News / Africa

Foreign Agro Firms Scoop Up Ethiopian Farmland

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid