BY – United Nations Development Programme
With only a handful of children playing around in an open field, the village of Lamza, on the outskirts of the capital city of Eritrea, looks deserted. This is because almost all the village residents have gone to work on their farms in a nearby valley, where two micro dams are allowing them to irrigate and grow their crops.
The biggest of these dams was built with UNDP’s support, part of a $1.2 million food security project implemented jointly with the Eritrea Ministry of Agriculture. It has a capacity of one million cubic meters of water if it rains sufficiently, and will help expand arable land in the area and introduce new modes of farming like drip irrigation for increased production.
“We have seen improvement of nutrition among the children because they are able to access highly nutritious vegetables from the irrigation scheme,” says the administrator of the village, Ms. Abrahazion. “The children are also able to attend school consistently because they are healthy and fall sick less often.”
Community members provided labor for construction while the excavation was achieved through mechanical means under supervision of the ministry. The farmers pool their savings to buy the diesel for the pump and maintain the equipment on a monthly basis. The community says it now wishes to use solar energy to power the pumps.
Barely one year since it was inaugurated, the dam is now feeding 1,200 households and the community has been able to increase its farm land to 61 acres. In addition, the community can now farm throughout the year. With more food available, excess production is sold to small scale retailers in Asmara.
“I have witnessed improvement in the living standards of the population and particularly women and children who are the main beneficiaries of the project. Water is readily available at our doorsteps; we do not have to walk long distances to fetch water,” says Abrahazion.
Since the project was inaugurated, new farmers have been given land and they are able to pool additional savings to finance the effort. This growing population has prompted community members to convene and plan improvements on infrastructure and the land.
The land tenure system of the village is based on equal distribution among households. Female headed households are provided with the same amount of land to ensure gender parity.
In addition to the environmental and ecological advantages of the project, the micro dam has enabled farmers to boost their livestock rearing due to ease access to fodder from the irrigation scheme. Plans also exist to construct three similar micro dams across the country and introduce bee keeping and poultry farming.