Goluj Subzone; Parcel of the Fertile Gash Barka Region
by Semir Seid
Goluj subzone is found in the south-west of the Gash Barka region. The town of Goluj is 45 km south east of Tessenei and 400 km away from the capital Asmara. There are 52 villages under 16 administration zones in the subzone. A total of 120 thousand people live in the subzone and six thousand people in the town of Goluj. The majority of the people, 90%, depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihood while the rest are engaged in trade.
The farmers in the villages are known for using their farmlands properly. From the 120 thousand hectare of cultivable land, at the moment, 100 thousand hectare is cultivated. The cultivable land in the subzone is allocated in two ways- to those inhabitants of the subzone who have completed their national duties and to investors. Inhabitant farmers are provided two hectare of land for cultivation while investing farmers can have more than five hectare of land. Around 500 entrepreneurs who came from different parts of the country are cultivating crops in the Goluj subzone.
Irrigation-based agriculture in the subzone is limited to 160 hectare of land, and this is because of the subzone’s hot climate. The ground water from the river basin of Tekeze is not sufficient to last throughout the year. To overcome this challenge and spread the use of irrigation-based agriculture in the subzone, a study has been made and the subzone plans to implement irrigation using the summer rain of 2018.
Water scarcity helped the farmers to concentrate more on soil and water conservation programs. Farmers also conduct summer campaigns assisted by the communities. According to the head of Economic Development of the subzone, Mr. Daniel Tewelde, yields have been increasing as a result of conducting several agricultural campaigns to farmers. Before campaigns were initiated, yields per hectare were limited from three to four quintals. After farmers were taught about proper farmland management and soil and water conservation, yields increased to ten quintals per hectare. Sorghum (70%), millet and sesame are some of the products
harvested from the farmlands. The Extension Division in the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) provides farmers with best sorghum seeds. The subzone of Goluj also consults farmers on how to conserve soil and water, and provide them seeds for cultivation.
Farmers are satisfied with almost 90% of the farmland’s well-organized land redistribution of 2016. Mr. Daniel said that the land redistribution activity was important to identify how much hectare of land was distributed and how much was being cultivated in the subzone. The farmers who are cultivating two hectare of land can ask for more land if they can prove they supervise their farmlands properly, and harvest the right amount of yields. But, this is done only after a farmer’s productivity performance is evaluated. Farmers are then required to submit a study of an area they want to cultivate. After the provision of the land, the farmers are monitored by the subzone to check whether they are properly utilizing the amount of land they took. The Extension Division of the MoA provides farmers incessant training on how to increase their yield through the practice of various seed plantation, plucking weeds at the right time and harvesting at the right time.
With the gradual flow of people into the town of Goluj social service provision has become imminent. The town eventually started to flourish in trade and agricultural activities. Mr. Daniel said that with the present masterplan the situation can also be seen as a challenge for people to establish businesses they like. However, drinking water services and infrastructures in the subzone of Goluj, in the 15 administration zones, is fully provided. The inhabitants of the town of Goluj get their potable water from the three wells which are distributed into seven water stations built inside the town. As a back up to the available services, two water tank trucks provide drinking water to the inhabitants when needed.
For the towns which are short of some social services, the subzone, in collaboration with the administration zones, decided to relocate towns into main roads. By doing so, it will be able to provide them with the basic social services such as water, education and health. The subzone has agreed these services have to be made available before moving the people of the towns.
Educational and health services are well implemented in the subzone of Goluj. Every administration zone has its own school and health center. In the whole subzone there are eight kindergartens, 23 elementary, nine middle and two secondary schools. Adult education is also provided in eleven stations where people move daily. Furthermore, there are 14 health institutions the inhabitants of the subzone can access. Several all-season roads connect the administration zones to facilitate trade and provide people with transport. The Tessenei-Omhajr road is being asphalted as a main project in the subzone.
Establishing roads is likely to attract visitors to the subzone. The big dams of Gerset and Bademit in the subzone have the potential to make the region more attractive for tourism. The dams have opened opportunities to develop large fields of land for agriculture. The subzone of Goluj has fertile soil surrounded by the river Tekeze and various species of wild animals.
There is a nationally recognized 12-thousand-hectare enclosure for use by the 16 administration zones of the Goluj subzone. This enclosed area is mainly used for grazing in the rainy season. Farmers are encouraged to collect animal food in good rainy seasons. Livestock of the farmers have two ponds for drinking water inside the park. Apart from this enclosure, every administration zone has its own reserved park. As the subzone of Goluj shares borders with the neighboring countries of Sudan and Ethiopia, it is customary for shepherds and animals to move from and to these countries. Such movements might result in these animals contracting diseases from across the borders. To prevent such possibilities the subzone established four veterinary health stations in the towns of Omhajer, Goluj, Gergef and Ashela. Through these health stations any outbreaks are instantly controlled. Further, all the livestock in the subzone are immunized twice to protect them from infection. With such initiatives, Mr. Daniel said, the subzone, until the present day, has been safe from animal disease outbreaks.
Goluj inhabitants’ participation in various development campaigns of the subzone has been immense and contributed to the growth of the subzone. All the towns in the subzone are eventually growing in their agricultural and trade activities. Farmers have been consistently committed to working on their farmlands, and with an added on service from agricultural experts they hope to harvest more. Experts from the MoA advise farmers of the subzone to plant seeds provided by the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) and always practice crop rotation for better yield.