News / Africa

Foreign Agro Firms Scoop Up Ethiopian Farmland

Multimedia

The Green Revolution that ended food shortages in parts of the world decades ago may be coming to East Africa, bringing the promise of bountiful harvests in a region more often associated with drought and famine.  But from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, critics see the project as a neo-colonial land grab.

Farming in Ethiopia is a battle for survival. Peasants using ancient methods are totally dependent on the weather, and on the government, which owns the land and provides fertilizer subsidies. When the rains fail, as they often do, their very survival depends on food aid from abroad.

It has proven to be a recipe for perpetual poverty. In a country where 80 percent of the population works in the farm sector, one in six needs food assistance.

To breathe new life into Ethiopia's stagnant agriculture sector, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is wooing foreign firms with offers to lease huge tracts of land at rock bottom prices.

"The policy of the government of Ethiopia regarding agricultural land development has always been based on the small-scale farmer," said Meles Zenawi. "But the strategy also included the possibility of the private sector playing a supplementary but vital role."

The offer of cheap land has attracted wide interest, from governments like Saudi Arabia that import most of their food, to multi-nationals like the Indian giant Karuturi Global. At two sprawling farms totaling more than 300,000 hectares, Karuturi earth movers, tractors, and water well drilling rigs are transforming the pastoral landscape.

Critics describe Karuturi as a neo-colonialist or agro-imperialist, grabbing Ethiopia's land at bargain prices and exporting profits and food while Ethiopians go hungry. But owner Ram Karuturi says food grown here will be consumed here.

"What Karuturi is doing is what Africa needs, wants and deserves," said  Ram Karuturi. "What we put in is our money into Africa, which nobody else is doing."

Karuturi says his big machinery more than doubles the output of traditional farms, and creates jobs where there were none. Speaking through a translator, 30-year-old Ababu Nagari says the roughly 80 cents a day she earns harvesting maize is changing her life.

"I don't have my own land, so I have no way of feeding my family," said Ababu Nagari. "Now I have work and a little money. I am happy these investors come."

But not everyone is happy. Four hundred people have signed a petition saying they received no compensation after being evicted from land taken over by Karuturi. They say their families have farmed and grazed their animals here for generations. One farmer spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity.

"We are for development of our country, but we cannot develop our country when land is in the hands of the government," he said. "You can work on your land, and all of a sudden, they push you out of your land."

Environmentalists say land already degraded by farming will suffer, and loss of trees will cause an imbalance in the eco-system.

Opposition politicians say the government is giving away land to buy diplomatic support, and that wages paid to farm workers are below the World Bank's poverty threshold.

But Ram Karuturi argues investments like his, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, are revolutionizing African agriculture.

"The Green Revolution missed this continent 20 years ago," he said. "There are not more than 1,000 tractors in private hands in this country. And for a country of 80 million people and 120 million hectares, that's a tragic situation."

So is Africa witnessing its Green Revolution, or simply a neo-imperialist land grab? Ethiopia is betting that the World Bank is right when it says investing in agriculture is one of the most effective ways to speed economic development in Africa.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid