By Luelseged Degu
By all counts, the issue of land grabbing or as the EPRDF government would call it “the Ethiopian Green Revolution” has become paramount to our future existence as a nation.
Apart from a five-year occupation by
Mafa Chipeta, FAO´s representative in
In spite of this, EPRDF refutes this notion and hails its farmland deals as the path to
EPRDF has reportedly leased and continues to lease millions of acres of
1. Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi’s company, Saudi Star Agricultural Company: 10,000 hectares of land in Gambella (expected to increase to 250,000 hectares) and 100,000 SQM of land in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) with a 60-year lease;
2. The Indian Company, Karuturi Global: 741,000 acres in Gambella, and 2 million acres in Oromia. Karuturi is also acquiring around 311,700 hectares of land to grow crops like cereals, sugar and palm, which could be exported.
3. TPLF and its Supporters: 90,000 hectares of farmland in Gambella and hundreds of thousands hectares fertile land in Welkayit Tegede,
4. Chinese Consortium: 60,000 hectares at Shiniile, Ogaden,
1940s are best known for the Second World War, the establishment of the United Nations and the beginning of colonized countries to win their independence. These are the culmination of the history of that decade making the 20th century’s fabric. Least known but by far with a success story is the Green Revolution which transformed several countries’ habit of farming. This revolution was launched in 1945, largely due to the life work of Norman Borlaug factoring significantly the Mexican government’s desire “to establish an agricultural research station to develop more varieties of wheat that could be used to feed the rapidly growing population of the country.” The effort was largely measurable. Within 13 years,
The progress of the green revolution scored magnificent results and continued to do the same supporting by agricultural research, extension, and infrastructural development. Because of its measurable agricultural development success, it was sought to replicate it to other nations. In 1961,
EPRDF’s Green Revolution
There have been numerous attempts to introduce the successful concepts from the Mexican and Indian projects (Green Revolutions) into
Nonetheless, because of food security concerns and investment opportunities, in the last two years, investors seem to worry less and have started to lease or purchase farmlands in Africa, including
1. The prices of staple foods which increased unexpectedly that in turn alerted food-importing countries like Saudi Arabia, a country with scarce arable land but lots of cash, to look overseas in order to secure food supplies; and
2. Global demand for bio-fuels and other non-food agricultural commodities, expectations of rising rates of return in agriculture and land values, and policy measures in home and host countries.
EPRDF is at full speed working hard to convince Ethiopians and the international community as if the Green Revolution which ignored Africa for decades has finally arrived in
Zenawi recently stated that “the investments have the potential to increase local food availability and create badly needed jobs.” He refuted critics’ argument for not standing for the Ethiopian farmers. He said, “The policy of the government of
EPRDF further argues that the Green Revolution has a proven track record for ending food shortages in other parts of the world decades ago and there is no reason which stops this revolution succeeding in Ethiopia, bringing “the promise of plenty harvests” in a country more often associated with drought and famine. However, replication of the success story of
2. Ethiopia’s land deals are “about exploitation of the people, many of the most vulnerable, who are being robbed of all they own while the government threatens them into submission; sometimes literally holding a gun to their heads; poor Ethiopian farmers have been displaced while foreigners are thriving.”
3. EPRDF’s land deals are not well thought and analyzed, impacting negatively on the small rural farmers whose lands are being leased. Over 85% of people in
4. The contracts fail to cover economic reality of the transaction. For example, for its farm in Bako, Karuturi is paying no rent for six years and then only 135 birr ($13 USD) per hectare per year for the remainder of the 50-year lease. This deal is unfair this year let alone 50 or 90 years from now; it generates only “$13 USD per year for each 10,000 square meter of arable land.”
5. Reportedly, compliance issue is thrown out and it is not clear if investors would be held liable for commitments. Contracts either ignore or vaguely touch upon the key issues like enforcing compliance with investor commitments, maximizing government revenues and clarifying their distribution, promoting business models that maximize local benefit through employment creation and infrastructure development, and balancing food security concerns. On the same token, health and environmental concerns have not taken in to consideration.
No one would object in his/her right mind the “economic growth and development, foreign and private investment or capitalism in general if the land deals were undergirded by appropriate legal protections and procedures.” It is fair to say that the critics have rightly faulted EPRDF’s farmland deals for not taking into account the needs of the majority farmers in this mainly rural nation, which accounts more than 85% as well as health, economic, and environmental concerns. The deal is no near to be called “
The writer can be reached at email@example.com
* The list may not be exhaustive as several entities are reportedly making land deals with EPRDF. Morever, the actual acres of land acquired by foreign investors may be slightly different.