By: Ellen Albritton
When I came across this article, I thought it would serve as a nice counterpart to the Leila’s post about quinoa in Bolivia. Currently Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of global food aid. Larger portions of Ethiopia’s populations suffers from malnutrition and all of other negative health consequences that can result from not being properly nourished. Ethiopia suffered tremendously in 2008 under the world food prices spike, and it continues to suffer as prices continue to rise. In fact, when I was in Kenya last summer, I was warned repeatedly by many different people not to travel on certain roads near the Kenya-Ethiopia border because Ethiopians, desperate from starvation, were attacking and robbing anyone with food or money.
The Ethiopian government has recently sold enormous tracts of land to many large, foreign, and very wealthy agri-businesses in Gambella region. Although this land was sold for already very low prices, these companies will also benefit from tax breaks, and roads will be built at government expense for these large farms. Despite this large investment by the Ethiopian government and the great need in Ethiopia, much of the food will be exported to wealthier, developed countries, and the profits will go to these foreign investors.
The Ethiopian government argues that this is the type of foreign investment that is needed for Ethiopia to develop economically. The hope is that this economic development will ultimately reduce Ethiopia’s dependence on global aid of all types, including food aid, and that in the end, the investment of these foreign companies will serve the greater good of all of Ethiopia. Others argue that, in addition to the destruction of local ecosystems that the massive land-clearing is causing, this “land grab” will do nothing but to make these already wealthy businesses and people even wealthier, while those living in extreme poverty will continue to suffer without adequate nutrition. Already there are claims that both foreign companies and the Ethiopian government have failed to deliver on promises they made about establishing schools, clinics, and clean water infrastructure. There is also controversy about whether or not Ethiopians are being forced off of their land in order to make more room for these huge areas of new farmland.
Is is just for us in the developed world to benefit from the food we will eat that is grown on Ethiopian land, while Ethiopians continue to starve, even if it will really help in the “long-run”?