East African Agriculture and Climate Change: Eritrea

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Located in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea has a long coastline on the Red Sea. The country has varied topography, rainfall, and climate, with altitude ranging from 60 to more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The climate ranges from hot and arid near the Red Sea to subhumid in isolated micro catchments along the eastern escarpment. The central highlands have a semi-arid climate. Most of the year’s rain falls within a short time, resulting in soil erosion and runoff.

Eritrea’s total population is about 5.27 million people, of whom 50–60 percent live in highlands that comprise only about 10 percent of the country’s total area. Life expectancy has increased modestly, from 40 years in the 1960s to about 52 years in 2010. The mortality rate for children under five years is decreasing, owing to improved mother- and child-care. Overall, malaria morbidity declined by more than 86 percent, and mortality due to malaria fell by more than 82 percent, making Eritrea one of the few Sub-Saharan countries to have met the targets for reducing malaria incidence set by the Abuja Declaration in 2000 .

Agriculture is still an important sector for Eritrea, employing about half of the population and producing about 20 percent of GDP. Eritrea has several agricultural systems: rainfed cereal and pulses; semi-commercial and periurban agriculture; small-scale irrigated horticulture; commercial farming; agropastoral rainfed farming; and agropastoral spate irrigation systems. The major food crops grown in Eritrea are sorghum, millet and barley.

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