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Irobland Assessment

Some Contemporary Information About Irob

By Guelay Welde & Yoseph Adayu
May 2014


Irob is one of the districts/weredas in the Tigray Region of the northern Ethiopia. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north & east and by Afar regional state to the southeast. The landmass of the district covers about 850 square km. Irob has about 1,269.6 ha of arable land and about 6,946 ha of grazing land, 4,092 ha of which being a free grazing land; vegetation areas comprise of 14,640.5 ha and cactus trees cover 28,085 ha.

The district administration is divided into seven peasant associations and 28 kushets of smallest administrative structures. The total population of the district is around 31,031 (15,695 female and 15,336 male). There are about 6,900 households of which 2,931 are women-headed households. The population of under 15 years of age of (0-15 years) constitute 49.73 percent .The age group between 15-64 years is about 47.02 percent while the elderly population (65 and above) accounts for 3.25 percent. Economically, 90% of the population is based on agriculture.

Geographically, the district consists of highlands and plateau interspersed with low-lying hills and flat lands. It is located in the northeast between 390 28’ to 390 59’ E longitude and 140 22’ to 140’ 40’ N latitudes. The district is known for its extremely rugged steep-slope terrains and deep narrow valleys. The climate is generally dry with significant temperature gradient along the altitude ranging from 5°C-37°C. The altitudes of Irob district vary from lowest 900 meters (Endelly), to the highest point of 3,200 meters (Mount Asimba), above sea level; but the majority of the territories range between 1,500 to 2,700 meters above sea level.

Irob has three climatic conditions. Highland areas account for 75%, while the semi-arid midlands and lowlands cover 15% and 10%, respectively. Rainfall in the Belg season has become insignificant that it has no meaningful impact on vegetation growth or farming. Summer is the main season when the district gets adequate rainfall. It is estimated that the average annual rainfall ranges from 148-384 mm per annum.

The Main Sources of Livelihood of Irob District:

  1. Agriculture: The livelihood of the rural population is mainly consisted of traditional farming which is almost exclusively dependent on the seasonal rainfalls. In spite of reasonably favorable climatic environment to farm various crop types such as wheat, maize,teff, barely, and varieties of grains, the average annual production of crops is less than three-four quintals, which can only feed one household for about four months. This is mainly due to unpredictable and erratic rainfalls coupled withthe absence of modern farming mechanisms.The arable land of the district is overused and the farming system has remained underdeveloped. Agricultural production remains to be very low and immaterial. Hence, there has always been a critical food deficit throughout the year. The main causes for the low agricultural production are severe environmental degradation, terrain nature of the land topography, inadequate and erratic nature of rainfall, land fragmentation and small size of land holding, lack of appropriate technology, lack of improved seeds and inputs, poor livestock extension services, low per capita oxen ownership, and poor socio-economic infrastructure development, to name a few.

    Given the current technology, Irob district households do not manage to produce more than 3-4 months of their annual cereal caloric needs from their plot. Their cereal caloric need for the remaining time is covered by different coping mechanisms such as daily labor, food aids by government or local NGOs, food for work, cash for work, and or support from family members from abroad or at home.

  2. The size of landholding: As aforementioned, the topography of the district is consisted of deep gorges, mountains, and hills with limited arable land size of only 1,269.6 hectares. As the population size has increased, the average arable-land size per household continued to diminish, and currently it is estimated to be 0.20 hectares per household. Furthermore, out of the 6,900 households about 30% have no land of their own.
  3. Livestock production: The primary livestock of Irob people consist of small herds of cattle, goats, sheep, and tradition beekeeping. Traditional livestock development had social status. However, since the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000, livestock production has been reduced to the minimum. Today, Animal products such as milk, butter, and meat have become scarce and almost non-existent.
  4. Honey harvest: The bio-diversity of the Irob environment was very favorable for honey producing bee colonies. Honey was one of the main sources of income for many of the Irob people. In fact, honey from Irob was considered the best quality in Ethiopia. However, in recent years, the environment has been drastically transformed from high bio-diversity to the barren and dusty. Indigenous plants and flowers that were the main source of food for the bees have become extinct resulting to the disappearance of the honey-producing bees, hence significantly reducing the production of honey in the district.
  5. Wild food: The environment of Irob district used to be so much rich in bio-diversity. It was the home for plenty of wild edible fruits, leaves and roots, such as “beles, Daro, alia’a, asemu, ainut, koto (kuanit), Aand’e, etc for anyone to freely munch-on whenever hungry. It is fair to say that the nature was generously providing various kinds of wild-foods, which were believed to be very rich in nutrients. However, the land that was once considered generous and friendly has turned into a hostile, harsh, unfriendly, and unproductive environment. Around the Irob district, the nature seems to be angry with its inhabitants; it refuses to provide them food. At this moment, there are no signs of edible wild foods except Beles, which is also in the process of deterioration due to continuous climate change and absence of modern technology.

Recommended solution

It is worthwhile that IDA’s current main priority area’s is to promote quality education. We are mindful that it is difficult to impossible to tackle all of the challenges facing Irob people simultaneously. Yes, Irob district residents continue to face many day-to-day challenges some of them aforementioned above. We believe that there are additional issues that require urgent attention as education. And we believe these issue are inline with IDA’s objectives and vision statement.

To that regard, here, in Addis, volunteer-committee that was organized out of simple motivation to assist IDA, recommend the following technical procedures to be followed:

  • Design five years strategic plan
  • As per priority needs and strategicobjectives,
    • Prepare project proposals as priority areas identified
    • Prepare brochures for mobilization process

This work requires skill, time and money.

  • The Addis volunteer committee members are ready to offer their time and skill
  • Some money is needed to carry out the required duties in Addis and its environs. The money is mainly for transportation and accommodation.

If the international IDA committee is ready to offer small amount of money for the Addis volunteers committee, we are ready to carry out the job that is mentioned above. We will also provide terms of reference with a required budget.

NB. This is simple reflection of committee members who reflected their personal experience and observation, but professional experts should undertake the detail information and professionally supported analysis.


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