Eritrean Association of Agro-Industrial Women –

Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and farmers contribute to efforts to ensure food security and national development. Although commercial agriculture is mainly practiced by men, there are women farmers in Eritrea who mainly practice small and medium scale agriculture. Their most critical challenge has been marketing their produce, and the Eritrean Women Agribusiness Association (EWAA) has been a leader in taking initiatives to meet the challenge and empower women farmers.

EWAA was established in 2003 under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce and supported by the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Tsehaitu Daniel.

At the start, almost all the members of the association were beginners in their respective specializations such as dairy farming, poultry or agri-food, etc. It was therefore necessary to provide additional capacity building courses and training adapted to their own areas of interest. starting point. Depending on their specialization, the members are organized into groups: dairy farmers, florists, poultry farmers and honey gatherers. Around 2005-2006, members attended basic courses organized by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). The courses were not limited to agriculture and also included courses in business management. In 2013, the association entered into a formal relationship with the MoA and obtained an operating license.

When the association started working to increase its membership in all parts of the country, things did not go as planned as most of the women farmers approached were either small-scale farmers or formed into very small groups. or were more looking for material support than knowledge. and experience, which was all EWAA could offer at that time. According to one of the first members of the association, Mrs. Senait Tesfalidet, the call for membership in the association led to expectations of material support and group privilege from farmers in the rest of the regions. But all EWAA could offer at that time was training and an introduction to modern farming practices. “It was not easy, so we thought it was going to take time and we would wait for them. But in the meantime, we decided to work on solidifying the establishment we had in Asmara,” Ms Senait said.

The association has met many challenges over the past 19 years. The challenges of each member being the challenge of the whole association, EWAA has lost some of its most active poultry production bodies due to lack of space and means. This had a significant impact on the activities of EWAA.

Another challenge that EWAA had was the lack of market. They didn’t have a market place where they could display their products. For example, Mrs. Senait was a farmer who mainly produced vegetables and herbs, but found it difficult to distribute the products herself.

Some women make foods such as chilli, dried and crushed mushrooms and other spices. Ms. Senait told us that she also tried to sell her herbal products raw at first, but later devised ways to prepare her products in dried and more portable forms without losing the nutritional value of the products. biological. She now has different types of herbal tea.

Experience and training have greatly helped EWAA members to build and integrate modern means of production and processing. There are groups within the association that specialize in certain types of production such as the mushroom group, the flower group, the food group, the poultry group and the dairy group. However, their goal remains the same: to contribute to member development and to efforts to increase productivity to meet local needs. And they do it together and in harmony.

The association also works, as part of its agricultural activities, to identify plant species that could be useful to the nation. For example, he has done extensive research on the introduction, development and treatment of Aloe Vera and all the benefits that can be derived from the product.

The groups specializing in mushrooms, aloe processing, food processing and rabbit breeding were formed as a result of participation in new training programs organized after the establishment of the association. The formation of the groups was mainly needs-based. For example, the group of women farmers engaged in food processing was formed to deal with the problems posed by perishable food products. This in itself is a form of development for the members.

Volunteers in various fields, including business management and administration, offered to help the women build their capacity. In addition, members of the association who have undergone training share their experiences and knowledge with other members. The training programs organized by the MoA help members to develop expertise not only on business and agriculture, but also on law. According to members, all relevant ministries and agencies provide positive support to EWAA whenever needed. Ms. Senait said the most important support from the MoA is the space and material support given to the Mushroom cluster, which is helpful for the development of the sector.

EWAA calls on young women to be part of the association. Ms Senait said they need young people to join the association, but whoever wants to join must be interested and active in agribusiness, must have two years work experience in the field and must have an accumulated capital decided by the members. “We believe that progress can only be made if we include our young people in our activities and in the association,” Ms Senait added. She highlighted the relentless attitude and the physical and mental fitness of the young members which she says are essential to the development of the sector. The inclusion of young people in the association is synonymous with strength and continuity for EWAA.

Mrs Abrhet is one of the members of EWAA. She owns Zack Dairy and was also active in mushroom production. It distributes its products through supermarkets, which it considers a safe market for its products. She said her presence at the bazaar was to support her association, a promotion of the collective effort and encouragement that has carried her so far.

Ms. Abrhet had taken classes in China on mushroom cultivation and started teaching other members of the association, but she is now more into dairy farming. Although the business was started by her late husband, Ms Abrhet said her late husband’s legacy is now a family and the business of EWAA. When her milk production kept increasing, Abrhet thought of starting to process it herself and is today one of the most famous in the dairy sector in Eritrea.

The MoA is the right arm of the EWAA, as mentioned several times by the members we interviewed. They constantly follow training programs that have enabled the association to continue in harmony with all the challenges it faces. “The encouragement we receive is the greatest contribution from the MoA and the people and groups around us,” Ms. Abrhet said.

This is an account of our short stay with some of the EWAA members at one of the monthly shows held in Asmara. The exhibition exhibits the products of five groups specializing in different fields and organized by the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) and other bodies.

One of the visitors to the exhibition, Mr. Thembani Maluleke from the South African Embassy, ​​said: “In the four times I have been here, the products have been very varied, including antiques, earrings and organic food. They are all pure. Eritrean products. This is how you develop the economy, with local productions. From small to medium and much larger companies.

I believe that being involved in agriculture is part of the most important job of the country. Likewise, I support massive investment in farmers from below. Developing these farmers means developing the agricultural sector which has a profound effect on society’s economic well-being, food security and self-reliance.

The members of EWAA, chaired by Mrs. Selam Mekonen, are a harmonious and bright group of women who are colorful elements in the bigger picture of food production in Eritrea. They support and encourage each other to grow and succeed together. At the end of our stay with the members of the association, the members told us of their deep appreciation and gratitude to all those who supported them and who have been at the side of the association since day one.

EWAA members say they are all mothers and when they produce, they produce as mothers. They want the food to be the type of food their children could eat, nutritionally balanced. For the exhibition, they have now prepared peanuts for salad, dried and crushed mushrooms, honey, yogurt, mozzarella, dried parsley and dried rosemary, among others.

Andrew B. Reiter