Ghedem Agricultural Project, Eritrea

Client: Libyan Arab Investment Company (LAAICO)
Project: Ghedem Agricultural Project, Eritrea

NRCE was contracted by the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAAICO) to conduct detailed investigations of the Zula Plain, a.k.a. Ghedem, area for the purposes of agricultural development. The ultimate goal was to develop an approximately 5,000 hectare (ha) modern agricultural project. The Zula Plain is situated in the Red Sea coastal area of Eritrea, about 45 km to the southeast of the city of Massawa. Previous studies identified the area as one of promising agricultural development (NRCE, 1996) due to the warm climate and suitable soils. Water supply concerns, however, had the potential to be a limiting factor for any developments along the semi-arid eastern slope of Eritrea.

The objective of the studies was to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the potential development. The Ghedem Agricultural Project’s primary objective is to further develop semi-detailed conceptual plans for the proposed irrigation development project evaluating all potential aspects, including water supply, crop and livestock production, and economic and financial issues. A wide variety of analyses and field investigations were performed.

The study was composed of two phases: Reconnaissance-level investigations and a subsequent semi-detailed conceptual design phase. The objectives of these investigations included:

  • Characterize local climate, review suitable crops, and propose cropping patterns;
  • Determine crop and irrigation water requirements, including leaching, peak delivery, and diversion requirements;
  • Prepare conceptual designs and cost estimates for the proposed sprinkler irrigation systems;
  • Summarize potential livestock operations, including forage requirements, suitable breeds, potential disease problems, and herd protection requirements;
  • Characterize the regional and local surface water resources available for the project and evaluate potential collection, storage, and delivery schemes. In support of this analysis, a surface water hydrologic modeling study water performed;
  • Investigate and describe existing groundwater resources via analysis of existing data, ground geophysical investigations, well drilling, aquifer testing, and water chemistry analyses;
  • Conduct soils investigations, including field studies and laboratory analyses, to allow the classification and soil mapping of the entire 10,000 ha study area;
  • Develop conceptual designs and cost estimates for the development of surface and ground water resources, including a diversion dam, supply canal, an off-channel reservoir formed by a 52m tall rockfill dam, a groundwater well field, and water transmission pipelines;
  • Review and discuss potential project impacts and remediation strategies; and
  • Examine the project economic feasibility.
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