ethiopiantimes

June 25, 2014

Aid donors announce investigation into tribal evictions in Ethiopia


Bulldozers clearing Mursi land in Mago National Park, where communities are being evicted from their land to make way for sugar plantations.

Bulldozers clearing Mursi land in Mago National Park, where communities are being evicted from their land to make way for sugar plantations.
© E. Lafforgue/Survival

Representatives of some of Ethiopia’s biggest aid donors have announced that they will send a team to the southwest of the country to investigate persistent reports of human rights abuses amongst the tribes living there.

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has exposed how thetribal people of the Lower Omo Valley are being persecuted and harassed to force them off their land to make way for cotton, oil palm and sugar cane plantations.

Many other organizations have published similar reports.

The plantations are made possible by the Gibe III hydroelectric dam, which is itself the subject of huge controversy.

The dam, which is nearing completion, will have a serious impact on the livelihoods of 500,000 tribal people, including those living around Kenya’s Lake Turkana.

It is also projected to have catastrophic environmental consequences for the region, which is home to renowned UNESCO World Heritage sites on both sides of the border.

Survival and other NGOs have repeatedly denounced the eviction of hundreds of Bodi and Kwegu and continue to receive reports that people are being intimidated into leaving their lands for resettlement camps.

Daasanach are being forced off their land to make way for infrastructure development such as this giant pump at Omorate, which will facilitate irrigation of the plantations.

Daasanach are being forced off their land to make way for infrastructure development such as this giant pump at Omorate, which will facilitate irrigation of the plantations.
© E. Lafforgue/Survival

The Ethiopian government has not sought or obtained the indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent to move from their lands, in breach of the guidelines for resettlement drawn up by the Development Assistance Group (DAG), a consortium of the largest donors to Ethiopia, including the US, the UK, Germany and the World Bank.

DAG provides significant financial assistance to the local administration responsible for the forced evictions.

DAG has decided to return to the Lower Omo later this year to investigate the situation, even though the evictions continue regardless of past donor visits, the findings of which have often not been published.

This decision follows mounting worldwide concerns. European parliamentarians from Italy,Germany and the UK have asked questions in the European Parliament, and MPs in the UK and Germany have raised their concerns with various ministries. Parliamentary questions have also been tabled in the UK.

In February the US Congress ruled that US taxpayers’ money not be used to fund forced resettlements in Lower Omo.

Following a lawsuit brought by Friends of Lake Turkana, the Kenyan courts have ruled that the Kenyan government must release all information about the deals it has made with Ethiopia about buying electricity generated by the Gibe III dam.

Earlier this year, a UNESCO report recommended that Lake Turkana be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

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May 24, 2014

Monsanto and the Bio-Tech Conglomerates: Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia

Filed under: Monsanto — ethiopiantimes @ 5:29 am
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FAMINEAuthor’s note

Based on research conducted in the 1990s, this article was first published by The Ecologist in September 2000. It was subsequently incorporated into the Second edition of The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order,Global Research, Montreal, 2003.

The research focussed on how GMO seeds were used as of the mid-1990s to destabilize the agricultural cycle in Ethiopia.  This diabolical “free market” agenda was a dress rehearsal for a agri-bio-tech conglomerates’ assault led by Monsanto on peasant economies in all major regions of the World.

Michel Chossudovsky, May 23, 2014

original

The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people.

With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief.

Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.

Crisis in the Horn

More than 8 million people in Ethiopia – representing 15% of the country’s population – had been locked into “famine zones”. Urban wages have collapsed and unemployed seasonal farm workers and landless peasants have been driven into abysmal poverty. The international relief agencies concur without further examination that climatic factors are the sole and inevitable cause of crop failure and the ensuing humanitarian disaster. What the media tabloids fails to disclose is that – despite the drought and the border war with Eritrea – several million people in the most prosperous agricultural regions have also been driven into starvation. Their predicament is not the consequence of grain shortages but of “free markets” and “bitter economic medicine” imposed under the IMF-World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

Ethiopia produces more than 90% of its consumption needs. Yet at the height of the crisis, the nationwide food deficit for 2000 was estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at 764,000 metric tons of grain representing a shortfall of 13 kilos per person per annum.1 In Amhara, grain production (1999-2000) was twenty percent in excess of consumption needs. Yet 2.8 million people in Amhara (representing 17% of the region’s population) became locked into famine zones and are “at risk” according to the FAO. 2 Whereas Amhara’s grain surpluses were in excess of 500,000 tons (1999-2000), its “relief food needs” had been tagged by the international community at close to 300,000 tons.3 A similar pattern prevailed in Oromiya, the country’s most populated state where 1.6 million people were classified “at risk”, despite the availability of more than 600,000 metric tons of surplus grain.4 In both these regions, which include more than 25% of the country’s population, scarcity of food was clearly not the cause of hunger, poverty and social destitution. Yet no explanations are given by the panoply of international relief agencies and agricultural research institutes.

The Promise of the “Free Market”

In Ethiopia, a transitional government came into power in 1991 in the wake of a protracted and destructive civil war. After the pro-Soviet Dergue regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was unseated, a multi-donor financed Emergency Recovery and Reconstruction Project (ERRP) was hastily put in place to deal with an external debt of close to 9 billion dollars that had accumulated during the Mengistu government. Ethiopia’s outstanding debts with the Paris Club of official creditors were rescheduled in exchange for far-reaching macro-economic reforms. Upheld by US foreign policy, the usual doses of bitter IMF economic medicine were prescribed. Caught in the straightjacket of debt and structural adjustment, the new Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – largely formed from the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (PLF) – had committed itself to far-reaching “free market reforms”, despite its leaders’ Marxist leanings. Washington soon tagged Ethiopia alongside Uganda as Africa’s post Cold War free market showpiece.

While social budgets were slashed under the structural adjustment programme (SAP), military expenditure – in part financed by the gush of fresh development loans – quadrupled since 1989.5 With Washington supporting both sides in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, US arms sales spiralled. The bounty was being shared between the arms manufacturers and the agribusiness conglomerates. In the post-Cold War era, the latter positioned themselves in the lucrative procurement of emergency aid to war-torn countries. With mounting military spending financed on borrowed money, almost half of Ethiopia’s export revenues was earmarked to meet debt-servicing obligations.

A Policy Framework Paper (PFP) stipulating the precise changes to be carried out in Ethiopia had been carefully drafted in Washington by IMF and World Bank officials on behalf of the transitional government, and was forwarded to Addis Ababa for the signature of the Minister of Finance. The enforcement of severe austerity measures virtually foreclosed the possibility of a meaningful post-war reconstruction and the rebuilding of the country’s shattered infrastructure. The creditors demanded trade liberalization and the full-scale privatization of public utilities, financial institutions, State farms and factories. Civil servants including teachers and health workers were fired, wages were frozen and the labor laws were rescinded to enable State enterprises “to shed their surplus workers”. Meanwhile, corruption became rampant. State assets were auctioned off to foreign capital at bargain prices and Price Waterhouse Cooper was entrusted with the task of coordinating the sale of State property.

In turn, the reforms had led to the fracture of the federal fiscal system. Budget transfers to the State governments were slashed leaving the regions to their own devices. Supported by several donors, “regionalization” was heralded as a “devolution of powers from the federal to the regional governments”. The Bretton Woods institutions knew exactly what they were doing. In the words of the IMF, “[the regions] capacity to deliver effective and efficient development interventions varies widely, as does their capacity for revenue collection”. 6

Wrecking the Peasant Economy

Patterned on the reforms adopted in Kenya in 1991 (see Box 9.1 ), agricultural markets were wilfully manipulated on behalf of the agribusiness conglomerates. The World Bank demanded the rapid removal of price controls and all subsidies to farmers. Transportation and freight prices were deregulated serving to boost food prices in remote areas affected by drought. In turn, the markets for farm inputs including fertiliser and seeds were handed over to private traders including Pioneer Hi-Bred International which entered into a lucrative partnership with Ethiopia Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly.7

At the outset of the reforms in 1992, USAID under its Title III program “donated” large quantities of US fertilizer “in exchange for free market reforms”:

[V]arious agricultural commodities [will be provided] in exchange for reforms of grain marketing… and [the] elimination of food subsidies…The reform agenda focuses on liberalization and privatization in the fertilizer and transport sectors in return for financing fertilizer and truck imports…. These program initiatives have given us [an] “entrée” …in defining major [policy] issues… 8

While the stocks of donated US fertiliser were rapidly exhausted; the imported chemicals contributed to displacing local fertiliser producers. The same companies involved in the fertiliser import business were also in control of the domestic wholesale distribution of fertiliser using local level merchants as intermediaries.

Increased output was recorded in commercial farms and in irrigated areas (where fertilizer and high yielding seeds had been applied). The overall tendency, however, was towards greater economic and social polarisation in the countryside, marked by significantly lower yields in less productive marginal lands occupied by the poor peasantry. Even in areas where output had increased, farmers were caught in the clutch of the seed and fertilizer merchants.

In 1997, the Atlanta based Carter Center – which was actively promoting the use of biotechnology tools in maize breeding – proudly announced that “Ethiopia [had] become a food exporter for the first time”.9 Yet in a cruel irony, the donors ordered the dismantling of the emergency grain reserves (set up in the wake of the 1984-85 famine) and the authorities acquiesced.

Instead of replenishing the country’s emergency food stocks, grain was exported to meet Ethiopia’s debt servicing obligations. Close to one million tons of the 1996 harvest was exported, an amount which would have been amply sufficient (according to FAO figures) to meet the 1999-2000 emergency. In fact the same food staple which had been exported (namely maize) was re-imported barely a few months later. The world market had confiscated Ethiopia’s grain reserves.

In return, US surpluses of genetically engineered maize (banned by the European Union) were being dumped on the horn of Africa in the form of emergency aid. The US had found a convenient mechanism for “laundering its stocks of dirty grain”. The agribusiness conglomerates not only cornered Ethiopia’s commodity exports, they were also involved in the procurement of emergency shipments of grain back into Ethiopia. During the 1998-2000 famine, lucrative maize contracts were awarded to giant grain merchants such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill Inc. 10

Laundering America’s GM Grain Surpluses

US grain surpluses peddled in war-torn countries also served to weaken the agricultural system. Some 500,000 tons of maize and maize products were “donated” in 1999-2000 by USAID to relief agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP) which in turn collaborates closely with the US Department of Agriculture. At least 30% of these shipments (procured under contract with US agribusiness firms) were surplus genetically modified grain stocks. 11

Boosted by the border war with Eritrea and the plight of thousands of refugees, the influx of contaminated food aid had contributed to the pollution of Ethiopia’s genetic pool of indigenous seeds and landraces. In a cruel irony, the food giants were at the same time gaining control – through the procurement of contaminated food aid – over Ethiopia’s seed banks. According to South Africa’s Biowatch: “Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world…To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid.” 12

Moreover, part of the “food aid” had been channelled under the “food for work” program which served to further discourage domestic production in favour of grain imports. Under this scheme, impoverished and landless farmers were contracted to work on rural infrastructural programmes in exchange for “donated” US corn.

Meanwhile, the cash earnings of coffee smallholders plummeted. Whereas Pioneer Hi-Bred positioned itself in seed distribution and marketing, Cargill Inc established itself in the markets for grain and coffee through its subsidiary Ethiopian Commodities.12 For the more than 700,000 smallholders with less than 2 hectares that produce between 90 and 95% of the country’s coffee output, the deregulation of agricultural credit combined with low farmgate prices of coffee had triggered increased indebtedness and landlessness, particularly in East Gojam (Ethiopia’s breadbasket).

Biodiversity up for Sale

The country’s extensive reserves of traditional seed varieties (barley, teff, chick peas, sorghum, etc) were being appropriated, genetically manipulated and patented by the agribusiness conglomerates: “Instead of compensation and respect, Ethiopians today are …getting bills from foreign companies that have “patented” native species and now demand payment for their use.”13 The foundations of a “competitive seed industry” were laid under IMF and World Bank auspices.14 The Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly joined hands with Pioneer Hi-Bred in the distribution of hi-bred and genetically modified (GM) seeds (together with hybrid resistant herbicide) to smallholders. In turn, the marketing of seeds had been transferred to a network of private contractors and “seed enterprises” with financial support and technical assistance from the World Bank. The “informal” farmer-to-farmer seed exchange was slated to be converted under the World Bank programme into a “formal” market oriented system of “private seed producer-sellers.” 15

In turn, the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EARI) was collaborating with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the development of new hybrids between Mexican and Ethiopian maize varieties.16 Initially established in the 1940s by Pioneer Hi-Bred International with support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, CIMMYT developed a cosy relationship with US agribusiness. Together with the UK based Norman Borlaug Institute, CIMMYT constitutes a research arm as well as a mouthpiece of the seed conglomerates. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation (RAFI) “US farmers already earn $150 million annually by growing varieties of barley developed from Ethiopian strains. Yet nobody in Ethiopia is sending them a bill.” 17

Impacts of Famine

The 1984-85 famine had seriously threatened Ethiopia’s reserves of landraces of traditional seeds. In response to the famine, the Dergue government through its Plant Genetic Resource Centre –in collaboration with Seeds of Survival (SoS)– had implemented a programme to preserve Ethiopia’s biodiversity.18 This programme – which was continued under the transitional government – skilfully “linked on-farm conservation and crop improvement by rural communities with government support services”. 19 An extensive network of in-farm sites and conservation plots was established involving some 30,000 farmers. In 1998, coinciding chronologically with the onslaught of the 1998-2000 famine, the government clamped down on seeds of Survival (SoS) and ordered the programme to be closed down. 20

The hidden agenda was to eventually displace the traditional varieties and landraces reproduced in village-level nurseries. The latter were supplying more than 90 percent of the peasantry through a system of farmer-to-farmer exchange. Without fail, the 1998-2000 famine led to a further depletion of local level seed banks: “The reserves of grains [the farmer] normally stores to see him through difficult times are empty. Like 30,000 other households in the [Galga] area, his family have also eaten their stocks of seeds for the next harvest.”21 And a similar process was unfolding in the production of coffee where the genetic base of the arabica beans was threatened as a result of the collapse of farmgate prices and the impoverishment of small-holders.

In other words, the famine – itself in large part a product of the economic reforms imposed to the advantage of large corporations by the IMF, World Bank and the US Government – served to undermine Ethiopia’s genetic diversity to the benefit of the biotech companies. With the weakening of the system of traditional exchange, village level seed banks were being replenished with commercial hi-bred and genetically modified seeds. In turn, the distribution of seeds to impoverished farmers had been integrated with the “food aid” programmes. WPF and USAID relief packages often include “donations” of seeds and fertiliser, thereby favouring the inroad of the agribusiness-biotech companies into Ethiopia’s agricultural heartland. The emergency programs are not the “solution” but the “cause” of famine. By deliberately creating a dependency on GM seeds, they had set the stage for the outbreak of future famines.

This destructive pattern – invariably resulting in famine – is replicated throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. From the onslaught of the debt crisis of the early 1980s, the IMF-World Bank had set the stage for the demise of the peasant economy across the region with devastating results. Now, in Ethiopia, fifteen years after the last famine left nearly one million dead, hunger is once again stalking the land. This time, as eight million people face the risk of starvation, we know that it isn’t just the weather that is to blame.

Notes

      1. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Special Report: FAO/WFP Crop Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, Rome, January 2000.
      2. Ibid
      3. Ibid
      4. Ibid
      5. Philip Sherwell and Paul Harris, “Guns before Grain as Ethiopia Starves, Sunday Telegraph, London, April 16, 2000.
      6. IMF, Ethiopia, Recent Economic Developments, Washington, 1999.
      7. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, General GMO Facts,http://www.pioneer.com/usa/biotech/value_of_products/product_value.htm#.
      8. United States agency for International Development (USAID), “Mission to Ethiopia, Concept Paper: Back to The Future”, Washington, June 1993
      9. Carter Center, Press release, Atlanta, Georgia, January 31, 1997.
      10. Declan Walsh, America Find Ready Market for GM Food, The Independent, London, March 30, 2000, p. 18).
      11. Ibid.
      12. Maja Wallegreen, “The World’s Oldest Coffee Industry In Transition”, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, November 1, 1999.
      13. Laeke Mariam Demissie, A vast historical contribution counts for little; West reaps Ethiopia’s genetic harvest, World Times, October, 1998).
      14. World Bank, Ethiopia-Seed Systems Development Project, Project ID ETPA752, 6 June 1995.
      15. Ibid
      16. See CIMMYT Research Plan and Budget 2000-2002http://www.cimmyt.mx/about/People-mtp2002.htm#).
      17. Laeke Mariam Demissie, op. cit
      18. “When local farmers know best”, The Economist, 16 May 1998)
      19. Ibid
      20. Laeke Mariam Demissie, op. cit.
      21. Rageh Omaar, “Hunger stalks Ethiopia’s dry land”, BBC, London, 6 January, 2000.
      22. An earlier version of this article was published in The Ecologist, September 2000.

The famine – itself in large part a product of the economic reforms imposed to the advantage of large corporations by the IMF, World Bank and the US Government – served to undermine Ethiopia’s genetic diversity to the benefit of the biotech companies. With the weakening of the system of traditional exchange, village level seed banks were being replenished with commercial hi-bred and genetically modified seeds.

The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order 

by Michel Chossudovsky

originalIn this new and expanded edition of Chossudovsky’s international best-seller, the author outlines the contours of a New World Order which feeds on human poverty and the destruction of the environment, generates social apartheid, encourages racism and ethnic strife and undermines the rights of women. The result as his detailed examples from all parts of the world show so convincingly, is a globalization of poverty.

This book is a skilful combination of lucid explanation and cogently argued critique of the fundamental directions in which our world is moving financially and economically.

In this new enlarged edition –which includes ten new chapters and a new introduction– the author reviews the causes and consequences of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, the dramatic meltdown of financial markets, the demise of State social programs and the devastation resulting from corporate downsizing and trade liberalisation.

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), which hosts the critically acclaimed websitewww.globalresearch.ca . He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Published in 14 languages. More than 150,000 copies sold Worldwide.

The Globalization of Poverty in its First and Second editions has been published in 14 languages. Twelve English language editions and co-editions in the US, UK, Canada (2 editions), Australia, Malaysia (2 editions), South Africa, India (2 editions), Philippines (2 editions)), French (2 editions), German, Spanish, Portuguese (two editions, Brazil and Portugal), Finnish, Turkish, Japanese, Korean, Italian (2 editions), Arabic, Croatian, Serbian, Greek.

Click here to order The Globalization of Poverty

July 16, 2013

World Bank Board approves investigation into allegations of bankrolling human rights abuses in Ethiopia

(July 16, 2013) The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a full investigation into whether the Bank has breached its policies in Ethiopia and contributed to a government program of forced population transfers known as ‘villagization.’  The Bank’s move follows the resolution of a five-month standoff with the Ethiopian government, which had publicly threatened in May not to cooperate with the investigation.    A preliminary report issued by the Bank’s internal watchdog, the Inspection Panel, recommended the investigation in February after receiving a complaint submitted by indigenous people from Ethiopia’s Gambella region.

The complaint alleges that the Anuak people have suffered grave harm as a result of the World Bank-financed Promoting Basic Services Project (PBS), which has provided 1.4 billion USD in budget support for the provision of basic services to the Ethiopian Government since 2006. The Bank approved an additional $600 million for the next phase of the project on September 25th – one day after the complaint was filed. A legal submission accompanying the complaint, prepared by Inclusive Development International ( Gambella), presents evidence that the PBS project is directly and substantially contributing to the Ethiopian Government’s Villagization Program, which has been taking place in Gambella and other regions of Ethiopia since 2010 and involves the relocation of approximately 1.5 million people.

According to the Villagization Action Plan of the Gambella regional government, villagization is a voluntary process, which aims to increase access to basic services, improve food security, and “bring socioeconomic and cultural transformation of the people.”   The services and facilities supported through PBS are precisely the services and facilities that are supposed to be provided at new settlement sites under the Villagization Program.

The complainants, on the other hand, describe a process of intimidation, beatings, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture in military custody, rape and killing.  Dispossessed of their fertile, ancestral lands and displaced from their livelihoods, Gambellans have been forced into new villages with few of the promised basic services and little access to food or land suitable for farming, which has in some cases led to starvation.  They believe that many of the areas where people have been forcibly removed have been awarded to domestic and foreign investors.

In its official response to the complaint, the Bank’s management denies any connection between PBS and villagization.  The Inspection Panel, however, found that this not a “tenable position.”  The Panel notes that, “the two programs depend on each other, and may mutually influence the results of the other.”  It found that there is a “plausible link” between the two programs but needs to engage in further fact-finding to make definitive findings.

The report also noted that the Bank is required under its policies to ensure that the proceeds of any loan are used for the purposes for which the loan was granted, and that it must assess project risks and report to the Board on actions taken to address those risks.  The Panel reports that the case “raises issues of potential serious non-compliance with Bank policy.” It recommends a full investigation in order to determine conclusively whether or not the Bank complied with its policies and procedures, including those intended to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and those subjected to involuntary resettlement.

David Pred, IDI Managing Associate, welcomed the decision of the World Bank Board of Directors. “The next step is to ensure that the Inspection Panel has free and unfettered access to Gambella, without putting local people at risk of reprisals,” he stated.  “I’m not sure if that is possible given the level of repression that exists today in Ethiopia, but I am sure the Panel will do its best under the circumstances to confirm the facts and keep people safe.”

The complaint, the Bank’s response and the Inspection Panel’s Eligibility Report are available here.

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