Eritrea is a small, coastal country located along the Red Sea in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti . It covers an area of 124,320 km², with two major physiographic zones identified as highland and lowland. The country has a mainland coastline of approximately 1,200 km, and about 1,950 km of coastline around the islands forming the Dahlak archipelago. The elevation ranges from below sea level in the southern arid region to over 3000m in the central highlands .
The climate of Eritrea ranges from hot and arid adjacent to the Red Sea to temperate in the highlands and sub-humid in the isolated micro-catchment areas in the eastern escarpment. Most parts of the country (70%) are hot to very hot with a mean annual temperature of more than 27°C; about 25% of the country experience warm to mild weather with a mean temperature of about 22°C. The remaining 5% of the country experience a cool climate with a mean annual temperature of less than 19°C .
Eritrea is divided into six administrative regions called ‘zobas’, which vary in size, population and socioeconomic conditions .
As of 2020, Eritrea has an estimated total population of 3.546 million inhabitants, which by 2050, is projected to reach 6.01 million . Of the total population, close to 60% live in rural areas , where agriculture is the main source of livelihood.
Eritrea’s urban population is growing rapidly, and has increased from 26.59% of the total population in 2000, to 40.71% in 2019 , . Due to this rapid urbanization, the country is failing to meet the demands of its urban residents mainly in terms of access to jobs, infrastructure and services, and housing. Poverty is prevalent in urban areas, particularly in small towns and slums .
Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world . Agriculture remains the dominant sector accounting for about one-third of the economy , and the main source of livelihood for about 80% of the labour force , . Lack of basic infrastructure, unemployment, illiteracy, and insecurity are Eritrea’s main obstacles to growth. However, in recent years, Eritrea’s growth outlook has improved as extractive industries and port facilities have attracted foreign direct investment .
With a 2019 UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.459, Eritrea is regarded as a low human development country, positioned at 180 out of 189 countries. Despite ranking low on the global list, between 2005 and 2019, Eritrea’s HDI value has shown an increase of 7.5%. Eritrea improved on a number of indicators, including in life expectancy, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and Gross national income (GNI) per a capita .
Eritrea is subject to harsh climatic conditions, including cyclical drought and flooding during rainy seasons. These events heighten the vulnerability of communities, making it difficult for families to fully recover from the effects of one emergency before another strikes. In recent years, the country’s climatic conditions have tested the coping capacities of the population, which is largely dependent on subsistence agriculture . Domestic food production is estimated to meet only between 60-70% of the population’s needs .
Since gaining independence in 1991, Eritrea has tried to develop a policy framework for governing its natural resources and the environment. In 1994, Eritrea developed the National Development Policy and in 1995, adopted the National Environmental Management Plan for Eritrea (NEMP-E). The NEMP-E provides the basic policy document for action in the environmental sector and lays out a strategy for conservation activities. Its guiding principles include recognising the strategic importance of conserving natural resources and maintaining environmental quality as a part of national economic growth and development processes .
In 2017, the country passed the long-awaited environmental legislation “The Eritrean Environmental Protection, Management and Rehabilitation Framework” with Proclamation No. 179/2017. The objectives of the Proclamation include: establish the foundation of environmental management and protection laws and provide the institutions and legal instruments for their implementation and enforcement; advance an environmental policy framework consistent with sustainable development; guarantee and promote maximum public and community participation in the conservation, protection and enhancement of the environment; and set up the basis for Eritrea’s effective contribution to and benefit from international cooperation in the global efforts for environmental protection .
Aware of the fact that the environment is a cross cutting issue which requires maximum responsible cooperation and coordination between all stakeholders for its protection and management, the Proclamation established the National Environmental Council, whose members include the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Energy and Mines, Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Ministry of Marine Resources, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications .
In line with the EU Green Deal, Eritrea is committed to embark on a carbon - neutral sustainable development pathway . In 2018, the country prepared and submitted its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), committing to reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 12% by 2030 compared to the projected Business as usual scenario of the reference year of 2010. To achieve this target Eritrea has been implementing various mitigation actions in the Energy, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land uses (AFOLU) sectors. In the energy sector for example, activities are underway in the introduction of renewable energy such as: i) installation of Grid connected Solar PV system, ii) installation Mini-Grid Solar PV system, iii) promotion of Off-grid solar PV in rural areas, iv) wind farm for wind diesel hybrid and standalone system, and v) geothermal power plants developed and interconnected into existing national grid .
To address the problem of land degradation (mainly deforestation, soil erosion, and over exploitation of ground water) in the country, Eritrea is taking part in the Great Green Wall Initiative, which is backed by a broad set of international partners, including the European Union . Eritrea has been implementing a five-year action plan (2011-2015) for the initiative, with the goal of rehabilitating degraded dry lands and their components, through a combination of natural succession; protected area establishment and management; and sustainable use of biodiversity .
Eritrea is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world to the adverse effects of climate changes due, primarily, to its geographic location in the Sahelian Zone . Over the past 60 years temperature has risen by approximately 1.7°C with tremendous impacts on sea level rise and coral bleaching due to increase in sea water temperature, decline in food production, loss of biodiversity and overall loss of resilience of the ecosystem .
Eritrea has experienced extreme precipitation changes during the last 30-60 years, including an increased frequency of droughts and heavy rainfall events. The risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to climatic hazards is particularly real in arid and semi-arid regions, largely inhabited by communities engaged in agriculture and pastoral livelihood systems. In addition to drought and climate related hazards, Eritrea, face a number of other challenges which include resources scarcity, land degradation, low productivity (both livestock and crops), overgrazing and deforestation .
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