Ethiopia: A battle for land and water

The Aunak people of the Gambela region are affected by government decisions. Since 1980s theEthiopian government carries out a program called Villagization. Last year, according to the government, the Anuak people would be relocated to areas with better access to clean water, health and education and with the promise that they would find plenty of corn and other food in the new place where they were moving. But, the Anuaks say, they were forced to move under false pretenses.

The Anuaks are going through a complex battle over landownership and water rights between farmers, the government, and foreign investors. It’s a battle that is being fought in many African countries.

The Ethiopian government officially owns title to all the land there, but farmers have the right to use it. The government calls this land abandoned because it’s so sparsely populated. But Anuaks need it, some for grazing, some to lay fallow, and because it’s the best farmland in the country.

Over the next two years, 1.5 million people in four regions of Ethiopia will be relocated. The government insists that the Villagization program is voluntary. But Human Rights Watch ensures Anuaks are being forced to move so that the government can lease the land to investors. The rights group recently documented cases of violence and arbitrary arrest.

Water is the driving force behind many agricultural deals on the African continent. To attract investors to this area of the Nile River Basin, the Ethiopian government puts few, if any restrictions, on water usage in its contracts with foreign companies. The Anuaks say they are not seeing the benefits of the country’s investment strategy, they believe that the only beneficiaries are the companies and government, while the Anuak people have been moved to drier areas where farming is more difficult.

According to Human Rights Watch, many of the relocated communities could face endemic hunger as early as next year.

Unfortunately, this kind of problems happen not only in Ethiopia, in fact, they are becoming common in the African continent.

The Worldcoo Team.

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