March 7, 2010
CAIRO – Facing food shortages, rich countries are turning to poor
"The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people
"There is no consultation with the indigenous population."
Addis Ababa has granted at least three million hectares of its most
"The deals are done secretly," said Ochalla, who is now living in Britain but in regular contact with farmers in his region.
"The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands."
Since 2007, Ethiopia, one of the hungriest countries in the world, has approved 815 agricultural projects for foreigners.
This is not only confined to Ethiopia, but also to many African countries, such as Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Malawi.
"All the land round my family village of Illia has been taken over and is being cleared," said Ochalla.
"People now have to work for an Indian company. Their land has been compulsorily taken and they have been given no compensation.
"People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry."
The Ethiopian government defends the practice for luring investments and creating jobs.
"They bring badly needed technology, they offer jobs and training to
"Ethiopia has 74m hectares of fertile land, of which only 15% is
Addis Ababa denied that the land rent is causing hunger among its own population.
"Investors are never given land that belongs to Ethiopian farmers. The
But many condemn the practice as a new brand of "colonization".
"This is the new, 21st-century colonization," Haile Hirpa, president of
"The Saudis are enjoying the rice harvest, while the Oromos are dying from man-made famine as we speak."
Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva also blasted the practice for throwing people off their land.
"We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less," she said.
"There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted.
"The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline."