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Ethiopia’s Land Grabs And Endangered Communities: The Indigenous People Excluded from ‘Rapid Growth’ November 11, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Colonizing Structure, Corruption, Culture, Development, Dictatorship, Knowledge and the Colonizing Structure., Knowledge and the Colonizing Structure. Africa Heritage. The Genocide Against Oromo Nation, Land Grabs in Africa, Oromia, Oromiyaa, Oromo, Oromo the Largest Nation of Africa. Human Rights violations and Genocide against the Oromo people in Ethiopia, Oromummaa, Self determination, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, Theory of Development, Tyranny.
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OThe ethnic communities living along Ethiopia’s Omo River and depend on annual flooding to practice flood retreat cultivation for their survival and livelihood. Credit: Ed McKenna/IPS

The ethnic communities living along Ethiopia’s Omo River and depend on annual flooding to practice flood retreat cultivation for their survival and livelihood. Credit: Ed McKenna/IPS

‘The government already has trouble managing hunger and poverty [among] its citizenry. By taking over land and water resources in the Omo Valley, it is creating a new class of ‘internal refugees’ who will no longer be self-sufficient.’

OMO VALLEY, Ethiopia, Nov 11 2013 (IPS) – As the construction of a major transmission line to export electricity generated from one of Ethiopia’s major hydropower projects gets underway, there are growing concerns that pastoralist communities living in the region are under threat.

The Gibe III dam, which will generate 1,800 megawatts (MW), is being built in southeast Ethiopia on the Omo River at a cost of 1.7 billion dollars. It is expected to earn the government over 400 million dollars annually from power exports. On completion in 2015 it will be the world’s fourth-largest dam.

“We are being told to stop moving with our cattle, to stop wearing our traditional dressand to sell our cattle. Cattle and movement is everything to the Mursi.” — Mursi elder
But the dam is expected to debilitate the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of indigenous communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley and those living around Kenya’s Lake Turkana who depend on the Omo River.

The Bodi, Daasanach, Kara, Mursi, Kwegu and Nyangatom ethnic communities who live along the Omo River depend on its annual flooding to practice flood-retreat cultivation for their survival and livelihoods.

But the semi-nomadic Mursi ethnic community are being resettled as part of the Ethiopian government’s villagisation programme to make room for a large sugar plantation, which will turn roaming pastoralists into sedentary farmers. The hundreds of kilometres of irrigation canals currently being dug to divert the Omo River’s waters to feed these large plantations will make it impossible for the indigenous communities to live as they have always done.

“We are being told that our land is private property. We are very worried about our survival as we are being forced to move where there is no water, grass or crops,” a Mursi community member told IPS.

The Omo Valley is set to become a powerhouse of large commercial farming irrigated by the Gibe III dam. To date 445,000 hectares have been allocated to Malaysian, Indian and other foreign companies to grow sugar, biofuels, cereals and other crops.

“The Gibe III will worsen poverty for the most vulnerable. The government already has trouble managing hunger and poverty [among] its citizenry. By taking over land and water resources in the Omo Valley, it is creating a new class of ‘internal refugees’ who will no longer be self-sufficient,” Lori Pottinger from environmental NGO International Rivers told IPS.

Top global financiers, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB), have committed 1.2 billion dollars to a 1,070 km high-voltage line that will run from Wolayta-Sodo in Ethiopia to Suswa, 100 km northwest of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The transmission line, powered by Ethiopia’s Gibe III, will connect the country’s electrical grid with Kenya and will have a capacity to carry 2,000 MW between the two countries.

According to the AfDB, it will promote renewable power generation, regional cooperation, and will ensure access to reliable and affordable energy to around 870,000 households by 2018.

According to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s economy is set to maintain a growth rate of 11 percent in 2014. Fully exploiting its massive water resources to generate a hydropower potential of up to 45,000 MW in order to sell surplus electricity to its neighbours is central to Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation plan, a five-year plan to develop the country’s economy.

The Horn of Africa nation currently generates 2,000 MW from six hydroelectric dams and invests more of its resources in hydropower than any other country in Africa – one third of its total GNP of about 77 billion dollars.

According to a World Bank report published in 2010, only 17 percent of Ethiopia’s 84.7 million people had access to electricity at the time of the report. By 2018, 100 percent of the population will have access to power, according to state power provider Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO).

“We are helping mitigate climate risk of fossil fuel consumption and also reduce rampant deforestation rates in Ethiopia. Hydropower will benefit our development,” Miheret Debebe, chief executive officer of EEPCO, told IPS.

The Ethiopian government insists that the welfare of pastoralist communities being resettled is a priority and that they will benefit from developments in the Omo Valley. “We are working hard to safeguard them and help them to adapt to the changing conditions,” government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal told IPS.

However, there are concerns that ethnic groups like the Mursi are not being consulted about their changing future. “If we resist resettlement we will be arrested,” a Mursi elder told IPS.

“We fear for the future. Our way of life is under threat. We are being told to stop moving with our cattle, to stop wearing our traditional dress and to sell our cattle. Cattle and movement is everything to the Mursi.”

