Last month, the ignoble demise of Karuturi Global, Ltd. (a/k/a “Ethiopian Meadows Plc.”, “Gambella Green Valley Plc (Ethiopia)”, “Karuturi Agro Products Plc (Ethiopia)) in Ethiopia was announced quietly and without fanfare.
Karuturi, an Indian agribusiness, is touted to be “the world’s largest producer and exporter of cut roses with operations spread across Ethiopia, Kenya and India.” In 2008, Karuturi “leased” 300,000 hectares in the western Ethiopia region of Gambella. The “lease” was ballyhooed as the stepping stone to Karuturi’s rise to become one of the world’s largest food producers. The Karuturi rose ultimately proved to be the titan arum (corpse flower) of Gambella.
When the Guardian newspaper did its eye opening report in 2011, it claimed Gambella is about the size of Wales (the land of the mythical King Arthur and his kingdom of Camelot) in the west of England. If Karuturi is going to OWN so much of Gambella for the next 99 years, I figured, in the interest of factual accuracy and to make official the change of ownership of the land, Gambella should be renamed “Karuturistan”.
Karuturi sealed its deal with the ruling Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF), which touted the Karuturi deal as an example of the wholesome foreign investment being made in Ethiopia. By 2011, the late T-TPLF leader, Meles Zenawi, was bloviating about how he had found the magic bullet to make Ethiopia food secure. Meles’ secret weapon against the Black Horseman of the Apocalypse spreading famine across the land for decades was Karuturi. Meles boldly bragged “within five years Ethiopia will no longer need food aid.”
Shortly after Meles rose to his “throne” in 1991, he declared he would consider his government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day. The “Congressional Budget Justification Foreign Operations Appendix 2 for Fiscal Year 2015” reports, “Ethiopia is among the poorest countries in the world, with an annual per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $471 and it remains one of the top recipients of U.S. food and emergency assistance to respond to chronic food insecurity and under-nutrition.” So much for “not needing food aid”!