Unprecedented Land grabbing and Destruction of Ecological Environment in Gambela, Ethiopia

Press Release
September 8, 2010
Posted to the web on September 8, 2010

Clearing of woodland for plantation of soya beans in Gambela
Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO is concerned about the unprecedented land grab and destruction of ecological environment of the Gambela region. Since 2008 foreign companies with the help of the Ethiopian authorities in the centre have been acquiring vast fertile farmlands with limited consultation with indigenous peoples whose lives and livelihoods are affected. This trend of land grabbing has intensified, with more than four companies from India and Saudi Arabia currently destroying and clearing the best woodlands in the region to produce a variety of agricultural produce not for local consumptions but for export purposes.

A new World Bank report released today acknowledges that there has been a lack of environmental and social impact assessments of large-scale foreign agriculture projects in Ethiopia due to the rush to approve these projects by the country's investment authority. The report further indicates the limited employment benefits to local communities, with only 0.005 jobs/hectare created for local populations on average. This lack of adequate employment benefits is contrary to the claim by authorities that the benefits of these projects will override concerns about environmental and social impacts on the indigenous population in the long-run.

Cotton farm at Abwobo (Abobo) district
According to our sources, Karuturi Global Ltd, an Indian company, acquired 300,000 hectares of land in Gambela to produce wheat for export to India. The local people employed on the farm have always complained about unfair treatment by the company. So far, their concerns have been ignored with little effort from the local authorities to address employment related issues. Furthermore, the local population whose hunting grounds, rivers and farmlands have been given to multinational corporations are doing back breaking daily labourer jobs and paid very low wages that cannot sustain themselves and their families amid food price increases in the region. The situation of land grabbing could impoverish local farmers who have been surviving on local agricultural production and the natural environment in the past.

Another company that operates in the region is Saudi Star Company, which produces rice and other products for export to Saudi Arabia. The company currently operates a pilot project on 10,000 hectares but plans to increase its capacity up to 500,000 hectares in the coming few years. This vast fertile land lease to the company would deprive indigenous people of their means of livelihoods and increase destitution among the local communities, leading to higher crime rates in both rural and urban areas. 

RUCHI Soya Company Compound at Obela along the way to Pinyudo
With similar intention to destroy the ecological and natural environment, RUCHI Soya, another Indian company, has started its operations on 250,000 hectares. The company has already set up its compound at Obela on the way to Pinyudo and is expected to extend its operations to Arieth village along Gilo River. It is now apparent that the government not only intends to destroy the natural environment of the region but also to destroy the cultural base of the indigenous people by evicting them from their ancestral lands and home areas.

We are also concerned with the destruction of the best woodlands in the region that could lead to climate disaster and uncontrollable climate change affecting human beings and natural life in the region. Gambela region is known for its vast amount of water reserves and it is home to variety of plants and animals and fish species upon which the indigenous people entirely depend. This destructive policy would spark unnecessary conflicts over resources that will be depleted because of the uncontrollable land grabbing policy that targets the region.

Clearing of Gambela woodland by foreign investors
Anywaa Survival Organisation therefore would like to call upon the indigenous people to resist this kind of land grabbing effort of the government and protect the natural environment, wild lives, various fish species and the indigenous community’s way of life. We further would like to call upon other Ethiopians to support the campaign to stop the destructive government policies that do not put the interest of the Ethiopian people into consideration. 

For further information, please contact
Nyikaw ochalla
Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO
Send your comments to ochalla@hotmail.com







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