The importance of ensuring that benefits from Ethiopia’s national development projects do not come at a price of endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands pastoralist tribes is critical said Ben Braga, president of the World Water Council. Braga decried governments that failed to compensate communities like the Mursi as displacement of surrounding communities is always an inevitable consequence of major dams that need plenty of advanced planning to avoid emergencies.

“How can we compensate these people so that the majority of the country can benefit from electricity? There is a need for better compensatory mechanisms to ensure that benefits are shared and that all stakeholders are included in consultations prior to construction,” he told IPS.

Read more at the original source:http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/ethiopias-indigenous-excluded-from-rapid-growth/?utm_source=ipsnews&utm_medium=twitter

‘Foreign investors are taking as much as they can from an impoverished nation, including its crops, land and the hard work of an Ethiopian population, to serve their own interests above others. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 14.56 million hectares of Ethiopia’s 100 million hectare land mass is arable land, most of it cultivated by small hold, subsistence farmers. International investors have taken note and are rushing to this country, once synonymous with starvation, to take advantage of the government’s new push to improve its agricultural production capacity. But many fear the government’s sale of arable land to foreign nationals will create a modern form of agricultural colonialism. One such arrangement, launched in 2009 under Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah initiative and forming part of a $100-million investment scheme in Ethiopian agriculture, had farmers grow teff (a North African cereal grass), white wheat, maize and white sorghum, among other crops, before these were exported back to the Gulf region. The Economist referred to it as an instance of a “powerful but contentious trend sweeping the poor world”, further saying that countries which export capital but import food are outsourcing farm production to countries that need capital but which have land to spare. According to Human Rights Watch, in less than five years Ethiopia has approved more than 800 foreign-financed agricultural projects. The watchdog group further said that from 2008 to 2011, the Ethiopian government leased out no less than 3.8 million hectares to foreign investors, displacing local inhabitants and resulting in tens of thousands of internally displaced persons who are often forced to migrate to urban areas. The majority of land acquisitions occur in government-to-government deals. In the past, Saudi officials and closely tied sovereign wealth funds negotiated with former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, while presently, such discussions take place with the ruling coalition of his successor, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe. Supporters argue that such deals increase production efficiency and improve economic outlooks but only if investors are willing to pay a fair price. In 2011, Oxfam reported that Middle Eastern and Far Eastern investors were purchasing plots in developing countries, including Ethiopia, for as little as $1 per hectare. That same year, Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc leased 10,000 hectares for a bargain price of $9.42 per hectare annually for the next 60 years. (Saudi Star, a food company owned by Ethiopian and Saudi Arabian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, and which forms part of the Derba group, produces sugar, rice and edible oil. The company is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.) Advocacy groups from Spain and the US commented that the government sponsored deal had caused human rights violations as well as the forceful relocation of hundreds of thousands of residents, including the Nuek and Anuak indigenous groups. The government retorted by saying that the resettlement plan was acted out voluntarily on behalf of residents. Saudi Star claims that it acted in good faith and that the benefits of the land deal – including improvements to regional infrastructure – outweighed the consequences, despite scepticism. Fikru Desalegn, former State Minister of Capacity Building in the Ethiopian federal government and current CEO of Saudi Star, played down the negative connotations associated with the controversial foreign investment. He said there was “nobody in the 10,000 hectares” and that the company had “not paid any compensation” but that the possibility of employment opening up would “teach the public it is very useful for them”. In July 2012, the Derba Group announced plans for an additional 300,000-hectare development project in the fertile region of Gambela. While no figures have been released, industry experts suspect that the lease was contracted below cost, generating approximately $923 million per annum for the consortium. The company intends to export the majority of the crops harvested, with 45 percent destined for Jeddah.’ http://www.ventures-africa.com/2013/11/land-grabs-in-africa-a-double-edged-sword/?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=buffer675be&utm_medium=twitter

 

‘From Senegal in West Africa to Ethiopia in the Horn, and down to Mozambique in the South, land considered idle and available has changed hands, with profound implications for local people and the environment. With estimates ranging from 56 to 227 million hectares globally (with 60-70% of this in Africa), what is clear is a rapid transformation of landholding and agricultural systems has taken place in the past five to 10 years. Underpinning these deals is the longstanding failure of many African states to recognise, in law and practice, the customary land rightsof existing farming households and communities, and the perpetuation of the colonial legal codes that centralise control over such lands in the hands of the state as trustee of all unregistered property. And it’s not just African land and water that are now so desirable for international investors, but also the growing African consumer market. In the face of growing urbanisation and consumer demand in Africa’s cities, the challenge is to scale up production and connect small farmers to markets, lest the benefits of rising food demand in Africa’s cities be netted by importers and foreign supermarkets. The land grab raises questions not only about land rights and transparency in investment, but also what constitutes inclusive agricultural development and how to bring it about.’ Read further @http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/jan/23/land-deals-africa-farming-investment?CMP=twt_gu

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