Friday, March 08, 2013

The great Ethiopian land giveaway (By Graham Peebles)

(Mar 08, 2013, (By Graham Peebles))--Ancestral land which for generations has served as home and source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in Ethiopia is being leased out to foreign corporations on 99-year renewable contracts at nominal sums.

Agribusiness corporations
The land giveaway, or agrarian reforms as the Ethiopian government prefers to say, began in 2008 when the government, under the brutal premiership of Meles Zenawi, invited foreign countries and corporation to take up highly attractive deals and turn large areas of land over to industrial farming for the export of crops.

India, China and Saudi Arabia were all courted and, along with wealthy Ethiopians, they eagerly grabbed large pieces of land at basement prices, with rates varying from 1.10 to 6.05 US dollars per hectare (ha). Comparable land in India would set you back 600 dollars per hectare. 

The Oakland Institute, a US-based think tank, estimates that a total of 3,619,509 ha, has been leased out. This is land that has been made available by the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people under the government’s universally condemned “Villagization” progamme, which aims to relocate over 1.5 million people from their homes.

Indian corporations, split between 10 investing companies, have taken the lion’s share, acquiring around 600,000 ha concentrated in Gambella and Afar. The term “investing” implies benefits for Ethiopia, which is misleading.

“Profiteering”, or “exploiting” is closer to the truth. As the Oakland Institute says, “taking over land and natural resources from rural Ethiopians is resulting in a massive destruction of livelihoods and making millions of locals [farmers and pastoralist communities] dependent on food handouts”.

With small-scale farmers being evicted from their land, prices of staples such as teff, used by millions throughout Ethiopia to make bread (injera), have rocketed, increasing fourfold since 2008. Read more from Redress Information & Analysis »

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