Eritrea rich in natural resources but still not food and water secured

Eritrea, a small country along the western margin of the Red Sea, is enriched in metallic deposits like gold, silver and basemetal deposits. Besides this, the country has huge geothermal energy resources, associated with all the five volcanoes located within the Danakil graben, waiting to be exploited. The only setback for the country is the rainfall, that is very low and there are no large watersheds either. This typically shows that even though a country has economical deposits, lack of water drives the country into poverty. The country thus heavily depends on other countries for food with the current food imports exceeding 46%. Similarly the land for cultivation is quite large, exceeding 16000 km2. But only about 5000 km2 land is under cultivation for obvious reason. Over the years the per capita water requirement is falling gradually, and the current value is about 1300 m3/y. Apparently the country’s GDP too will show a downward trend when the economic status is not sound. The country’s GDP has fallen from 1.3% in 2013 to 0.3% in 2015.

But the country has abundant natural energy in the form heat from the active volcanoes. Interestingly, (apart from the rainfall) the thermal regime of Eritrea is more or less similar to New Zealand. In fact Eritrea has more number of active volcanoes compared to New Zealand. While New Zealand is able to supports its electricity needs from geothermal power plants, Eritrea is yet to take off in developing its energy sources. The main crux of the issue that the ministry or the government of Eritrea or the financial aid banks such as ADB, in general, should realise is the country’s water and energy security. With secured water supply, the country can be food secured and the rest of the issues will be solved once the population get adequate food and energy supply. Food items the country imports include wheat, fruits, rice and vegetables. Not only humans, even the farm animals, that render support to the 6 million people also starve due to inadequate supply of water. How can a country sustain itself with aper capita income of US$ 403/y !!. The average per-capita electricity consumption is 49 kWh, which is far below the per capita electricity consumption of neighbouring countries like Ethiopia and Egypt

While the Tendaho geothermal site is estimated to generate minimum of 127 MWe (1x 109 kWh) of electricity the geothermal sites around Alid, Nabro, Dubbi and MusaAli volcanoes should be able to generate much greater quantity of electricity. This energy can be utilized to generate fresh water from the Red Sea to support agricultural activity of the country. Once water is available, then all other issues can be solved.

Eritrea is in the aid list of several financial lending institutions. But the priorities of these institutions are misplaced. It has been stated that these institutions will create opportunities to agricultural schools and women in alternate income generating activities; help to increase the requisite skills and technology to build resilience in the rural Eritrean community to address the negative impact of recurrence of drought on food security and livelihood. Sounds illogical. Such activities can not be taught to a person who is starving!!. The solutions are clear and bold… puts all the efforts to develop the geothermal energy of the country. The geothermal technology is ripe and within a short period of 5 years the country can stand on its own skills and generate income from its land and mineral resources. The country is located over a hot spot…the Danakil depression….no one can deny this. Then why priority is not give to develop this energy source? True with Djibouti as well!! Difficult to understand the financial institutions’ aid policies.