ASO | 10 July 2010
By Nyikaw Ochalla, Director
Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO
(Ethiopian government's video is below)
Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO has been a critical voice on the land lease policy of the Ethiopian government, which does not take into account the traditional agricultural and environmental practices of indigenous people that protect the ecological system and natural environment in the Gambela region. We have been concerned of the secret deals which not only affect human lives but also the entire natural environment.
We are aware that there are currently two agricultural projects being carried out by two major foreign investors in the region; Saudi Star (Saudi Arabia) and Karuturi Global (India). We recently learnt that another Indian Company-Ruchi Soya has secured a land lease contract on 250,000 hectares in the Gog district along the Gilo River, another main River upon which the lives of the indigenous people entirely depend for their agricultural activities. The amount of land extends from Obela area to Arieth village along the Gilo River. The details of the land lease contract remain a secret between the company and the Ethiopian authorities. All these foreign companies are misled by the government claim that the vast fertile farmlands leased out to them are “wastelands” that have no impact on the socio-economic and environmental impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous peoples in the region.
Although there is limited information on the amount of land allocated to both Saudi Star and Karuturi Global, reliable information sources shows that 250, 000 hectares of fertile farmlands along the Openo (Baro) River have been allocated to Karuturi, while 10,000 hectares of farmlands along the Aloworo River have been allocated to Saudi Star. According to the government's video report, the 10,000 hectares allocated to Saudi Star is for a pilot project phase, while the full allotment was 500,000 hectares to produce rice for export purpose.
The report on rice production or investment in Gambela region reveals key issues about the secret deals between the Ethiopian government and Saudi Star on which the indigenous peoples have no inputs. It clearly defines the government position- lack of concern for indigenous people in Gambela and the intention to implement any development project on their natural environment without any consultation, compensation and participation. The report further makes no mention of socio-economic and environmental assessment carried out to establish the impact of the rice investment on the indigenous people whose lives and livelihood are affected.
The report shows how the Saudi Star rice project uses critical water reserves from the tiny Aloworo River which over 20,000 local populations depend upon for drinking, fishing and farming. The same river and natural environment hosts numerous wild animals and various types of fish species and wild birds, which are not only threatened by this environmental destruction and degradation but face extinction due to these large-scale agricultural activities.
The report claims that rice production or investment in Gambela has provided job opportunities to local population. But this government propaganda is not well founded. As it can be seen from the evidence on the report, the majority local populations whose natural environment and farmlands are destroyed by this foreign company without any form of participation are doing long hours of daily labour because of the social and economic destitution brought upon them by the government's destructive project. In fact, the face of the two young Anuak interviewed shows clearly that they are under duress to say they are benefiting from the project for fear of intimidation and harassment from government officials.
Anywaa Survival Organisation, thus, strongly opposes and denounces the environmental and socially destructive policy of the current regime and informs the company to stop its operations and stay away from these legally complex investment projects. We also would like to send the same message to other companies taking part in the destructive government agricultural projects to take necessary steps to withdraw from environmentally and socially unacceptable projects.
For further information, please contact
Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ethiopian Radio & Television Agency,
"Rice Production or Investment in Gambela"