Thursday, February 07, 2013
When The Rich Eat the Poor
You might think that Ethiopia is a country that would take its food supply very, very seriously. We're regularly greeted by appeals for donations to help relieve starvation in the Horn of Africa - Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea.
It's a bit disconcerting to learn that Indian investors are now snapping up Ethiopia's prime farmlands, forcing the people off their land.
Ethiopia's leasing of 600,000 hectares (1.5m acres) of prime farmland to Indian companies has led to intimidation, repression, detentions, rapes, beatings, environmental destruction, and the imprisonment of journalists and political objectors, according to a new report.
Research by the US-based Oakland Institute suggests many thousands of Ethiopians are in the process of being relocated or have fled to neighbouring countries after their traditional land has been handed to foreign investors without their consent. The situation is likely to deteriorate further as companies start to gear up their operations and the government pursues plans to lease as much as 15% of the land in some regions, says Oakland.
This is no more than a small part of a pattern of economic colonization underway around the world whereby countries with wealth ease their own food deficiencies by sourcing food production from other countries.
We have some experience of this. How much Mexican or Central American produce is in our grocery stores? The history of the United Fruit Company is rich and sullied. The difference is that
what's happening today is creating more hardship. Middle Eastern oil countries are land grabbing in Africa. China is going after good farmland in southeast Asia, Africa and even South America. India is likewise getting into the game.
Both China and India are poised for genuine and severe environmental calamity and both will be under pressure to use their wealth to seek food security abroad. This is only just beginning.