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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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