ethiopiantimes

August 20, 2014

Land Grab and the False Promise of Food Security

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 11:26 am
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By Destaw Andargie (PhD)
August 19, 2014



 

One can only speculate why the secretive government of Ethiopia is giving away the country’s fertile land to foreign agribusinesses. But we know the official explanation; that is, such ‘long-sought’ agricultural investments enhance the country’s food security. For a country that is intuitively associated with hunger and starvation, there should indeed be no higher priority than food security. Yet, how agricultural production by profit-driven foreign businesses improves the food security of poor Ethiopians is not terribly clear. Indeed, compelling empirical and theoretical evidences show that increased food production per se doesn’t necessarily correlate to any improvement in the food security of people in any country. That is what I wish to discuss here. Before turning to this issue, however, a word or two on the equivocal concept of food security is in order.

A. Food Security: What is It?

The notion of food security, like GDP, conceals more than it reveals about how the actual lives of people go. It may mean different things, depending on whose security is at stake. Generally, food security is raised at three different levels:

i. Global food security: concerns with the aggregate global food supply sufficient to feed the world population. It is invariably about the supply side of the equation. Potentially, food insecurity might be an existential threat to humanity. Presently, however, the world is awash with surplus food. Indeed, overproduction has been a major concern in some regions of the world for decades that discouraging agricultural production now figures even as a goal under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). Overproduction slumps food prices, and agribusinesses that dominate all chains of the world food trade don’t like that. Accordingly, the so-called blue box subsidies under the AoA are tied with a condition that receiving farmers limit their productions. It does not matter that around a billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger on a constant basis. As a matter of fact, as famine raged in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s, farm policy debates in surplus producing nations were centered on whether disposing the surplus food grain in the sea or dumping it to the third world in the form or aid or cheap sale is cost effective. Thus, for the hungry, global food security is largely inconsequential.

ii. National food security: refers to the availability at a national level of adequate amount of food for the entire population. Again, it is about the supply side of the equation, and thus it may not signify anything for the poor and the hungry. For example, India produces about 50 million tons of surplus food grain per year; yet, a third of its population suffers from chronic hunger. Similarly, although surplus food disposal has been a major concern in the United States since the mid-1980s, the US Department of Agriculture reports that millions of Americans suffer from food insecurity year after year. There are similar stories elsewhere. The crux of the matter is this: the abundance of aggregate food supply at the national level is often irrelevant for the insolvent poor.

iii. Individual/household food security: here is where food in/security figures in its most concrete manner. Food insecurity can be decisively tackled only at the individual/household level. Distribution rather than availability of food is at the heart of the problem of hunger. Indeed, the greatest misconception regarding hunger is probably the assumption that people go hungry because there is no food or there is less food than is needed to feed all people in the country. People starve either because they produce insufficient food or are simply too poor to command enough food in the market, not necessarily because there is a decline in the per capita food supply. It is often about the demand side of the equation. Even during times of famine, there is always food in the local market for those who can afford to buy. As the 18th century French princess Marie Antoinette’s legendary ‘then, let them eat cake’ might exemplify, it is often the case that some starve even when others live in blinding abundance.

B. Why Large-Scale Land Transfer is NOT the Answer to Food Insecurity

Agribusinesses produce food exclusively for the market. And obviously the market is need-blind; not only does it operate to the complete exclusion of the insolvent, but also may undermine how much food those who can pay are entitled in exchange for the price they pay. One’s ability to command enough food depends not only on how much one can spend on food, but also on how much others are willing to pay. One’s exchange entitlement may worsen, for instance, because others have grown richer and are buying more food, triggering a rise in food prices. Thus, while agribusiness acquiring land in Ethiopia may sell their produce anywhere in the world market, an average Ethiopian with an annual consumption expenditure of just $670 will have to compete with, say, a Swiss who can afford to spend $26,470 per annum on consumption. And, of course, the poor Ethiopian stands no chance under this scenario (even if we accept the seemingly inflated figure of $670). It would be foolish, therefore, to expect Karuturi to cater to poor consumers in Ethiopia.

Market forces, by their very nature, facilitate the movements of goods, including food, to places where they can fetch the most competitive price rather than to places where they have greater utility. During the Great Irish Famine, for example, food was actually exported from impoverished Ireland to opulent England. In Ethiopia too, during the 1973 Wollo famine, food was bought from markets in the province of Wollo and sold in Addis Ababa and Asmara. That is what the market naturally does-responding to demand, not to need. Not only food products directly but also productive resources, such as land are increasingly being diverted away from growing staple foods for the poor and the hungry towards cultivating livestock feed that would go to satisfy the dietary taste of the rich (i.e. expensive protein-rich animal products) and biofuel production. Such diversion of farm land was among the major drivers of the recent global food crisis, which is estimated to have plunged around a 100 million people into extreme poverty and hunger globally. At the same time, however, a rapid growth of per capita food consumption has been recorded among the growing middle class in many regions of the world. Indeed, we do not need to look elsewhere; many of the investors that have acquired land in Ethiopia seek to produce crop for biofuel production, and, of course, they do not have any responsibility towards the food security of Ethiopians. How this boosts the country’s food security is not obvious.

C. The Way to Tackle Food Insecurity

Hunger has both technical as well as political dimensions. A credible effort to stamp out hunger must thus address both dimensions of the problem. First, there should be sufficient food. The fact that hunger is more of a problem of distribution than of availability of food should not imply that there are no issues with respect to food supply. Indeed, and this is ironic, most victims of hunger are food producers. For poor countries, such as Ethiopia, low productivity associated with lack of technology and agricultural inputs, remains a veritable problem. That agricultural labor productivity in least developed countries, such as ours, is less than 1 percent that of the level in developed nations explains it all. As regards small holding farmers, therefore, any food security program must necessarily involve improving their food productivity. That is largely technical. For the urban poor, the availability of sufficient food stock in the country or at the local granary is not sufficient. Although food is physically available, it may still be economically inaccessible for the very poor. Therefore, any food security program in this context must ultimately aim at enhancing the capability of individual’s to compete and purchase enough food. That in effect means fighting urban poverty.

Poverty is both the root and consequence of hunger. People go hungry because they are poor (conversely, those crippled by hungry have a diminished chance of defying poverty). Yet, poverty does not offer foundational explanation to hunger. It begs the question of why people are so poor in the first place. We know that poverty is not inevitable. We also know that no society’s resources are too insufficient to extricate people from abject poverty and starvation. Indeed, too often, resource constraint is not even among the primary causes of poverty and hunger in the world today, including in Ethiopia. Endemic hunger rages unabated, not because the problem is invincible, but because its victims find themselves in socioeconomic and political circumstances that rob them of the ability to defy the tragedy. The fact that hunger is predominantly a rural phenomenon means that its victims are not only socially and economically marginalized, but also are often geographically removed from the scene of political decision making. Powerlessness, be it in the control over productive resources such as land, or in decision making processes at local and national levels explains much of the problem. While the starved are powerless and their voices too muted to be heard, they are often ignored, by those holding political and economic power. We heard several times our leaders denying the existence of famine, even as they plead for food handouts. A credible food security program must thus exhibit the political will to comprehensively address every handicap that undermines a person’s entitlement to food, whether it is illiteracy or bad land policy, genocidal corruption or misdistribution, political repression or overpopulation, discrimination or ecological degradation, institutional ineptitude or unemployment, lack of accountability or political instability.

 

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March 20, 2014

Land grabbing in Ethiopia – foreign investors and famine

Filed under: Famin,Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 11:21 pm
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Although one in 10 Ethiopians is going hungry, the government is leasing fertile land to foreign investors. Deutsche Welle spoke with Essayas Kebede from the Ethiopian government about so-called land grabbing.

farmers working land in Ethiopia Farmers cannot own land in Ethiopia, they must least it

Countries in Asia and the Gulf – such as China, India and Saudi Arabia – have rushed to foreign countries to buy farmland to grow crops for their own people. Food price inflation in recent years has highlighted the need for greater food security.

Africa has become a prime target, despite concerns about the impact on the world’s poorest people. Locals have nicknamed the practice “land grabbing.”

Essayas Kebede is the director of the Ethiopian government’s Agricultural Investment Agency and is responsible for the contractual agreements with foreign investors regarding Ethiopian farmland.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Essayas, Ethiopia is experiencing a severe famine right now. Despite this, you have been tasked by the government to lease huge swaths of land to foreign companies. Critics have called this irresponsible. Are you acting in bad faith?

Essayas Kebede: Agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy. Fifteen million hectares of land are being worked by farmers and another 15 million are lying fallow. The Ethiopian government’s five-year development plan aims to increase the productivity of subsistence farmers, which is why we’ve turned our attention to commercial agriculture operations that can help our farmers increase their revenues.

 

The Gambella farm in Ethiopia The Gambella farm is the size of Luxemburg

 

Of the 15 million hectares of fallow land that I mentioned, we identified 3.6 million that are suitable for commercial farming. But for that we need investors. They can come from Ethiopia or from abroad, it doesn’t matter to us, but we urgently need capital and modern technology to increase our agricultural sector output. That way we can boost our foreign currency stocks and create jobs.

Are you saying that this policy can help solve Ethiopia’s hunger problems?

We have to increase productivity, but we also have to increase the buying power of our people. It’s the only way they are going to be able to afford food. The sale of goods produced on large farms will bring in desperately needed foreign currency, with which we can introduce modern production methods.

Ethiopian farmers are not allowed to own land, rather they lease it. Wouldn’t it be better to make life easier for them with microcredits, improved market access and roads than accommodating investors from India and China?

We are in the process now of regulating land ownership questions and have already granted the first land titles. Regarding infrastructure, the government has paved many kilometers of roads and built new ones. We have established government offices that support local farmers.

A full 85 percent of our population work as small farmers in rural areas and if we really want to stimulate the economy of our country, we have to improve the conditions our farmers live and work under. The foreign companies bring technology that helps our own farmers. Investors build bridges, schools and hospitals, and people here benefit from those.

 

Indian investors clearing Ethiopian land The Indian investors clear Ethiopian land, but who profits?

 

There are rumors that the Indian Karuturi Global company has leased the Gambella farm in the west of the country, which has 300,000 hectares of land, in order to push up its stock price on the Mumbai stock exchange. However, most of the farm is still lying fallow. Where is the technology you were talking about, as well as the schools, hospitals and all the jobs?

We signed an agreement with Karuturi and they are working on it. Developing farmland doesn’t happen overnight. We want to help investors have successful relationships with us.

But the success doesn’t seem to be happening. You have already threatened to take back 200,000 hectares if there is no significant progress within two years. Something has obviously gone wrong. How much time does Karuturi have?

When the time comes, we will sit down together. The clearing of vegetation takes time and right now, we can’t really judge Karuturi’s performance. He has two years to cultivate the first 100,000 hectares and then one year for an additional 50,000.

 

Karuturi spokesman Birinder Singh Karuturi spokesman Birinder Singh call the land deal a “win-win” situation

 

To increase the food supply in the country, at least part of the harvest has to be sold on the local market. Was that a stipulation in the contracts with the big multinationals?

It’s not our task to take revenue away from investors. As I said, we want to increase the purchasing power of our people so that they can afford to buy corn from Karuturi. If the investors can get a good price here in this country, they will sell here.

Four decades after Ethiopia’s first famine, your country is suffering again. Has the government done enough to try to break this vicious circle of hunger and poverty?

There are 1.2 billion people suffering from hunger around the world. It’s a growing, global problem and we are part of a globalized world. If it rains less in Europe, we feel it here. You see, in the 70s we had a population of 25 million, today it’s 80 million. So hunger is not as widespread as it was then and today our food reserves are higher. In the 70s, the government didn’t have the situation under control. The current administration, however, knows what it’s doing. In fact, the chances are good that Ethiopia will be able to contribute to the global food supply in the future. We have enough land.

Interviewer: Ludger Schadomsky (jam)
Editor: Rob Mudge

February 19, 2014

1 000s forced off land in Ethiopia – HRW

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 8:47 pm
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Addis Ababa – Ethiopia is clearing large swathes of land and forcibly displacing populations to make room for state-run sugar plantations in the Omo Valley, according to Human Rights Watch.

The rights watchdog said 500 000 people are affected by the land clearance, which covers “virtually” the whole valley in southern Ethiopia. The reports are based on recently released satellite imagery.

“Ethiopia can develop its land and resources but it shouldn’t run roughshod over the rights of its indigenous communities,” said HRW’s Africa director Leslie Lefkow.

There are several large state-run sugar plantations in the Omo Valley and several new projects under way. Sugar production, mainly for export, is a key source of revenue for Ethiopia.

HRW said communities – mainly pastoralists – are being forcibly moved under the government’s “villagisation” program, which Addis Ababa says will help rural citizens access key services such as education and health care.

“As has been seen in other parts of Ethiopia, these movements are not all voluntary,” said HRW.

The lush Omo Valley, a Unesco World Heritage site, is home to several indigenous tribes, including the 7 000-member Bodi group, often photographed in traditional beaded dress and with lip plates.

Several rivers run through the valley, including the Gibe River, which the government is using to build a number of large hydroelectric dams.

The main tributary for Kenya’s Lake Turkana is the Gibe River, and environmental groups have said the dam constructions will dramatically decrease water levels.

With an average income of less than $2 per day, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, but also has one of the globe’s fastest growing economies.

The Horn of Africa nation is seeking to industrialise its economy, notably in the agricultural sector, in order to boost exports and reach middle income status by 2025.

January 28, 2014

US Congress takes a historic stance against land grabs-related forced evictions in Ethiopia

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 5:38 pm
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Oakland Institue | 27 January 2014

The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill contains provisions that ensure that US development funds are not used to support forced evictions in Ethiopia.

US Congress takes a historic stance against land grabs-related forced evictions in Ethiopia

MEDIA CONTACT:

Anuradha Mittal, 510-469-5228; amittal@oaklandinstitute.org

Frederic Mousseau, 510-512-5458; fmousseau@oaklandinstitute.org

Oakland, CA – In a historic move, the US Congress has taken a stance on land grabs-related human rights abuses in Ethiopia. The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill contains provisions that ensure that US development funds are not used to support forced evictions in Ethiopia.

The bill prevents US assistance from being used to support activities that directly or indirectly involve forced displacement in the Lower Omo and Gambella regions. It further requires US assistance in these areas be used to support local community initiatives aimed at improving livelihoods and be subject to prior consultation with affected populations. The bill goes further and even instructs the directors of international financial institutions to oppose financing for any activities that directly or indirectly involve forced evictions in Ethiopia.

According to Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, “We welcome this move as it aims to address one major flaw of US assistance to Ethiopia. The step taken by the US Congress is very significant, as it signals to both the Ethiopian government and the US administration that turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in the name of development is no longer an option.”

Several reports from the Oakland Institute have raised alarm about the scale, rate, and negative impacts of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia that would result in the forced displacement of over 1.5 million people. This relocation process through the government’s villagization scheme is destroying the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities. Ethiopian security forces have beaten, arrested, and intimidated individuals who have refused to relocate and free the lands for large-scale agricultural plantations.

Ethiopia’s so-called development programs cannot be carried out without the support of international donors, primarily the US, one of its main donors. Oakland Institute’s on-the-ground research has documented the high toll paid by local people as well as the role of donor countries such as the US in supporting the Ethiopian policy.

With this bill, USAID, the State Department, as well as the World Bank, will have to reconsider the terms and modalities of the support they provide to the Ethiopian government. According to Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute’s Policy Director, “This is a light of hope for the millions of indigenous people in Ethiopia who have sought international support from the international community to recognize their very destruction as communities and people.” – See more at: http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/23093#sthash.tGwMZTIp.dpuf

October 29, 2013

Land for Sale – Ethiopia’s disposessed farmers

 

October 17, 2013

Ethiopia’s Land Grabs: Stories from the Displaced

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 5:48 pm
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Ethiopia’s remote Gambela region and Lower Omo valley are being rapidly converted to commercial agricultural investment centres. To encourage widespread industrialized agriculture in these areas, the Ethiopian government is depriving small-scale farmers, pastoralists and indigenous people of arable farmland, access to water points, grazing land, fishing and hunting grounds. It has also has been moving people off the land into government villages to allow investors to take over the land. Wealthy nations and multinational corporations are taking over lands that are home to hundreds of thousands of ethnically, linguistically, geographically and culturally distinct pastoralists and indigenous communities.

 

Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO) recently had an opportunity to interview affected community representatives and leaders who fled these regions because of these government land grabs. A few of these “development refugees” gave in-depth accounts of violent tactics used against them (including rapes, intimidation, murder, harassment) as well as lack of consultation, compensation, legal redress and derogation of national and international laws intended to protect indigenous and pastoralists communities’ rights to own and use resources. These exclusive interviews, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, offer insights into the human costs of Ethiopia’s development policies.

There is a deep-rooted understanding among the lowland communities that land belongs to the community rather than to the government. During the interviews, the land-grab affected people dismissed the government justification that all land in Ethiopia belongs to the state, and strongly argued that the land grabbing policy was intended to deprive communities of their land-use rights, destroy traditional farming methods and knowledge, and displace them from their ancestral lands and natural environment.

Land grabs are happening in many parts of Africa, and the topic has received much attention and criticism worldwide. In Ethiopia, land grabbing undermines affected communities’ active participation in decisions about their lives, denies them access to key information about land deals, and abrogates their constitutional rights to free prior, informed consent, compensation, and legal redress. Land grab projects benefit newcomers migrating into the land grabs target areas. According to one refugee from the lower Omo valley; “Since land grabs started, no single local person has been employed even at security guard level. But thousands of migrants from other parts of the country have moved in and are benefiting from the project. The project forces local communities into exile where they will remain as refugees.”

Ethiopia, a country notorious for recurrent famine, drought, and high-level malnutrition, is coming under sharp criticism for its land grabs and treatment of people affected by these developments. The government’s widespread abuses of local people and its forceful eviction to implement its policies have gotten the attention of the world media, NGOs, researchers, and activists.  Yet, the authorities continue to ruthlessly implement the government’s controversial involuntary settlement programme as a formidable weapon to free more lands and destroy local community livelihoods and the natural environment.

For those with the first-hand practical experience, describing the land grabbing destruction has serious emotional impacts. Okok Ojulu, a community leader and representative said:

Land in Gambela belongs to the community and it is only the community that makes the decision rather than someone from far away as Tigary to give away the community lands. The action is an institutional plunder and amounts to stealing the land from the people. God hates stealing. The government policy is to annihilate the people from the land. Those people remaining back home are as good as dead as government plan day and night to implement destructive policies.

Another Gambela native, who wished to remain anonymous, summarized the land grabbing in his area:

Vast fertile land along the road toward Pinyudo, small Anywaa (or Anuak) town on the Gilo river bank was given to foreign investors and Ethiopian highlanders with close connection to the ruling political party, and cleared for commercial agricultural investment.

A similar concern was given by a lower Omo valley representative who also wished to remain anonymous:

We believe three-quarters of the people in the lower Omo valley will be displaced. Only a fraction of the local people will be employed in back-breaking daily labourer. Giving such large plots of land to private investors exposes traditional communities to serious food insecurity, conflict, and restricts their free movement with large cattle as they are used to in the past.

A Saudi Arabian tycoon Al-Moudi, with close links to the top-level Ethiopian leadership, has been allotted 10,000 hectares for a rice plantation. His massive project has done considerable damage to the local environment, which includes a national park and wildlife habitat, and local communities that have lived in their homelands for many generations. The investment barely provides economic benefits to local communities. Young schoolchildren do back-breaking labour on the plantation during school breaks. In most cases, the land grabbing project benefits Ethiopian highland communities employed at both skilled and non-skilled levels. It is not difficult to understand why the land grabbing  project in general has been branded as an “exclusive” one that is intended to displace local communities and force them to leave the area.

While the destruction caused by global land dealers differs by region, country and political system, in the Ethiopian context, the policy’s major impacts fall on pastoralists and indigenous communities. It is depriving local communities’ access to fertile arable farmlands along the Omo, Openo (Baro), Gilo, Akobo, and Alowero rivers, according to those who took part in the interview. “The policy is intended to create job opportunities for unemployed citizens from Amhara and Tigray,” asserted one community representative.

The government’s land grab efforts have had major impacts on various communities’ traditional way of life, culture, and natural environment. The continued human rights abuses employed to move people out of the land-grab areas, including arbitrary detention, arrests, forcible eviction, and even murder, have forced many in these communities to go into exile or resort to violence in self-defence.

These areas in the Ethiopian lowlands have a long history of marginalization and neglect, and have suffered various gross human rights abuses, including ethnic cleansing and murder campaigns. In 2003, about 500 indigenous Anywaa (Anuak) were murdered in just three days in Gambela region, an area that is now a hotbed of land grabbing and involuntary resettlement (“villagisation”). The government uses villagisation to reinforce the land grabbing policy implementation to forcefully evict indigenous communities from their ancestral land in order to give away their lands for commercial investment. For instance, 73% of the indigenous population in the Gambela region are destined to be resettled to unproductive lands without an adequate social infrastructure.

The communities in lower Omo valley are known for their traditional land allotments which are respected and known to every community in the area. The government villagisation programme destroys this traditional settlement pattern and inevitably invites unstoppable conflict among the communities, both among the various ethnic groups in the area and with the government forces and newcomers.

A main government claim, perhaps to silence critics internationally, is the ability of the policy to contribute towards solving the nation’s food security problem and spur economic growth. Ethiopia now requires annual international food aid and financial support. In a country of about 85 million, with 85% of the population dependant on the agricultural sector, these controversial developments are having catastrophic impacts on the food security and economic stability of many communities.

The targeted areas have been food self-sufficient in the past and have supplemented their diets with wild foods found in the local environment. As these areas are converted to export farms, the food produced is reducing lands for food crops for local consumption. A Lower Omo community representative explained the consequences:

When a community no longer cultivates on their land, they will leave the area. I think this is the primary motive of the land-grabbing policy.

Other important elements in land grabbing that are buried and overlooked in a short-term financial gain, employment creation and economic growth, are what is lost. The area is being stripped of its rich community cultural customs associated with the natural environment, sustainable small-scale farming methods, environmental management knowledge and techniques. Pastoralist and indigenous communities in the Lower Omo and Gambela region have unique, knowledge-based abilities to protect and preserve soil quality, biodiversity, and their natural habitat. Land grabbing has undermined and destroyed these traditional systems and values. Commercial farming would restrict local communities’ free movement with large cattle herds and cease rotational agricultural farming methods practiced by local communities – the main reason for current high-quality of land and natural environment.

The community leader and representative from lower Omo valley said:

Holy sites, trees, traditional places preserved in the past by the community will be destroyed once commercial farming takes off. The ecological balance and natural environment will come under intense pressure exposing the community into serious natural catastrophic.

The Gambela and Lower Omo areas, which until recently had marginal economic value and were considered by the national government as uninhabitable, are infested by deadly malaria and have humid weather conditions. However, in a turn of fortune, high demand for agricultural goods worldwide and the government’s renewed efforts at land grabbing and villagisation have lured private investors and government-owned companies into these areas, resulting in the widespread eviction of communities from their ancestral homelands. A desire to open the door to foreign direct investment and seasonal job opportunities furthermore forces stable, food secure and subsistent small-scale farmers to abandon farming, fishing, hunting and cattle herding. The Lower Omo valley, a home for about 200,000 population, for instance, lost 640,000 hectares to land grabs. The community and its large cattle herds (which are a source of livelihood and pride for the people) was squeezed onto 100,000 hectares – the only remaining land for human settlement and local economic activities.

60% of Nyangatom people have crossed international borders to protect their livelihoods and are wondering with their cattle around Ethio-Kenya and Ethio-South Sudan borders to protect their livelihoods. The army in large numbers are dispatched into Mursi areas where the government have started digging a canal and they are terrorising the community.

The recent villagisation programme (involuntary resettlement), for example, reinforces the policy by eroding traditional boundaries, land demarcation, grazing, hunting and fishing grounds. Previously peaceful and harmonious societies with clear tribal land boundaries, land ownership, land allotment for different purposes, unique settlement patterns, traditional environment management practices – to all this the policy of land grabbing would cause tremendous suffering to cattle, diffuse traditional boundaries and cause tension and conflicts among the communities. A FARM AFRICA report, as quoted in the Human Rights Watch Report, identified access to water points and limited grazing space for large cattle herds in the area as sources of frequent violent conflicts

Government land deals produce almost no benefits to local communities, but exposes them to extreme poverty and food insecurity, restricts their free movement, access to grazing and water points, and confines them in settlement camps. As previously mentioned, the policy has a strong ability to depopulate the local communities from these areas and to settle them in government villages. The combined effect of all this social upheaval and loss of control over one’s life practically evicts them and sends them into exile in refugee camps.

Human rights abuses are a major source of concern associated with land grabbing and involuntary settlement. In particularly, government use of military force has been implicated in murder, rape and unlawful detentions. An interviewee has echoed this sentiment stating that:

The arrival of newcomers attracted by job opportunities has deprived local communities of equal access to fertile land, led to the destruction of holy sites, and caused tensions between local people and these migrants, who are so different from us in their ways. We fear it will ultimately create tension and, eventually, a conflict that the government will not be able to control.

With a staggering 5 million hectares of fertile arable land country-wide earmarked for commercial investment, government human rights records will continue to be a source of attention. If the methods, style and strategies used to silence indigenous and pastoralist communities remains the same, the programme will continue to undermine Ethiopia’s reputation, and create a growing conflict.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for the Ethiopian authorities to put in place strict measures to protect the rights of the indigenous communities to use land in accordance with both national and internationally recognised legal norms. The villiagisation programme reomves small-scale farmers to unproductive settlement sites without adequate social and economic infrastructures: education and health facilities, roads, markets and milling facilities. In most instances, the government discourages communities from returning to their traditional homes and farmlands by destroying their crops and homes.

The arrival of commercial farming in areas such as the Lower Omo valley, where tribal communities have lived side by side respecting land usage and settlement patterns in the past, invites far-reaching conflicts in the area. As 86% of the land mass that communities used for farming, fishing, hunting and grazing are grabbed by investors in the region, and implementation of involuntary settlement of different communities is enforced by military personnel, tensions have mounted very high in the area.

The communities fear that the policy will erode rotational farming methods that take place three times in a year to secure grazing pasture for large cattle herds in the area. As the presence of private investors restricts various traditional communities’ free movement with their cattle herds, it creates tension and unstoppable conflict. A conflict over single cattle that might cross a private investor farm would engulf the entire region into turmoil.

Despite government pressure, some in the affected communities have rejected the government plan to move them away and preferred to die on their current land. They strongly believe that commercial agricultural farming will destroy the ecological system, natural environment, holy sites, wildlife, protected and preserved trees, and reduces the areas’ ability to attract tourists.

The intention of the government is to destroy the livelihoods of indigenous people along the international border and should be taken seriously. Successive Ethiopian governments have barely cared for dark skin Ethiopians but to discriminate against them on the ground of their skin colour.

Read the full interviews here: Ethiopia’s Land Grabs: Interviews with the displaced

Nykiaw Ochalla is a director and founder of Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO, an organisation that believes in social justice and environment friendly sustainable development without prejudice; active participation of indigenous people in decision making processes that affected their livelihoods and their full enjoyment of development projects benefits implemented on their territories.  

September 12, 2013

Ethiopia to Continue Land Grabbing and Forced Resettlement

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 9:01 pm
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By  • Sep 12, 2013 • 1 Comment

photo by TURKAIRO

photo by TURKAIRO

Millions of acres of Ethiopia’s most fertile lands are being offered to foreign investors, often in long-term leases and at bargain prices. At the same time, through its ‘villagization’ program, the Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples in order to free up their land so the transnational agro-industry can move in and grow foodstuffs and bio-fuels for export. It is a process of dispossession in which Indigenous Peoples are being forced to become dependent on aid handouts having lost their land and their ability to produce their own food.

For over a year, the Anuak and other Indigenous Peoples of the Gambella region of Southwest Ethiopia have been forced into government created villages which seldom contain the amenities promised to them. There is little access to food, arable land, water or electricity.

Last year the Anuak implicated the World Bank in the many severe human rights abuses that are being carried out as part of this resettlement. Last April, Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim announced, “The World Bank Group shares these concerns about the risks associated with large-scale land acquisitions. He conceded that more efforts “must be made to build capacity and safeguards related to land rights—and to empower civil society to hold governments accountable.”

The World Bank has been a key investor in several more land grabbing scandals across the developing world, despite their stated principles of respecting Indigenous People’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent before projects that affect their lands.

However, in this case, the World Bank, with its links to the Ethiopian Government’s Protection of Basic Services Program (sponsoring the villagization), has denied evidence that their funds are linked to villagization and says they haven’t encountered any human rights violations in the area.

An independent panel at the World Bank has been created to investigate the issue. The Inspection Panel, argues the position of denying the allegations of financing human rights abuse is not sound, saying: “The two programs depend on each other, and may mutually influence the results of the other.”

In a letter sent to the panel last year, Ethiopian refugees say some people have been forcibly relocated from their land, which is now being leased to foreign investors. “These mass evictions have been carried out under the pretext of providing better services and improving the livelihoods of the communities,’ says the letter. “However, once they moved to the new sites, they found not only infertile land, but also no schools, clinics, wells, or other basic services.” It also says they were forced to leave their homes and abandon their crops just before the harvest, and were not given any food assistance during the move. Those farmers who have refused to move from their land have been targeted for arrest, beating, torture and killing,” the letter says. The refugees state that they have been severely harmed by the World Bank financed project which is contributing to the Ethiopian Governments program of forced villagization.

US and UK development agencies have been tied to the same alleged abuses, especially in the Lower Omo Valley. Around the same time the World Bank was implicated for its sponsorship abuses and land theft, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were accused of ignoring evidence of human rights abuses including intimidation, beatings and rape.

A farmer from the Gambella region is attempting to sue the UKgovernment after claiming that its funding of a project led to such human rights abuses against his family. The man–known as Mr. O–told his lawyers he was evicted from his farm, beaten and witnessed rapes as part of the “villagization” scheme.

