Geography, History, and the Economy
Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa and lies north of the equator between latitudes 1 2°22’ N and 18°02’ N, and longitudes 36°26’21” E and 43°13’ E. It has an area of 122,000 square kilometers.
To the east, the country is bordered by the Red Sea, extending about 1,212 kilometers from Ras-Kasar in the north to Dar-EIwa in the southeast. Djibouti borders Eritrea in the southeast, Ethiopia in the south, and the Sudan in the north and west. It is a land of contrasts with land rising from below sea level to 3,000 meters above sea level.
There are three major physiographic zones: the Western Lowlands, the Central and Northern Highlands, and the Eastern Lowlands (also referred to as the Coastal Plains).
Eritrea’s temperature varies with altitude: the mean annual temperature ranges from 16°-18°C in the Highlands to 28°C in the Lowlands to more than 30°C in the Coastal Plains. Rainfall in Eritrea ranges from less than 200 mm per annum in the Eastern Lowlands to about 1,000 nm per annum in a small pocket of the Escarpment; the annual rainfall in the Highlands ranges from 450 mm to 600 mm. The southern part of the Western Lowlands receives 600-800 mm per annum, but rainfall decreases substantially when moving northward.
There are two major periods of precipitation in Eritrea. The first period, from June to September, covers both the Western Lowlands and the Highlands. The second comes between October and March and covers the Eastern Lowlands.
The Ottoman Turks controlled the northern and coastal areas from the middle of the sixteenth century until the second half of the nineteenth century, when Egypt evicted them from their last stronghold, Massawa, in 1872. Italy, after establishing a foothold at Assab extended its control, and declared Eritrea its first African colony in 1890. In 1941, Italy was defeated by the Allied forces, and Britain took over the administration of Eritrea.
In 1952, after 10 years of British colonial rule, Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia. A decade later, Ethiopia abrogated the federal arrangement of the United Nations and annexed Eritrea as one of its provinces which led to the Eritrean struggle for self-determination, which resulted in a destructive war lasting from 1961 to 1991.
Eritrea has been under colonizers till it became a sovereign state in 1991. Just a year after, in 1992, Eritrea became a member of the United Nations.
Agriculture and pastoralism are the main source of livelihood for about 80% of Eritrea’s population. The agricultural sector depends mainly on rain. The agricultural sector accounts for only one-fifth of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Even though there are no reliable estimates of the population residing inside Eritrea or the population of Eritreans living abroad, the total population is estimated to be about 3.2 million (2001).
Source: Eritrea demographic and health survey 2002