Thursday, December 29, 2011

Famine-stricken Ethiopia, a Saudi company leases land to grow and export rice | PRI.ORG

In famine-stricken Ethiopia, a Saudi company leases land to grow and export rice

Home | Stories | World | Africa | In famine-stricken Ethiopia, a Saudi company leases land to grow and export rice
Workers at the Saudi Star rice farm in Ethiopia. (Photo by Dallas McNamara.)
Famine has swept through much of Ethiopia in the past year, but a new project will see a Saudi Arabian country convert one of the most fertile areas to produce rice for export. The idea is it's better to have people employed and making money.

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Gambella in western Ethiopia is one of the most fertile places in the mostly drought- and famine-stricken Eastern Africa country, with thick forests, scorching heat and abundant rains.
But now Gambella, home to five rivers and a National Park, is also home to large-scale agricultural investments. A Saudi billionaire has leased 25,000 acres from the Ethiopian government to grow rice and this summer planted its first commercial crop. The company, Saudi Star, plans to expand that to nearly 500,000 acres within 10 years.
Saudi Star plans to add hundreds of miles of irrigation canals and pipes to bring water from the Alwero Dam to its thirsty rice crop. Ethiopians don’t typically grow or eat rice, so most of the crop will be exported to the Middle East. But Muhammad Manzoor Khan, a Pakistani consultant for Saudi Star, said the rice will still help Ethiopia feed its people.

(Photos: Dallas McNamara)
“This kind of project can really bring a revolution in food production as well as uplifting the social conditions of the people around,” Khan said, standing in front of rice paddies.
Ethiopia is a fast-developing nation, but it’s struggling with severe drought and skyrocketing food prices. The Ethiopian government estimates 4.5 million people in the country need emergency food aid.
In the past few years, Ethiopia has developed a comprehensive agricultural plan that relies on foreign investment, and much-needed foreign currency to move forward.
Saudi Star predicts its massive rice project will generate $1 billion in revenue for Ethiopia and create tens of thousands of jobs. The Ministry of Agriculture's Esayas Kebede said that means increased food security for Ethiopians – if people have jobs they can buy food, even if there is a drought.
“If you increase the purchasing power of the people, the people can easily get their own food by their own cash,” Kebede said.
But many of the local Anuak tribe say the rice farm is not providing jobs for their people. They worry the rice will dry up the water they rely on for their own farming and fishing. And they say, after years of hostility from the government, they are now being forced off their land to make way for investors.
One local woman from the Anuak tribe said the government told them they’re moving them to a better place where they can get government assistance.
“There are no farms here and no food. Now we’re living like refugees in our own country," she said.
The Ethiopian government admits it moved people from rural settlements to villages, but not because of the Saudi Star project, they say. Kebede said it was to provide them with better services and aid. According to Human Rights Watch, however, many of Anuak are being relocated to parts of Gambella that already have insufficient food for the local population.
“This large scale investment program has nothing to do with food security concerns in the country,” said Desalegn Rahmeto, a senior research fellow at the Forum for Social Studies in Addis Ababa. “If you export all the food items and earn foreign currency, but people in the communities don’t have access to food, that is counter productive. And this is happening, this is not hypothetical situation, this is actually happening."
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ethiopia 'Planting Trees Changed My Life,' Says Ethiopia Mother | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide

Sindayo Tsegay with the youngest of five children, Rosina. Her other four children are all in school. Sindayo says that wouldn't be possible without a tree-planting project that provides her with seasonal work. Copyright: WFP/Rein Skullerud

Sindayo Tsegay sees herself first and foremost as a mother, a role which brings daily challenges. For Sindayo, who lives in northern Ethiopia, those challenges used to seem insurmountable before a tree-planting project changed her life as well as the lives of neighboring families.

WUKRO – Just a decade ago, the land surrounding Sindayo Tsegay’s home was dry and eroded. In the mountainous terrain common to many remote areas of northern Ethiopia, growing crops was nearly impossible and families often resorted to mashing up cacti to feed their livestock.

As if this wasn’t difficult enough, recurring landslides kept Sindayo fearful for her children’s lives. “We were scared to sleep in our homes during the rainy season,” she remembers.

Since those restless nights ten years ago, WFP-supported projects have helped rehabilitate this area through tree-planting and terracing to prevent further erosion.

Men and women from the surrounding hillsides receive 3 kilos of grain for each day of work, food which Sindayo then turns into porridge or bread to feed her children.

