- Eritrea’s Msilam Dam is catalysing growth in livestock, agriculture, and industrial production.
- Since its inception in 2017 with 660 cattle, the Halhale Dairy Farm—which depends on Msilam Dam—is witnessing growth.
- Dam to potentially host AfDB’s Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones initiative.
Eritrea has an extensive coastline along the Red Sea but limited freshwater resources. Faced with erratic rainfall patterns that have left much of the country arid, Eritrea is rising to the challenge with determination, innovation, and a strong sense of self-reliance. Within just three years, Eritrea has harnessed its local engineering talent and rallied thousands of its citizens, including students from technical and vocational schools, to construct Msilam Dam.
The success story of Eritrea’s Msilam Dam
Located in the village of Gergera, Eritrea’s Msilam Dam is a testament to Eritrea’s commitment to addressing its water scarcity challenges. With a capacity of 350 million cubic meters, this engineering marvel now supplies clean water to the towns of Dekemhare, Debarwa, Mendefera, and their smaller neighboring counterparts.
Moreover, Eritrea has completed the construction of the Adi Halo Dam, further solidifying its commitment to securing its water future. This project includes a 32 million cubic meter dam, harnessing two megawatts of solar power to pump water for irrigation on community-owned farmland.
Beyond the immediate benefits of more drinking water for the citizens, Eritrea’s Msilam Dam is catalysing transformative changes in livestock, agriculture, and industrial production as part of the country’s national strategy for sustainable development.
One standout success story stemming from the Msilam Dam is the emergence of the Halhale Dairy Farm, situated in an area now brimming with opportunities for dairy farming. Covering 550 hectares, this dairy farm forms part of an agro-processing facility specializing in meat and dairy products. Since its inception in 2017 with 660 cattle, the Halhale Dairy Farm has witnessed considerable growth. Recognizing the potential of this innovative project, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has partnered with Eritrea to scale it up further.
AfDB’s Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones
Consequently, AfDB President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, recently visited Eritrea, touring these investments alongside President Isaias Afwerki. President Afwerki revealed plans to use the dairy farm as a pilot scheme for establishing similar ventures throughout the country. This strategic move focuses on increasing the availability of dairy products and meat at fair prices, enhancing food security for Eritreans.
Dr. Adesina expressed his admiration for Eritrea’s achievements, stating, “I am impressed by what I see here. There are 10,000 hectares of land to irrigate with the dam, and it is already irrigating 1,000 hectares. That is a lot of land for livestock and dairy. There are also areas where fruit and other crops already grow. I am particularly impressed by the density of infrastructure here.”
The AfDB envisions Eritrea’s Msilam Dam and Adi Halo Dam Water Project as potential hosts for its Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones initiative. A team from AfDB will visit Eritrea in the coming weeks to initiate planning.
Further, the Bank recognizes the potential of the local private sector and the Eritrean diaspora to accelerate investment in the country’s development. As such, the AfDB is committed to supporting Eritrea in developing a financial system that facilitates agro-industrialization.
In a significant step towards gender equality in agriculture, the AfDB will use resources from its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative to provide access to finance for women farmers in partnership with local banks.
Eritrea tipped to become model for other countries
Not only have these projects increased clean drinking water availability for households, but they have also significantly improved food security. Dr. Adesina lauded Eritrea’s spirit of innovation and self-reliance, noting, “I would say that President Afewerki’s passion is infectious. The big dams we visited are evidence of that.”
Eritrea’s experience could serve as a model for other countries, and Dr. Adesina suggested the possibility of establishing an African engineering corps to support major engineering projects across the continent.
Eritrea’s journey of transformation stands as a testament to the power of determination, self-belief, and innovative thinking. With strong leadership, the country is setting an inspiring example of how to address critical challenges and build a sustainable future.
The AfDB pledges to provide further support to Eritrea in various areas, from agriculture and climate resilience to energy, the blue economy, and financial market development. Sharing Eritrea’s experience will benefit other countries, fostering collaborative development across the African continent.