Ethiopia: Human rights group calls for scrapping of large-scale land deals for agribusiness to protect local communities; calls it a 'failed development paradigm'

Author: Rina Chandran & Tom Gardner, in Reuters, Published on: 29 November 2017

"Calls to end Africa's 'horrific' land deals after Indian firm's fallout"

Large-scale land deals by investors in Africa are coming under greater scrutiny after an Indian firm demanded compensation for the cancellation of its lease by Ethiopia, with analysts saying they are hurting local communities and damaging ecosystems. Karuturi Global, one of the largest investors in Ethiopia’s commercial farming industry, said the cancellation of its lease for 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) in the western Gambella region broke the terms of its agreement with the government. Ethiopian officials, who have earmarked some 11.5 million hectares of land for overseas firms to invest in agriculture, say Karuturi failed to make adequate progress on the land allotted for growing and exporting sugarcane, rice and palm oil.

Critics say neither side addresses the more controversial issue of millions of indigenous people and small farmers being forcefully removed from their ancestral land with little consultation or compensation. “These large-scale plantations and farms are displacing people who have lived there for generations, without creating jobs for the locals or enhancing food security,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of California-based advocacy group Oakland Institute, which has studied these deals. “It is a horrific abuse of rights,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation...Millions of small farmers and herders in Ethiopia have been moved from the land offered to investors and relocated under “villagisation” programs, often with threats and assaults, according to rights groups...The new villages where they are resettled often lack basic resources including adequate food, agricultural support, and health and education facilities, according to activists.

...But Mittal said African nations must scrap these deals entirely to protect the rights of local communities. It is “wishful thinking ... that large-scale land deals can be beneficial to local communities if done properly,” she said. “We have looked at hundreds of land deals all across Africa - and have yet to see the benefits accrue for the local populations impacted, or even for national economies. This is a failed development paradigm,” she said.

 

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