Work when you need it

Sindayo and her neighbors are quick to point out that these "food-for-work" projects are not active year-round, and that’s a good thing. With grasses and small shrubs growing plentifully throughout the area, the small animals many families raise are once again robust and can be sold at nearby markets.

The ability to be self-sufficient is a huge point of pride for women here, and WFP’s support in transforming the land is helping more and more families achieve this.

As a mother, Sindayo is also proud to be able to buy fresh vegetables for her children with the additional income she makes from her animals.

“My children are much healthier; they have much better nutrition these days,” says Sindayo, with her youngest daughter Rosina tied snugly on her back. Where are the rest of her five children? In school, where they each receive a WFP school lunch.

Fond memories

Moving rocks to help terrace a hillside is hard work, especially for women carrying their youngest children on their backs. Yet the mood here is relaxed, cheerful and hopeful. These women know they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children when they get home from school.

They know they’re setting a good example for their kids through dedicated work and positive results. And they can sleep easy at night knowing their families are safe.

Sindayo’s friend and neighbor, Meselesh Hishe, is just happy to see the land returned to what it once was.

At 54 years old, she remembers the way this area was when she was a child – green and lush – and is thankful that her children will now have the same memories of their home.

Friday, December 23, 2011

ETHIOPIA -A New Way Of Life On The Dawa - Oxfam

A New Way Of Life On The Dawa - YouTube: ""

A new way of life in Ethiopia

By Oxfam

Imagine if the lifestyle your family had led for generations was on the verge of extinction. Would you cling determinedly to the old ways or would you bite the bullet and make whatever changes were necessary to survive?
Herding families in the southern Ethiopian village of Melka Guba were forced to make this decision. Years of relentless drought had made it difficult for them to earn a living from their livestock, and they found themselves facing a classic do-or-die scenario. While they were reluctant to give up their livestock — the more animals you own, the more prestige you have — their futures depended on it.
So they agreed to take a risk and try a new approach: irrigated farming. With Oxfam’s help, 201 households are now tapping the Dawa River for water. And the risk is paying off. Of course, as this video points out, true change takes time, but even from the first harvest — “all green and beautiful,” as Oxfam’s Tita Mekonnen describes it — their new farming venture heralds a bright future for this courageous community.
One of the villagers in his new maize field. Photo: Oxfam
One of the villagers in his new maize field. Photo: Oxfam

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Famine survivor Birhan Woldu | The Sun |Features

Says famine survivor
Birhan Woldu

HER face lit up by a huge smile, Birhan Woldu proudly shows off her tiny daughter.

It marks the start of a new chapter in what is a remarkable story of the tenacity of the human spirit and survival against the odds.

For aged three, Birhan's ghostly image was seen staring from the TV screen at the 1985 Live Aid concert as her life ebbed away.

The starving toddler became one of the heartbreaking symbols of the Ethiopian famine.

But miraculously, she pulled through — and this week, at the age of 30, gave birth to her first child.

On a crackly phone line from her neat home in Mekele, high in the Tigray mountains in northern Ethiopia, Birhan said last night: "I wept tears of joy when she was born.

"My little daughter has made my life complete. I have been through so much. In the dark times I never believed I would find such joy in my life."

And she and husband Birhanu, a student, knew exactly who to name their baby after — Red Cross medic Dame Claire Bertschinger, whose humanity and compassion inspired Bob Geldof to organise Band Aid.

Birhan continued: "I have always looked up to Claire for what she did helping the children of Ethiopia. She was so strong and caring so we named our little girl after her."

Our exclusive pictures show delighted Birhan gently cradling Claire, who was born on Monday weighing 7lb 7oz.

Dame Claire said yesterday: "I had tears in my eyes when I heard Birhan name her little girl after me. It's such an honour.

"I know Birhan will be a wonderful mother.

"She's such a strong woman who has already achieved so much by helping and inspiring so many people and getting a degree.

"This is just the beginning for her."

Last night Band Aid guru Sir Bob Geldof described little Claire's arrival as "fab news".

Heartbreaking ... picture of 3-year-old Birhan Woldu was beamed on screens at 1985 Live Aid concert
Heartbreaking ... picture of 3-year-old Birhan Woldu was beamed on screens at 1985 Live Aid concert

He joked: "Why isn't she called Roberta, Bobbity or Bandaidia?"

Bob added: "Congrats to Mum and little Claire."

Birhan helped inspire a later generation when she famously appeared at Live 8 in 2005 clasping Queen of Pop Madonna's hand in triumph.

The Sun had flown Birhan 3,700 miles from her home in the Ethiopian Highlands to London for the concert. The previous year she had inspired this newspaper to come up with the idea of re-recording the Band Aid single Do They Know It's Christmas?

As a result of Live 8, world leaders agreed to boost aid for developing countries by £31billion.

Twenty years on ... Birhan Woldu with Madonna at Live 8 in 2005
Twenty years on ... Birhan Woldu with Madonna at Live 8 in 2005

Beforehand they had written off £23billion of debt owed by the world's 18 poorest countries.

With drought and starvation again stalking the Horn of Africa, Birhan's message of hope is every bit as important today.

Her voice breaking with emotion, Dame Claire added: "People always ask me, 'Is the money we raise really making a difference?'

"Well, just look at Birhan and her beautiful little daughter Claire. The children I was treating are now having children of their own.

"It's such a wonderful feeling. It shows we did make a difference, we are making a difference and should never give up."

Making a difference ... Sir Bob Geldof, Birhan Woldu and Sun's Oliver Harvey at opening of Ethiopian school in 2009
Making a difference ... Sir Bob Geldof, Birhan Woldu and Sun's Oliver Harvey at opening of Ethiopian school in 2009

Dame Claire, now a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was famously seen in Michael Buerk's haunting 1984 BBC report that moved Geldof to start Band Aid.

Her soul-destroying task was to walk along lines of starving youngsters and pick those she felt had the strongest chance of survival.

She had rations to feed 300 children a day — yet thousands were begging for food.

When an RAF Hercules arrived laden with food and medicines days later Claire had no idea it was due to the shockwaves caused by her appearance in Buerk's film.

Birhan has never forgotten the nurses at the clinic who aided her fight for life.

Joy ... with Dame Claire in 2009, who Birhan named her daughter after
Joy ... with Dame Claire in 2009, who Birhan named her daughter after

She works with the UN's World Food Programme as a Food Monitor Assistant. As part of her job she travels to remote villages to check if children are malnourished or suffering from disease.

Together with Birhan, I have written a book charting her traumatic but ultimately uplifting story.

All author's profits from the book, Feed The World: Birhan Woldu And Live Aid, will be split equally between Birhan and the charity that supported her, the African Children's Educational Trust.

The small, Leicester-based charity provides education for vulnerable Ethiopian children such as Birhan.

The new mum will never forget the horrors of 1984 when drought and a brutal Marxist regime conspired to produce one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the last or any other century.

Campaign ... Sir Bob Geldof visits Ethiopia in 1985
Campaign ... Sir Bob Geldof visits Ethiopia in 1985

With their crops withered and their herds dying, the family sought help for desperately ill Birhan at a clinic on the outskirts of Mekele.

It was here she was filmed by a Canadian TV crew 15 minutes from death. The harrowing images were later screened at 1985's Live Aid.

Birhan lost her mother Alemetsehay and five-year-old sister Azmera in the "Great Hunger".

Birhan's family and thousands of other starving farmers were then herded on to planes at gunpoint by Government soldiers and taken to resettlement camps in the lowlands where rainfall was more plentiful.

But the camps were riddled with disease so Birhan's father Woldu hoisted her and little sister Silas on his shoulders and carried them the 800 miles home. It took two months and three weeks before they arrived back in their dusty village.

The next day — July 13, 1985 — Live Aid roared into life, and Birhan's haunting image appeared on screens above the crowd.


Inspiring ... Birhan Woldu cradles baby Claire
Inspiring ... Birhan Woldu cradles baby Claire



Chairman of the African Children’s Educational Trust

THE birth of Birhan's first child – the beautiful and healthy Claire – is wonderful and uplifting news.

It completes the full circle of Birhan's story.

From the image of her starving and emaciated which shook the world 26 years ago at Live Aid through her attending the Live 8 concert with Madonna in 2005.

A-CET is thankful for the support of The Sun and its readers.

We are now able to build rural elementary schools currently serving more then 5,000 young Ethiopians which have been partially funded by the Band

Aid Trust.

Feed The World: Birhan Woldu And Live Aid, by Oliver Harvey, is published by New Holland Publishers, £9.99. Sun readers can get 25 per cent off the book and free P&P — visit or call 01206 255800 quoting promotional code Birhan Sun.