Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. It has a coastline along the Red Sea and occupies a total area of 45,406 square miles. Eritrea was created by incorporating several distinct kingdoms and sultanates such as Aussa, Bahri, and Medri. It is bisected by one of the branches of the East African Rift. Asmara, the country’s capital, and the port town of Asseb are the two main cities of Eritrea. Eritrea is a diverse and multi-ethnic country, with nine main ethnic groups in its population of approximately 5 million people. The country’s economy has been on an upward growth in recent years. The growth is attributed to the relative peace that has been restored and the availability of natural resources. Here are some of the major natural resources of Eritrea.
Eritrea has a substantial amount of minerals deposits that are yet to be exploited. The geological works and remote sensing investigations have proved that the country possesses a substantial amount of minerals. Some of the mineral resources of Eritrea include gold, zinc, copper, oil, potash, limestone, gypsum, iron ore, and natural gas. Eritrea’s greenbelt which hosts precious and base metal covers about 70% of the country. The number of mineral reserves in the country is unknown due to lack of adequate mining facilities. Apart from the above mineral resources, Eritrea also has the potential for producing ornamental marble and granite. As of 2017, 10 mining companies have been licensed to prospect for different minerals in the country. It is estimated that once proper mining begins, Eritrea will produce 350,000 ounces of gold annually until it runs out of gold. The potash mine in the Danakil Depression is expected to produce 10,000 tons per day for about 150 years.
Oil and Gas
Eritrea is believed to be having massive reserves of oil and gas but the government is not keen on exploiting them. The resources also remain largely untapped due to the three-decade war for independence with Ethiopia. The Eritrean Red Sea basin which covers an area of approximately 125,000 square kilometers has the potential for oil and gas. However, only 11 wells have been drilled offshore since 1921 with 8 of the wells having good oil or gas. So far, no commercial deposits have been discovered. In 2008, the government of Eritrea signed an agreement with Defba Oil Share Company to explore several areas for possible oil and gas.
Agriculture employs nearly 80% of Eritreans but accounts for only 12% of the GDP. The use of modern farming implements and techniques have contributed to the growth of agriculture in the country. However, the availability of fertile arable land is the major contributing factor. Eritrea has large tracks of fertile arable land stretching from the west to the east towards the desert. According to the World Bank, 7.5 million hectare of land in Eritrea is agricultural land of which 690,000 hectare is arable land, accounting for 7% of the total land area. Most of the arable land is under cereal production with the main crops being wheat, millet, sorghum, beans, barley, and lentils. Currently, almost 25% of the arable land remains idle due to the effects of the war with Ethiopia.
The wildlife if Eritrea is composed of several species of flora and fauna. The country is home to abundant avifauna of over 500 species. Several big game species are also found in Eritrea and with the enforced regulations, the number of these species have been on the rise. Some of the common mammals in the country’s coastal plains include African wild cat, African golden wolf, warthogs, and Dorcas gazelles. Lions inhabit the Gash-Barka region while around 100 African bush elephants roam certain parts of the country. The spotted hyena is common throughout the country as bushbuck. Deadly snakes such as puff adder, saw-scaled viper, and red splitting cobra are also widespread and can also be found on the highlands.
Eritrea has a forest cover of approximately 1.5 million hectares or 13.5% of the total land area. Despite the large forest cover, forestry is an insignificant part of the economy. The natural forests of Eritrea are classified into six main groups; the highland forests comprising of a mixture of coniferous and broad-leaved species. The mixed woodland of acacia which is a restricted area occurs in the southern part of Western Lowland. The other forests include wooded grassland and shrub or bush vegetation which dominates most parts of the country, Riverine forest which is mainly composed of doum palm and tamarinds, and mangroves which occur along the coastal area. Highland forests are highly disturbed and fragmented as a result of deforestation. Some of the forests have been completely wiped out to create more land for settlement and agriculture.
Although there is no reliable data on the value and extent of the fishing industry in Eritrea, fishing is a significant economic activity, especially along the coastline. The long coastline offers a great opportunity for future expansion of the fishing industry in the country. Eritrea exports its fish mainly to the European and Asian markets. A fish processing plant that was built in 1998 is now exporting over 150 tons of fish every month to the European market. Eritrea’s stable fish yield is estimated to be approximately 80,000 tons per year. However, tension with other countries such as Yemen is hampering the development and production of the fishing industry.
The climate of Eritrea is influenced by its varied topographical features and its position in the tropics. The diverse landscape and topography of the highlands and lowlands of Eritrea have resulted in a diverse climate across the country. The highland regions experience temperate climate all year round while the lowland regions experience arid and semi-arid climate. The different climate has led to the varied distribution of rainfall and vegetation types throughout the country, influencing the economic activities and population density in certain areas. Based on temperature variation, Eritrea can be divided into three main climatic regions; tropical zone, sub-tropical zones, and the temperate zones.