Eritrea Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Agriculture and fishing

Agriculture is Eritrea’s main industry. More than three out of four residents are employed in cultivation, livestock management or fishing. Most live in self-catering and are outside the formal economy. Harvesters are not enough to saturate the population even during good years.

  • CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Eritrea. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.

Only about a tenth of the land area is cultivable. The agricultural areas are mainly in the highlands. There, food crops are grown as the regional cereal teff as well as millet, corn, wheat, sorghum and beans. In the dry areas along the coast, herdsmen keep goats, sheep, cattle, camels and donkeys.

Agriculture is old-fashioned and neglected after decades of war. Almost all cultivation is dependent on rain; irrigation is scarce. Drought and mist growth are recurring problems. Serious problems for agriculture are also desertification, overgrazing and soil erosion. Large land areas are difficult to use because of the many land mines that remain after the war.

About three-quarters of the population is estimated to have inadequate access to food. In the past, many had access to food aid from abroad, but most of the flow of supplies was curtailed in 2005. The government pointed out that the country must become self-sufficient in food. Foreign organizations have subsequently been essentially barred from visiting Eritrea. In 2015, however, the African Development Bank entered into an agreement on food assistance to the country. The UN also provided food assistance during the 2010s. For Eritrea defense and foreign policy, please check prozipcodes.

The state has the right of ownership of all land, but citizens over the age of 18 are granted the right to use land and agricultural land, a right that is inherited.

Predominantly small-scale fishing occurs on the coast where sardines, anchovies, tuna, shark and mackerel are caught. Fishing is considered to be a possible source of large income. Lobster, shrimp and crab in particular are expected to be able to generate good income. However, the industry is undeveloped.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

12.0 percent (2017)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

75.2 percent (2016)

  • Offers how the 3-letter acronym of ERI stands for the state of Eritrea in geography.



Afwerki visits Somalia

13th of December

President Afwerki travels to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. It is Afwerki’s first visit to the neighboring country since taking office as president in 1993. He is welcomed at the airport by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. The goal of the trip is to “strengthen the historical ties” between the countries on the Horn of Africa. Eritrea and Somalia established diplomatic relations in July 2018 in the wake of the thawing weather between Ethiopia and Eritrea (see Foreign Policy and Defense).


The UN repeals the sanctions

November 14

The UN Security Council repeals sanctions against Eritrea introduced in 2009 when the country was accused of supporting the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab in Somalia. Eritrea has repeatedly denied the allegations and in its resolution to lift the sanctions, the Council states that UN monitors did not find sufficient evidence that the Eritrean regime supported al-Sahabaab. The resolution repeals the arms embargo, all travel restrictions, frozen assets abroad become available again and all targeted sanctions against individuals are lifted. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea and Somalia welcome the resolution and say it will increase the stability of the Horn of Africa. The resolution also calls on Eritrea and Djibouti to step up efforts to reach a resolution on the border conflict that erupted in 2008.


Tigranic rebels leave Eritrea

October 9

As part of the peace treaty with Ethiopia, some 2,000 members of the rebel group of the Tigreans Democratic Movement (TPDM) may cross the border back to Ethiopia. TPDM was formed in 2001 as a result of the border war between 1998 and 2000.


New agreement with Ethiopia

September 16th

As a step in the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the two countries’ leaders sign an agreement in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with the aim of strengthening the ceasefire and security in the region. Participating in the ceremony include UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The border crossing opens

11 September

An important border crossing is opened between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The crossing at Burre was closed at the outbreak of the war in 1998. The border crossing gives Ethiopia access to the port of Assab.


Eritrean Airlines flies to Addis Ababa

5 August

The national airline Eritrean Airlines makes its first commercial flight to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in 20 years. On the plane are Eritrea’s tourism minister and the country’s transport minister.


Diplomatic relations are linked to Somalia

July 29

President Isaias and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed agreed at a meeting in Asmara that the two countries should open embassies in each other’s capitals. Thus, the diplomatic relations are restored after a break of 15 years.

Ethiopian flight lands in Asmara

July 18

The first flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 20 years takes place when Ethiopian Airlines takes off from Addis Ababa airport and land in Asmara. The aircraft is quickly booked and an extra flight is made later the same day. The route should be serviced daily. Many family members and friends separated during the war state can now see each other again. The resumed air traffic between the two countries is part of the peace and reconciliation agreement recently concluded between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Eritrea opens its embassy in Ethiopia

July 16

President Isaias and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy are present when the Eritrean Embassy in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa reopens after being closed since the outbreak of the war in 1998.

President Isaias visits Ethiopia

July 14

President Isaias visits Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, for the first time since the 1998 border war. During the three-day visit, the leaders of both countries will continue to work on the agreements reached in recent days.

Peace treaty with Ethiopia

July 9

The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is over, the two neighboring countries announce in a joint statement. At a meeting in Asmara, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias sign the “Joint Declaration on Peace and Friendship” under which “the state of war between the countries ends and a new era of peace and friendship begins”. Diplomatic relations will now be re-established, and trade relations, transport and communications will be established. According to Eritrean media, Ethiopian Airlines starts flying passengers between Asmara and Addis Ababa in a week. Direct telephone lines have been opened for the first time in two decades. Ethiopia has asked the UN to lift sanctions against Eritrea, including the arms embargo and the travel bans for individuals.

“Relations with Ethiopia should be normalized”

July 8

President Isaias Afwerki receives Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy in Asmara for further reconciliation talks. After the meeting, Abiy tells media that both leaders have agreed to normalize relations between countries, open to air traffic, give Ethiopia access to Eritrean ports and introduce freedom of movement across the border for residents. The countries will also open embassies in each other’s capitals.


Eritrea sends a delegation to Ethiopia

June 26

After Ethiopia announced that the Government of Addis Ababa will fully comply with the UN Commission’s decision on the border demarcation in accordance with the 2000 peace agreement, p resident Afwerki sends a delegation of diplomats to Ethiopia. There, discussions start on how the peace process should proceed.

Protests in Badme

June 11

About 25,000 people in Badme and its surrounding area go out in peaceful demonstrations against the Ethiopian government’s decision to follow the 2002 Border Commission’s decision that Badme belongs to Eritrea.

Ethiopia wants to make peace

June 5

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces that Ethiopia intends to set the point for the border dispute with Eritrea and fully live up to the UN-backed border commission’s decision after the end of the war in 2000. No comments come from Eritrea.

Eritrea Agriculture and Fishing