Eritrea National Programme of Action (NAPA)


National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) provide a process for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to identify priority activities that respond to their immediate needs to adapt to climate change, ultimately leading to the implementation of projects aimed at reducing the economic and social costs of climate change.

Eritrea’s NAPA describes five priority adaptation actions in the agriculture, forestry and water sectors. The objectives of the first project described below—rangeland management improvements in lowland areas—are being addressed through an active project funded by the LDCF. The remainder of the proposed projects focus on community-based adaptation, capacity building, and field implementation activities within the areas of pastoralism, forestry, water, and agriculture.

Project Details

Eritrea is located at the northern part of the Horn of Africa; Eritrea shares a border with Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti and has a landmass area of, about 125,700 km2 inclusive of the islands, and a coastline spanning some 1,720 kilometers. Eritrea is amongst the poorest countries in the world, confirmed by its Human Development Index rank of 157 from 177 countries. Approximately 3.5 million people reside in Eritrea, with the majority of the population living in the cooler areas of the central highlands (MLWE, 2007). Its terrain extends from highlands in the country’s central and northern regions, to flat coastal plains in the eastern lowlands, and to flat plains of the western lowlands (MLWE, 2007). Eritrea also has jurisdiction over about 300 islands located in the Red Sea. No rivers flow throughout the year in Eritrea (USDS, 2011).

Two-thirds of the 3.66 million population live in rural and semi-rural areas. Approximately 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas and depends on subsistence rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods, including both crop production and livestock (MLWE, 2007). Agriculture, fisheries, industries, tourism and mining are important parts of the country’s economy (MLWE, 2007). In 2007, agriculture accounted for 21 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); industry accounted for 22 per cent of GDP, and the service sector 58 per cent (MLWE, 2007). With a level of Gross National Income of US$640 per capita107 (USDS, 2011), Eritrea is considered to be amount the least developed countries in the world.

Eritrea is one of the most food insecure countries in sub-Saharan Africa and has one of the highest rates of malnutrition; the country also imports roughly half of the food required to meet basic needs (MA, 2010). War and frequent drought, combined with population growth, have reduced food production and investment in development. Eritrea faces severe and acute vulnerability including Africa’s highest level of food insecurity and extreme malnutrition. Climatic risks pose a serious challenge to Eritrea’s emerging development priorities for agricultural development, livestock raising, forestry conservation, water resource management, coastal and marine environmental protection and safeguarding public health. For each of these sectors, adaptation options have been identified on the basis of desk-based assessments through extensive stakeholder consultations, including individuals from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and grass roots communities across the country.

Pastoralists are among the most vulnerable communities. Over the years, pastoralists have evolved a production system that adapts to the fluctuations in feed and water supply availability. The major river basins and the areas with relatively higher rainfall and soil fertility of the rangelands serve as the dry season camp, while the open grazing land of the drier areas form the wet season camp. This traditional coping practice has been disturbed by a number of factors, including increasing conflicting land use pressures, land degradation, and newly established Government policies, e.g. on settling mobile people.Adaptation Needs and Priorities

Eritrea’s current climate is quite variable, and is impacted by the Sahel-Saharan desert, the Red Sea and its various physical characteristics (MLWE, 2007). Around 70 per cent of the country is characterized as hot and arid, receiving an annual rainfall of less than 350 mm (MLWE, 2007). The country is comprised of six agro-ecological zones that experience two rainfall seasons: the summer rains of July and August which affect the central highland and western lowlands (representing more than 70 per cent of annual rainfalls); and the winter rains of November to March which impact coastal areas and the eastern and southern regions (MA, 2010; MLWE, 2007). Rainfall in the country is characterized by considerable variability within and between years, as well as spatial variation over extremely short distances (MLWE, 2007).

In terms of the anticipated impacts of climate change, Eritrea is anticipated to experience temperature increases above the global average, with rises of 1.1 to 3.8°C by the 2060s, and 1.6-5.4°C by the 2090s (MA, 2010). All available projections suggest the country will experience a considerable increase in the number of hot days and nights compared to its current climate (MA, 2010). What is less clear are the potential changes in precipitation that the country will experience. In this regard, projections range from -13 to +19 mm per month (-30 to +62 per cent change) by the 2090s depending on the models used (MA, 2010). These predictions are made more difficult given that annual rains in Eritrea are heavily influenced by the Inter‐Tropical Convergence Zone, a narrow belt of low pressure and heavy precipitation that forms near the equator and varies in position year to year (McSweeney et al., 2010). Understanding of how this zone will move as the climate changes is limited. While uncertainty around changes in precipitation persists, there is general agreement that the country will experience more frequent droughts (MA, 2010).

In its First National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Eritrea notes its vulnerability to these projected changes given its limited adaptive capacity (MLWE, 2001). The country further is made vulnerable by its current state of land degradation, driven in part by deforestation; a century ago, 30 per cent of the country was forested, whereas less than 1 per cent remained in 1995 (MA, 2010). Though its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Eritrea has identified the following key climate hazards: increased climate variability, recurring droughts, flash flooding and sea level rise. The most vulnerable groups are those that depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, including rural dwellers, subsistence farmers, the urban poor, pastoralists, fishermen and island residents (MLWE, 2007).

