Country Profiles

Eritrea - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Eritrea lies in the northeastern corner of the Horn of Africa, bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti with a coastal front along the Red Sea. Habitats and ecosystems found in Eritrea include Juniperus forests, riverine forests, coral reefs and traditional farming systems. A total of 126 mammal species, including 9 marine mammals, have been identified in Eritrea; of these mammals, the elephant, wild ass, greater kudu and civet are in danger of national extinction. A total of 557 birds, 90 reptiles, 19 amphibians and 700 plants have been recorded in Eritrea. The Eritrean marine and coastal zone is situated in the southern sector of the Red Sea, and harbors 500 fish species, 5 marine turtles, 8 or more cetaceans and the dugong. Eritrea is also recognized as a centre of origin and centre of diversity for a number of crops, notably the cereals: sorghum, wheat and barley.

Eritrea has suffered one of the most severe cases of environmental degradation following 30 years of armed struggle, persistent drought and environmental neglect. Having once had significant natural resources, fertile land, dense forests and high rates of wildlife, the country’s environmental resources are now denuded with fragile and fragmented ecosystems.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Historically, Eritrea’s degraded environment was largely attributed to mismanagement and neglect of environmental issues. Marine ecosystems however remained relatively unaffected due to a lack of infrastructure for a fishing industry but could become threatened in the future.

The current and future threats that Eritrea is facing in relation to terrestrial biodiversity are unregulated expansion of agricultural land; excessive collection of firewood and construction wood; forest fires; overgrazing/over browsing; expansion of settlements, villages and towns; recurrent droughts; expansion of agriculture; illegal hunting of wildlife; desert locust; pesticide spray and invasive alien species. For marine systems, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds, threats include rapid coastal development; development of fishing infrastructures; increasing tourism; oil exploration (in the future); sedimentation from land reclamation; population increase; destructive fishing activities (trawling in shallow waters); solid waste disposal and sewage from septic tanks; occasional oil spills; effluents from desalination plants; dust from industrial activities (cement); curios collections (shells, corals); and climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In an attempt to address the neglect and mismanagement to its natural resources, Eritrea prepared its NBSAP in 2000. The NBSAP was implemented in regard to three major core areas and aims: rehabilitation of degraded terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable development in the use of marine resources and sustainable utilization of agricultural biodiversity/resources for food security. To achieve these three core aims, the NBSAP identified a total of 101 priority actions and has made significant steps towards the 2020 targets.

Despite these progresses, numerous gaps still exist which need to be addressed. Future priorities include: increasing funding, improving communications for following up on the implementation of the NBSAP, strengthening institutional capacity, streamlining cooperation between government institutions, developing a project proposal for the eradication/containment of potentially harmful invasive fish species, improvements of taxonomic knowledge, strengthening institutional capacity and training, improving coastal environmental monitoring, strengthening the National Plant Genetic Resources Unit, establishing baseline information on national biodiversity and improving the legal framework to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Eritrea has taken steps towards the 2020 targets, including: the implementation of the forest and wildlife conservation and development law; increasing the area of enclosures; conducting various surveys and data collection on marine biodiversity in view of supporting coastal marine and island planning; and management activities to promote the conservation of species diversity. Although Eritrea currently has no formally protected areas enforced under legislation, as of 1999, 192,734 square hectares of land were placed under partial or complete closure which limits human utilization for wood or grazing and therefore reduces anthropogenic pressures. A number of potential locations have also been identified for future protection and have been partially surveyed. The efficiency of these actions has been shown by the increase in the numbers of species, such as the African wild ass, African elephant, greater kudu, leopard, sea turtle, dugong and sharks. Monitoring sites have also been established for coral reefs, birds, mangroves, seagrass/algae and turtles and the status of these species can be considered at least stable. In addition, surveys on agricultural pests were undertaken in 2003. It is hoped these efforts will help to achieve Aichi Biodiversity Targets 7, 9 and 13.

Actions taken specifically towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 include the preparation of 6 teacher manuals (Environmental Guidelines for Teachers), supported by the government of Japan and UNICEF. A number of schools were also made green between 2000 and 2009 under the community forestry programme.

There has also been progress towards Aichi Biodiversity Target 18 through the formulation of a number of Government programs which place special emphasis on the further development of activities related to traditional knowledge about land resources.

Efforts have also been made to reduce deforestation of the riverine forest by promulgating and enforcing the Forestry, Wildlife, Conservation and Development Proclamation (2006).

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Support mechanisms for the facilitation of the implementation of the NBSAP include legislation with specific reference to biodiversity issues. These issues have been integrated into sectoral and national policies, strategies and programmes. Legal instruments have been developed to cover the agricultural, forestry, marine, transport, mining, tourism, water and education sectors. Some of the newer policies include the Forest and Wildlife Policy Draft (2005), the Agricultural Development Programme (2008-2010), Post-Crisis Rural Recovery and Development Program (2007-2012), National Tourism Development Plan (2000-2020) and the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2004).

Funding for conservation issues is obtained through the Government treasury, but some initiatives are also supported through UNDP, UNEP, GEF, EAPGREN, GoSE, IFAD, CLIMA, etc., as well as by smaller-scale NGOs which support local projects. International Aid is also received from numerous countries, many of which provide support for biodiversity initiatives, such as the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) which launched a campaign in 2002 focusing on soil and water conservation, afforestation and natural regeneration, and Japan which funds education initiatives.

Mainstreaming of biodiversity issues has also been a top priority. Biodiversity was recognised as an important factor in the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2004). The Ministry of Agriculture also committed to integrate aspects of biodiversity conservation into the agricultural sector, policy, strategies, plans and legally-binding instruments. Biodiversity is also integrated into the Eritrean port management through the development and enforcement of regulatory measures in the national port management system. Environmental protection measures are treated as part of the whole operation under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. The Tourism Development Policy and Strategy for Eritrea has also given policy directives to address the potential impact on the environment, including biological diversity of tourism. Environmental education is highly integrated into elementary, middle and high school curriculums.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The fourth national report contains possible indicators for determining whether specific targets of the 2010 Biodiversity Target have been achieved, but no new ones have been developed for the 2020 targets. As of yet, there is no data generated from monitoring programmes that enable the rate of loss of natural habitats to be quantified. The establishment of baseline data and biodiversity surveys remain a priority for Eritrea’s NBSAP.