IFAD in Eritrea
IFAD's experience in Eritrea underscores the difficulty of operating in an acutely poor country affected by armed conflict. There are severe constraints on institutional capacity and human resources. Few skilled local staff are available and the capacity of public service providers to intervene in new projects is limited.
IFAD began operations in the country in 1995, just two years after independence, and its first project had the aim of rehabilitating the crucially important irrigation system in the eastern lowlands. A second project was approved in 2002 to increase farmers' incomes from crop and livestock production in the western lowlands. A third project approved in 2006 helps improve incomes and food security in an area close to the Ethiopian border that has been devastated by conflict and drought. A fourth project approved in 2010 provides assistance for artisanal fishers in the Red Sea coastal regions, which suffered greatly during the border conflict of 1998-2000 and have yet to fully recover. IFAD's loans to Eritrea total US$55.8 million
IFAD's strategy in Eritrea
In Eritrea IFAD's strategy focuses on the reconstruction of communities and their development needs. Improving the management of natural resources is also a priority. Assistance is directed at the eastern and western lowlands, where rural poverty is most severe and where social and economic infrastructures have been seriously disrupted by the conflict. These are also the areas with the best immediate prospects for expanding the production of small-scale farmers.
The experience of IFAD in the country suggests that limited resources and lack of readily transferable technologies imply a need for simple, low-cost investments and for the self-reliance of communities in management and maintenance. New investments should preferably be made in activities that have already been tested and proven.
There are development opportunities in rangeland management, crop and animal husbandry, veterinary services and conservation farming. Expanding small-scale irrigated cultivation of higher-value crops in many localities offers another possibility for development.
Investments to improve people's access to health services and safe drinking water are also required and are a key to improving the living conditions of the poorest people, many of them in households headed by women.
Such investments, financed on a grant basis by the Belgian Survival Fund Joint Programme (BSF.JP) in a strategic alliance with IFAD, directly complement productive investments financed by IFAD.