we conduct trainings for the farmers with the intent of improving their technical competence. The agricultural equipment, apple seedlings and all the open pollinated crop seeds were provided by the Government of the PRC.
In their final words, all the experts above called for continued efforts based on joint projects, and emphasized the need for total pursuance to validation of this project’s findings so that farmers can soon become beneficiaries of appropriate and productive seeds in the near future.
(Source: MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE)