Sugar manufacturing hunger among herders in Ethiopia
A report from the Oakland Institute Miracle or mirage? Manufacturing hunger and poverty in Ethiopia (2016, 28pp) reveals how large-scale commercial agricultural development schemes have perpetuated cycles of poverty and food insecurity and have marginalised pastoralists, agropastoralists and fishers. The Ethiopian Government aims to make the country one of the largest sugar producers in the world. Several plans for sugar plantations are underway, including the 150,000 ha of sugarcane to be planted in the Kuraz Project in the Lower Omo Valley, relying on the Gibe III Dam for irrigation. Studies show that Gibe III could reduce the Omo River flow by as much as 70%, threatening the livelihoods of 200,000 Ethiopians and 300,000 Kenyans who depend on the downstream water for herding, fishing and flood-recession cropping.
The report offers lessons from the immense impact of sugar and cotton plantations in the Awash Valley in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. The projects drastically reduced land and water availability for people and cattle, undermined food security, destroyed key drought-coping mechanisms and incited violent conflicts between different groups over the remaining resources. The plantations established in the Awash Valley have been far less profitable than pastoralist livestock production, while carrying massive environmental costs, including the depletion of vital water resources. These findings raise serious questions about the Ethiopian Government’s logic behind dams, irrigation schemes and expansion of sugar production.