Given the project climatic changes, agriculture has been identified by Eritrea as its most vulnerable sector (MLWE, 2007). Reflecting the uncertainty in the projected changes in rainfall in the country, the impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector are unclear. Regional climate models foresee a 5 to 20 per cent gain in the length of growing period (LGP) in the highlands of the country, whereas another source indicates the majority of the country’s population will experience moderate to large losses in LGP by 2050 (ILRI, 2009). The country’s main crops, sorghum and potatoes, are grown in areas where a sharp drop in LGP is anticipated (ILRI, 2009). The National Communication indicates that climate change will have a variable impact on grain yields in the country; while sorghum (46 per cent of cereal production in country) is anticipated to increase, barley (15 per cent of current cereal production) is anticipated to decrease (MLWE, 2001). Changes in the country’s LGP could further compound an already unstable food security situation (MA, 2010).

Eritrea’s National Communication suggests the following measures to adapt to climate change in the agricultural sector: a policy framework; sustainable use of the natural resource base on which agriculture depends; improvement of existing crops, technologies and traditional knowledge systems; education of the public; construction of early warning system; linkage with regional and international networks; and coordination mechanism to enable stakeholders to participate in efforts to adapt to climate change. Eritrea’s NAPA identifies number of priority adaptation projects to accelerate adaptation in the country, as listed in Table 3. Barriers mentioned to implementation of NAPA activities include: institutional coordination; human resource capacity; lack of regional and/or micro policies for various socioeconomic sectors; funding; and lack of clear institutional mandates.

National Level Policies

Eritrea has prepared both a NAPA and National Communication under the UNFCCC, providing it with an understanding of the risk and priority needs related to adaptation. It has also released a National Environment Management Plan that outlines the country’s broader environmental policy; however, adaptation is not explicitly mentioned in this policy.

Current Adaptation Action

There are a very low number of adaptation projects underway in Eritrea relative to other East African countries, as listed in Table 2. The country’s two nationally-focused project are, however, quite significant. One is funded by the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and addresses adaptation in the livestock sector. It aims to improve livestock management practices, technical capacities, and develop lessons learned around adaptive livestock management practices. This project responds to a key adaptation priority identified in the country’s NAPA. The second project is being supported by the Adaptation Fund. It focused on freshwater and agriculture in the Anseba Region. The overall objective of the project would to be to promote increased food security in Eritrea through climate-resilient improvements in agricultural production.110 With respect to multi-country initiatives, Eritrea is participating in an Africa-wide project, “Great Green Wall”, which addressed desertification and food security through the creation of a biological through participating countries. It is also participating in a regional project funded by the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa program focused on adaptive capacity in the small-scale agriculture sector.

Proposed Adaptation Action 

Eritrea’s NAPA describes five priority adaptation actions in the agriculture, forestry and water sectors. The objectives of the first project described below—rangeland management improvements in lowland areas—are being addressed through an active project funded by the LDCF. The remainder of the proposed projects focus on community-based adaptation, capacity building, and field implementation activities within the areas of pastoralism, forestry, water, and agriculture.


Eritrea’s current adaptation actions are focused on the agricultural sector, noted by the country’s NAPA and National Communication as one of its most vulnerable areas to climate change. There is still a need to address a broader range of adaptation issues in the country, including those related to water resources management as well as reforestation. As discussed in the NAPA, it is possible that certain barriers to implementation may be interfering with the advancement of adaptation in the country.
Going forward, Eritrea may consider investing in meteorological and climate modeling research so as to better anticipate the country’s range of climate risks. Given that the country is already experiencing climate conditions that mirror the anticipated effects of climate change (such as prolonged droughts, shifts in precipitation, etc.), it may be worthwhile to research current indigenous adaptive responses in order to highlight lessons learned and/or capacity building needs. Further, there are no projects focused primarily on gender and climate change, nor on the impacts of climate change on human health.

Source: Hove, Hilary; Echeverría, Daniella; Parry, Jo-Ellen. (2011) “Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: East Africa.” Adaptation Partnership / International Institute for Sustainable Development.


Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Level of Intervention: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Through improved capacity building and project identification, government agencies and other actors will increase their abilities to insulate at risk urban and rural populations from the adverse effects of climate change.
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Government of Eritrea
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Project Status: 
Funding Source: 
Financing Amount: 
Co-Financing Total: 

Key Results and Outputs

Potential Adaptation Measures:

Agriculture and Food Security

  • Educational & outreach activities to change management practices to those suited to climate change
  • Develop and introduce policy measures, including taxes, subsidies, facilitation of free market
  • Develop early warning systems and disaster preparedness

Water Resources

  • Increase water supply, e.g. by using groundwater, building reservoirs, improving or stabilizing watershed management, desalination
  • Develop and introduce flood and drought monitoring and control system
  • Improve or develop water management

Coastal Zones and Marine Ecosystems

  • Develop Integrated Coastal Zone Management
  • Develop planning/new investment requirements
  • Protect, including building sea walls, and beach nourishment
  • Research/monitor the coastal ecosystem

Reports and Publications


Jessica Troni
Regional Technical Advisor