State Projects Leave Tens of Thousands of Lives in the Balance in Ethiopia – Study

US thinktank, the Oakland Institute, says that while the Ethiopian government has made considerable progress on human rights under prime minister Abiy Ahmed, it has yet to address the impact of state development plans on indigenous populations in the lower Omo valley. (The Guardian)

The Guardian

A giant dam and irrigated sugar plantations are “wreaking havoc” in southern Ethiopia and threaten to wipe out tens of thousands of indigenous peoples , a US-based thinktank has claimed.

The Oakland Institute says that while the Ethiopian government has made considerable progress on human rights under prime minister Abiy Ahmed, it has yet to address the impact of state development plans on indigenous populations in the lower Omo valley, where people face loss of livelihoods, starvation, and violent conflict .

Acute hunger is now widespread, the organisation said in a report, due to blockage of the Omo River by Gibe III, Africa’s tallest dam. Since late 2015, the dam has stopped the river’s annual flood, a natural event that the valley’s inhabitants have relied upon for centuries for farming. As a result, entire communities have been tipped into destitution.

Responding to the report, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister of water, irrigation and electricity , said that while the government accepts there are problems, “the points raised in the paper are not properly documented or balanced”.

Seleshi said solutions had been put in place to mitigate the impact of the dam, including small-scale irrigation and outgrower schemes.

According to the report, however, such promises have not materialised. Moreover, said the study, communities claim they were tricked into leaving their ancestral land in order to make way for sugar plantations built by the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation as part of its mammoth Omo-Kuraz sugar development project (OKSDP). The project, a 100,000 hectare (247,000 acre) irrigated agricultural scheme, is fed by the waters of the Omo.

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