Land-Grab, Green-Revolution, and the North-South Divide

4 mins read

( Ethiopia, though considered as a single unit by the outside world, has never integrated all of its regions into one political community with equality and justice. Just like the South used to be dominated by the North in the Sudan before the independence of South Sudan earlier in 2011, North Ethiopia (or traditionally called the highlands of Ethiopia or Abyssinia) has always controlled the political & economic power in the North as well as in the South (which consists of regions conquered by the rulers of the North in the late 19th century when the rest of Africa was under the Scramble for Africa). Some of the conquered regions in the South include Gambella, the Ogaden, Sidama and Oromia.

Since the South was a conquered region, its land was divided among the royalty and nobility of the North, and owned by them until the late 1970′s when the 1974 Revolution made land property of the state. As the system before the Revolution was feudalism, farmers in the South owned neither the farmlands nor the products of the farmlands; called the Gebbar System (Serfdom), the landlords owned the outputs of farmers as well as the farmlands. And, no such land system existed in the North, where farmers owned their farmlands and their products.

Green Revolution in the North, and Land-Grabbing in the South
Fast forward some 35 years, since a uniform land system was put in place across all regions in Ethiopia, and you will notice the reemergence of the North-South divide about land ownership & management system. Instead of having a uniform land ownership and management system, the current regime – which hails from the North – has launched a Green Revolution in the North (where land is owned and managed by the farmers themselves) while vast hectares of prime farmlands are being sold to foreign governments and transnational corporations in the South (Gambella, Oromia, Benishangul, and Sidama-land and neighboring states).
Land-Grabbing in Gambella (Similar cases in the rest of South): Farmers are evicted from their ancestral lands by rulers hailing from the North to hand over land to grabbers.

Green Revolution in Tigray (North): Farmers change nature to fend off the 1984-style famine; the environment is restored acre by acre to improve yield.

The Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, clearly stated, during a World Economic Forum meeting in 2010, this policy of his regime; see the video below as he explained that farmlands in the lowlands (South) would be up for grabs while farmlands in the highlands (Abyssinia) would not be sold to anyone.

In addition, the evicted farmers in the South will later be recruited as cheap day-laborers to toil day and night on their own lands without owning the outputs, similar to the feudal system of the pre-1974 Ethiopia. On top of that, the environment in the South will degrade as heavy usages of agricultural additives spill into ground waters as well as damage the soil irreversibly. Unlike the Green Revolution in Tigray (Abyssinia), the goal of the Land Grabbing in the South is not to fend off famine, but to export all of the grains out of the food-strapped Ethiopia so that the rulers can get foreign currency in return – similar to other export cash crops, such as coffee.

Video: Prime Minister Zenawi on the North-South Divide about Land Ownership & Management System:

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