Ethiopia Speaks: Call against forcible land grab

Land deals with big business groups, including Indian companies, are being negotiated without any consensus, or prior consent of the indigenous population, forcibly evicting them from their land where they have lived for centuries with little or no compensation

Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi

To understand land investment in East Africa, a two-day Round Table Discussion was held from February 5-6, at India International Centre, New Delhi. The discussion entitled, ‘Indian-Ethiopian civil society seminar on land investments’ was organised by Council for Social Development (CSD) in association with Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), New Delhi, Kalpavriksh, Pune, Popular Education and Action Centre (PEACE), and The Oakland Institute, Oakland, USA.

The discussion focused on the ‘other’ aspects of land acquisitions in Sub-Saharan African countries that have high rates of food insecurity, and traditional agricultural systems. While many think that Africa is an emerging business frontier where large-scale investments are being made, as by China, paving way for ‘development’ in these areas, the discussion revealed dark facets in the underbelly of this manufactured ‘dream sequence’.

In a research conducted by the Oakland Institute, USA, it was decisively revealed that foreign governments, private and big business agro enterprises and private equity funds have acquired more than 6o million hectares of land for commercial farming ventures, in what is clearly one of the biggest forcible land grabs in history. Factors like rising food prices and a demand for new fuels have caused a huge rush for gigantic land deals. Most of these unilateral deals by the dictatorial government in Ethiopia are in favour of corporate lobbies and companies; these deals are negotiated without any consensus, or the prior consent of the indigenous population, forcibly evicting them from their land where they have lived for centuries with little or no compensation.

“Development that doesn’t benefit the majority is no development at all,” said Anuradha Mittal, academic, and executive director of the Oakland Institute. According to her, between 2008 and 2011, 3,619,509 hectares were transferred to domestic investors, State-owned enterprises and foreign companies, including Indian agro enterprises.

In a research conducted by the Oakland Institute, USA, it was decisively revealed that foreign governments, private and big business agro enterprises and private equity funds have acquired more than 6o million hectares of land for commercial farming ventures, in what is clearly one of the biggest forcible land grabs in history

“Ethiopia is the preferred destination for agricultural investments. Indian enterprises are largely concentrated in Gambella and Afar, where the government offers extra major tax incentives. Karaturi Global, the largest Indian investor, is acquiring land at a low rate of $1 per hectare, and investors have acquired land at $6 to $8,” she said.