According to his lawyers, Mr. O asserts that his family was forced to resettle in a new village where there was no replacement farmland or access to food and water. When he tried to return to his former home, Mr. O says he was hit repeatedly with a rifle butt and taken to a military camp by Ethiopian soldiers where he was gagged and subjected to further beatings.

Despite the list of human rights complaints and strong criticism from many human rights organizations, the Ethiopian government has vowed to continue with its villagization program in the coming years.

The government has already moved 200,000 households into 388 resettlement centers. Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute has said that it’s up to the officials of the World Bank, USAID and DFID “to swiftly re-examine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favor of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry.”

Ethiopia currently receives more foreign aid than any other country in Africa–over $3 billion a year–the major donors being the United States and the United Kingdom.

December 7, 2012

UN: ‘Land Grab’ Deals Hurt Local Farmers

Filed under: Ethiopia,Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 9:53 pm
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Controversial farmland deals in developing countries can have a negative impact on the people who live on the land, according to a new U.N. report.

While investment in agriculture is essential to help developing countries reduce hunger and poverty, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says these large-scale “land grabs” don’t always help.

The surging global demand for food, fodder and fuel crops is driving a land rush in parts of the developing world.

Investors are pouring money into large-scale farmland leases in Africa, Asia, former Soviet countries and elsewhere.

‘Daylight robbery’

The Gambella region of Ethiopia is home to many such leases. It is also home to some of the last best farmland on Earth.

The Ethiopian government says it has leased more than 225,000 hectares to foreign investors, who have put more than $2 billion into the deals.

Ethiopian officials say this is just the kind of agricultural development the country needs to modernize farming, improve food production and provide jobs.

Obang Metho, who grew up in Gambella, sees it differently.

“I am not anti-investment,” he says. “But I am anti-daylight robbery. What is going on in Africa is robbery.”

Metho heads the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, an activist group based in Washington. He says farmers in Gambella have been pushed off their land to make way for companies from China, India and Saudi Arabia that are exporting the harvest back to the home country.

Human Rights Watch estimates that 42 percent of the land in the region is leased or on offer.

Hungry nation

Metho says that’s a serious problem for a country like Ethiopia, with hunger problems of its own.

“If they have land to give to the Indians, or the Arabs, the Chinese, the Saudis to come,” he asks, “why did Ethiopia not use this land to feed the Ethiopian people?”

Ethiopia’s Washington embassy says it’s not displacing small-holder farmers, and that it takes great care not to infringe on the rights of local people.

But large-scale land deals in developing countries have become more common in recent years as global food commodity prices have spiked. Critics call them “land grabs.”

“’Land grab’ is sort-of a controversial term, but I think it’s accurate in this case,” says Michael Kugelman, lead editor of “The Global Farms Race,” a new book on agricultural investments and food security.

Search for farmland

He says food-importing countries are looking for farmland abroad to limit their exposure to volatile global markets.

“These food importing countries also lack the land and the water at home to do the farming themselves,” he says. “So they’re going abroad to countries that are very willing to host them.”

Data are sketchy, but estimates of land leased are in the tens of millions of hectares worldwide.

Outcomes have been mixed, says Jomo Kwame Sundaram, economic and social development chief at the FAO.

The organization’s new report highlights the need for investments in agriculture in the countries hosting these land deals. But Sundaram says land deals may not always be the best way to do it.

“Land acquisisions are one of the most difficult type of investments to produce the types of desirable outcomes that we have in mind, like food security, local economic development, etcetera,” he says.

Countries get better results from public-sector investments in research and infrastructure, for example.

Pocketing the proceeds

Michael Kugelman says the food security and economic development benefits promised to the people of the host countries have not materialized. But he says many of the governments have benefitted.

“A lot of the governments in the countries hosting the deals are corrupt, they’re not very democratic, and they’re happy just to pocket some of the proceeds from these investments.”

And some of these deals are sparking conflict.

Protesters overthrew the government of Madagascar in 2009 in part because of a land deal that would have leased half the country’s arable land to a South Korean firm. The new government canceled the deal.

Responsible investment

International organizations, including the FAO and the World Bank among others, have developed voluntary guidelines for responsible land investment to try to promote more equitable investment.

The FAO’s Jomo Sundaram says the investor community wants the guidelines, too.

“There is quite a bit of demand by the private sector for those guidelines that will help them to protect their own investments,” he says.

But Obang Metho from the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia doubts that voluntary guidelines will change the behavior of corrupt and autocratic governments.

“As long as the regime doesn’t respect the rights of their people, nothing will work,” he says.

Meanwhile, the rising demand for food will continue to drive fierce competition for the limited remaining land on which to grow it.

October 15, 2012

Ethiopia: Land Grabs Leave Tribes Hungry on World Food Day

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 6:39 pm
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Survival International (London)

press release

Violent land grabs in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley are displacing tribes and preventing them from cultivating their land, leaving thousands of people hungry and ‘waiting to die’.

As the world prepares to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger on October 16 (World Food Day), Ethiopia continues to jeopardize the food security and livelihoods of 200,000 of its self-sufficient tribal people.

Tribes such as the Suri, Mursi, Bodi and Kwegu are being violently evicted from their villages as Ethiopia’s government pursues its lucrative plantations project in the Valley.

Depriving tribes of their most valuable agricultural and grazing land, security forces are being used brutally to clear the area to make way for vast cotton, palm oil and sugar cane fields.

Cattle are being confiscated, food stores destroyed, and communities ordered to abandon their homes and move into designated resettlement areas.

One Mursi man told Survival International how the process of villagization is destroying his family. ‘The government is throwing our sorghum in the river. It has cleaned up the crops and put them in the river. I only have a few sacks left…We are waiting to die. We are crying. When the government collects people into one village there will be no place for crops and my children will be hungry and have no food.’

A Suri man also said, ‘They cleared the land. Why did the government sell our land? There is no grass for the cattle. People are hungry … We are worried about fodder. We have become angry and hopeless.’

Key to the plantation program is Ethiopia’s controversial Gibe III dam. Once completed, the dam will stop the Omo River’s annual flood, preventing tribes from using its fertile banks to produce valuable crops and feed livestock.

Ethiopia has not consulted any indigenous communities over the construction of Gibe III or its aggressive plantation plans in the Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Stephen Corry, Survival’s Director said today, ‘On World Food Day, people need to be aware of Ethiopia’s decision violently to strip Lower Omo Valley tribes of their self-sustaining way of life. These peoples have used their land to cultivate crops and graze cattle to feed their families for generations. This basic right has now been taken from them, in a brutal manner, leaving them hungry and afraid.’

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May 31, 2012

The Ethiopian Land Giveaway is a colonial phenomenon

Filed under: Land grab — ethiopiantimes @ 4:11 pm
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What’s yours is mine what’s mine’s my own.

It is a colonial phenomenon, appropriate land for the needs of the colonists and to hell with those living upon the land, indigenous and at home. Might is right, military or indeed economic. The power of the dollar rules supreme in a world built upon the acquisition of the material, the perpetuation of desire and the entrapment of the human spirit.

Africa has for long been the object of western domination, control and usury, under the British, French, and Portuguese of old. Now the ‘new rulers of the World’ large corporations from America, China, Japan, Middle Eastern States, India and Europe, are engaged in extensive land acquisitions in developing countries. The vast majority of available land is in Sub-Saharan Africa where, according to The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues report, ‘The Growing demand for Land, Risks and Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers’ “80 per cent (of worldwide land) –about 2 billion hectares that is potentially available for expanded rain-fed crop production” is thought to be. Huge industrial agricultural centres are being created, off shore farms, producing crops for the investors home market. Indigenous people, subsistence farmers and pastoralists are forced off the land, the natural environment is levelled, purging the land of wildlife and destroying small rural communities, that have lived, worked and cared for the land for centuries. The numbers of people potentially affected by the land grab and its impact on the environment is staggering. The UN in it’s report states “By 2020, an estimated 135 million people may be driven from their land as a result of soil degradation, with 60 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”

EthiopiaEthiopia

This contemporary ‘Land Grab’ has come about as a result of food shortages, the financial meltdown in 2008 and in light of the United Nations world population forecast of 9.2 billion people by 2050, and three main resulting pressures. 1. Food insecure nations – particularly Middle Eastern and Asian countries, seeking to stabilise their food supply. 2. To meet the growing worldwide demand for agro-fuels and thirdly, by the rise in investment in land and soft commodities, such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, corn, wheat, soya and fruit. Often investors are simply speculators seeking to make a fast or indeed slow buck, by ‘Land Banking’, sitting on the asset waiting and watching for the price to inflate, then selling, the Oakland Institute in its report ‘The Great land Grab’ found “along with hedge funds and speculators, some public universities and pension funds are among those in on the land rush, eyeing returns of 20 to as much as 40%”. Land not as home, land as a chip, to be thrown upon the international gambling table of commercialisation.

Chopping trees cutting Costs

As well we know everything and indeed everyone ‘has its price’. Even the people and land of a country, sold into destitution by governments motivated by distorted notions of development, where people, traditional lifestyles and the environment come a distant second to roads, industrialisation and the raping of the land. People too poor to hold on to their dignity, too weak in a world built and run on power and might, to protest and demand justice for themselves and their families and rounded, responsible husbandry for the environment. And the price of land, well as one would expect bargain basement, with 99 year leases the norm and various government incentive packages. In some cases the land is literally being given away, as the Oakland Institute (OI) states in its report ‘The Great land Grab’ “In Mali one investment group was able to secure 1000,000 hectares (ha) of fertile land for a 50 year term for free. Elsewhere “$2.00 a hectare (roughly equal to two Olympic size athletic grounds) is the going rate.” According to The Guardian (21/3/2011) “The lowest prices are in Africa, where, says the World Bank, at least 35 million hectares of land has been bought or leased. Other groups, including, Friends of the Earth say the figure is higher.”

Ethiopia. For sale

The Ethiopian government, through the Agricultural Investment Support Directorate is at the forefront of this African Land Sale. Crops familiar to the area are often grown, such as maize, sesame, sorghum, in addition to wheat and rice. All let us state clearly for export to Saudi Arabia, India, China etc, to be sold within the home market, benefitting the people of Ethiopia not.

The Oakland Institute research “shows that at least 3,619,509ha of land (an area just smaller than Belgium) have been transferred to investors, although the actual number may be higher.” The government claims that the land available for lease is unused and surplus, this is disingenuous nonsense. Large areas of land are in fact already cultivated by smallholders subsistence farmers and pastoralists using land for grazing, all of which are un-ceremonially evicted. Villages are destroyed and indigenous people expelled from their homeland and forced into large scale villagization programmes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its report ‘Waiting Here For Death’ states, “The Ethiopian federal government’s current villagization program is occurring in four regions—Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, and Afar. This involves the resettlement of approximately 1.5 million people throughout the lowland areas of the country—500,000 in Somali region, 500,000 in Afar region, 225,000 in Benishangul-Gumuz and 225,000 in Gambella.” Imposed movement then, often applied with force, in order to provide pristine land, free of any inconveniences to the corporate allies.

Level growing field

There are five areas of prime, fertile land up for grabs. Gambella is the largest where unbelievably a third of the region (around 800,000 hectares) is available. Indian corporations have already snapped up 352,000 hectares (ha) and around 900 foreign investors have so far taken advantage of this giveaway. Afar, The Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, where 200,000 hectares has been leased or sold, Oromia, where three Indian companies have leased a total of 138,000 ha and Amhara, make up the reduced to clear rail.

With the land grab crucially goes water – and the appropriation of this vital resource, both surface and ground water. Investors are allowed to do what they will with the land they lease, this includes diverting rivers, digging canals from existing water sources, building dams and drilling bore holes. The Oakland Institute in its report ‘Land Investment in Ethiopia quotes Saudi Star stating “that water will be their biggest issue, and numerous plans are being established (including the construction of 30 km of cement-lined canals and another dam on the Alwero River).” There are no controls imposed on foreign corporations whatsoever and no payment structure for ‘appropriating’ water is in place. These politically favoured investors are being offered carte blanche. Water supplies in Ethiopia are poor, even in the capital, where irregular mains flow is common in many neighbourhoods. There is water galore 90% of the Nile e.g. flows through Ethiopia, distribution though is inconsistent, maintained to be so some say, the people drained, exhausted and kept firmly in their place.

In Gambella the government in 2011 offered huge areas of land to Bangalore-based food company Karuturi Global for the equivalent of $1.16 per hectare, to lease more than 2,500 sq. km (1,000 sq. miles) of virgin, fertile land for more than 50 years. This cost compared to an average rate of $340 per ha in the Punjab district of India, no wonder then that the CEO of Karuturi described “the incentives available to the floriculture industry in Ethiopia as “mouthwatering,” including low air freights on the state-owned Ethiopian airlines, tax holidays, hassle-free entry into the industry at very low lease rates, tax holidays, and lack of duties,” reports Oakland in its Ethiopia report. Up to 60,000 workers will be employed by Karuturi, who are paying local people less than $1 a day, which is well below the level of extreme poverty set by the World bank. The company will cultivate according to The Guardian 21st March 2011 “20,000 hectares of oil palm, 15,000 hectares of sugar cane and 40,000 hectares of rice, edible oils and maize and cotton… “We could feed a nation here”, says Karmjeet Sekhon, Karuturi project manager. Land and people for a few rupees, cushioned by a cocktail of sweeteners offered by the Ethiopian government, allowing the decimation of the environment and the destruction of lifestyles – generations old. And in a hurry, The Guardian found “the [land] concessions are being worked [by Karuturi] at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season. Forests across hundreds of square km are being clear-felled and burned to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.”

Unstable supply of staples

Around five million people in Ethiopia rely on food aid and live with constant food insecurity that will only increase under the land grab bonanza. According to the Oakland Institutes report “commercial investment will increase rates of food insecurity in the vicinity of the land investments” and Open Democracy reports an interview with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, for the Financial Times (7 August 2008), in which he ‘predicted that “large-scale farming could bring some employment, but “not much”. It would not solve the problem of food insecurity.” Intensifying food insecurity is the transfer of vast areas of land used for the cultivation of traditional staples such as Teff to other crops. This is largely responsible for costs of Teff (used to make injera – the daily bread) quadrupling in the last four years. The Guardian (Monday 23 April 2012) reports Friends of the Earth International “The result (of land sell offs) has often been … people forced off land they have traditionally farmed for generations, more rural poverty and greater risk of food shortages” Food security will be realised when local smallholders are encouraged to farm their land, given financial support, machinery and the needed technology, as Oxfam in its report ‘Land Power Rights’ points out, “Small-scale producers, particularly women, can indeed play a crucial role in poverty reduction and food security. But to do so, they need investment in infrastructure, markets, processing, storage, extension, and research.”
Keep development small, for, of, and close to the people in need, and see them flourish.

Land rights, human cost, environmental damage

The land rights of the indigenous people of Ethiopia are, as one would expect somewhat ambiguous. As a legacy of the socialist dictatorship of the 1960s and ‘70s, the government technically owns all land. However there is protection in law for indigenous people. The Ethiopian constitution Article 40, 3 states “Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange. And 4) “Ethiopian peasants have right to obtain land without payment and the protection against eviction from their possession.” And in regard to pastoralists affected by the land sell off, paragraph 5) “Ethiopian pastoralists have the right to free land for grazing and cultivation as well as the right not to be displaced from their own lands.”

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Ethiopia signed in 2007, making it a legally binding document, states in Article 26/1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources, which they have traditionally owned, occupied or other- wise used or acquired.” And paragraph 2.”Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.” The declaration also outlines compensation measures for landowners. Article 28/1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.” Paragraph 2. “Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources 10equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”
The law it would appear is clear, implementation and respect for its content is required, and should be demanded of the ruling EPRDF by the donor countries to Ethiopia.

Land and People

People are not being consulted or democratically included in the decisions to transform their homeland. This contravenes the Ethiopian constitution, that states in Article 92/3. “People have the right to full consultation and to the expression of views in the planning and implementations of environmental policies and projects that affect them directly”. Hollow words to those being evicted from their land, like Omot Ochan a villager, from the Anuak tribe whose family has lived in the forest near the Baro river in Gambella for ten generations. Speaking to The Observer Sunday 20 May 2012, he “insisted Saudi Star had no right to be in his forest. The company had not even told the villagers that it was going to dig a canal across their land. “Nobody came to tell us what was happening.” He goes on to say “This land belonged to our father. All round here is ours. For two days’ walk.” Well that was the case until the Government in their infallible wisdom leased some 10,000ha to their friend, the Ethiopian born Saudi Arabian oil multi millionaire, Sheik Al Moudi (In 2011, Fortune magazine put his wealth at more than $12bn) to grow rice for his Saudi Star Company. Omot continued, “two years ago, the company began chopping down the forest and the bees went away. The bees need thick forest. We used to sell honey. We used to hunt with dogs too. But after the farm came, the animals here disappeared. Now we only have fish to sell.” And with the company draining the wetlands, the fish will probably be gone soon, too. Sheik Al Moudi plans to export over a million tonnes of rice a year to Saudi Arabia. To ease relations with the Meles regime and as The Observer states “to smooth the wheels of commerce, Amoudi has recruited one of Zenawi’s former ministers, Haile Assegdie, as chief executive of Saudi Star.”

Traditional land rights for people who have lived on the land in Gamabella and elsewhere for centuries are being ignored and in a country where all manner of human rights are routinely violated, legally binding compensations are not being paid.

Government drafted lease agreements with investors state the Meles regime will hand over the land free of any ‘encumbrances’ – people and property that means, anyone living or using the land to graze their livestock or pastoralists moving through. The Independent 18th January 2012 reports “Ethiopia is forcing tens of thousands of people off their land so it can lease it to foreign investors, leaving former landowners destitute and in some cases starving.” The Government says any movement is voluntary and not enforced, a clear distortion of the facts. HRW in their report confirms the government’s criminality “mass displacement to make way for commercial agriculture in the absence of a proper legal process contravenes Ethiopia’s constitution and violates the rights of indigenous peoples under international law.”

A price worth paying it would seem, to the Ethiopian government and those multi nationals appropriating the land, seeing a market and capitalizing on the countries need for dollars. Desperate in a world propelled by growth to maximize the value of every so called asset, even if it means prostituting the land, sacrificing the native people and destroying the natural environment.

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