"Over the past 5 years Ireland has committed over €500,000 to projects in Eritrea,” Mr Hayes noted. “It was a great opportunity to visit Eritrea and see first-hand these programmes in action. I believe that enabling sustainable livelihoods is a critical factor in determining Eritrea’s future."
“What Irish Aid, Teagasc and Vita are achieving with the Ministry of Agriculture in Eritrea is as far removed from traditional aid models as it is possible to get,” says John Weakliam, Vita CEO. “This is about investment and technology transfer, supporting Eritrean farmers by using the very best of Irish research, agronomy and commercial experience.”
Irish agri-businesses have recognised Eritrea as a key entry point to Africa, with Dovea Genetics and Irish Potato Marketing already creating successful business synergies with local farming groups. Eritrean dairy farmers are upgrading their dairy herds through genetic material supplied by Dovea Genetics while potato farmers are improving their livelihoods by importing minitubers from Irish Potato Marketing.
The Minister of Agriculture of Eritrea, Mr Arefaine Berhe, met with the delegation and said, “The Ministry of Agriculture of Eritrea believes that the bilateral cooperation with Irish agricultural institutions and development agencies in the areas of agronomy- mainly potato and livestock with special focus on dairy is exemplary, effective and addresses the cardinal issue of productivity at a community level.”
Larry O’Loughlin from Teagasc accompanied Brian on the trip. He represents his organisation’s firm belief that progressive, smart agriculture will create the level playing field that Eritrean farmers need to thrive. “We have so much expertise and skill in Ireland and in Teagasc we recognise the contribution we can make by combining science, experience and investment. Eritrea, with its wealth of opportunity and a people noted for their work ethos, is a natural development partner for Ireland.”
The group also met with many government, EU and UN officials, community leaders, farmers groups and the enterprising women of Eritrea, over 42,000 of whom have transformed their lives by building the award winning fuel efficient stove in partnership with the EU, Vita and Gorta Self Help Africa.