Ethiopia's Land Issue
Business Daily travels to Ethiopia to see first-hand the effects of one of the boldest land investment programmes in Africa. The Ethiopian government is aiming to lease out a tract of farmland the size of Belgium over the next three or four years to foreign investors. Saudi, Chinese and Indian companies are already piling in, as part of what the government hopes could mark a new green revolution for the region. Ed Butler hears from investors like the Saudi Star company and China's Hunan Joint Stock Corporation, which are both launching massive farms in the western lowland regions. Saudi Arabia alone is hoping in time to produce a million tonnes of rice for its domestic market from these farms. But what of the local people who live in these regions? While the government minister who launched the policy, Abrera Deressa, says all the land being allocated has been idle, some locals speak of arrests and even killings of those who've protested against the policy. They say the land-lease is depriving local farmers of essential grazing and their livelihoods, and will dangerously deplete the available river water that they need to survive.