News / Africa

Rights Group Criticizes Ethiopia over Farmland Leases

A tribesman near the Omo River in Ethiopia. Rights and environmental groups say traditional life in the area would change for the worse if the controversial Gibe III dame is built.
A tribesman near the Omo River in Ethiopia. Rights and environmental groups say traditional life in the area would change for the worse if the controversial Gibe III dame is built.
Joe DeCapua

A human rights group has accused the Ethiopian government of leasing some of its most productive farmland to foreign companies. Survival International said the Omo River region is the traditional homeland of some 90-thousand indigenous people.

The group said Malaysian, Italian and Korean companies are buying leases; and that large areas are being cleared for state-run plantations.

“The government announced that it was going ahead with the huge sugar cane plantation known as the Kuraz Project. We know that there are leases given out to other foreign companies. For example, an Italian company, which is leasing 30,000 hectares to grow palm oil,” Fiona Watson, Survival International’s field and research director.

Allegations

Survival International said the government has failed to consult the indigenous people, who would be affected. “Leasing of their land without their knowing about it,” said Watson, “is going to create enormous problems for them.”

The government rejected the group’s allegations. Spokesman Simon Bereket said it was official policy to inform and consult with local populations.  “That is the normal practice in Ethiopia,” he said, “mandated by the constitution to be discussed by all peoples.”

Bereket called the group’s accusations “baseless.”

He added, “As far as I know the indigenous people are very supportive of the government. These are indigenous people who had been neglected for centuries, never been considered to be Ethiopians. It’s only now or last 20 years that their identity has been recognized and protected.”

Watson said the projects threaten to destroy the way of life for the indigenous people near the Omo River.

“By and large, the tribal peoples of the Omo Valley are self-sufficient people, who have perfected techniques to live reasonably well in what is a difficult environment. If the leases go ahead…they’re going to lose all the ability to be self-sufficient.”

Many are nomadic cattle herders. Others rely on the seasonal flooding of the Omo River to deposit silt on the farmland, making it more fertile.

Who owns the land

However, the government said private property is not an issue in the Omo valley or elsewhere in Ethiopia.

“Technically, land belongs to the government. Land is not private property in Ethiopia. So, it is basically the government who owns the land of the country.”

Watson said, “It’s true that the government says that. That doesn’t necessarily make it right. And under all sorts of international conventions and laws, it is recognized that indigenous and tribal peoples should have the right to collectively own their land. In fact there is a clause in the Ethiopia constitution, which says that nomadic pastoralist peoples, which includes most of the people in the Omo Valley, have the right to use land freely to practice their pastoralism.”

Survival International said government plans for relocating the people to villages would create more poverty and hunger. It said a similar project in the 1980s by a former government, “had an incredibly negative impact.”

Gibe III

Survival International has also been a long time critic of the Gibe III damn under construction on the Omo River. It said the dam would end the seasonal floods benefiting farmlands and adversely affect water access in the region.

“If you look at the land leasing in conjunction with the dam it’s like a double whammy.” Watson said.

Bereket disagrees. He said, “There is no way, no way that this government would trample upon the rights of such indigenous groups.”

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid