Category: "Food Shortage"

E.Africa faces famine, Eritrea suffers in silence

July 30th, 2011
An Eritrean woman with her children in the Mai-aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia, AP

E.Africa faces famine, Eritrea suffers in silence

MAI-AINI, Ethiopia (AP)
— Alem Teke watched her crops in Eritrea shrivel and die from drought. She braved landmines and escaped being raped by soldiers to save her children from starvation by fleeing across the border to a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia.

Alem, a farmer's wife, made it to the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia. She was more fortunate than some of her friends who were raped. Like many people fleeing famine that has hit parts of the Horn of Africa, Alem has overcome the odds to escape hunger, but as the world focuses on famine in Somalia, Eritrea suffers in silence.

Eritrea, a nation of 5 million people that borders Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, has also seen failed rains and widespread food shortages. But its autocratic government, which faces international sanctions, refuses to acknowledge a drought has swept its territory. Satellite images show that the Red Sea nation has been hit by drought conditions similar to those in Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

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Ethiopia land lease risks displacement: report

July 30th, 2011

Ethiopia land lease risks displacement: report

By Jenny Vaughan (AFP)

— Ethiopia's leasing of vast swathes of arable land to foreign and state-owned firms risks adding to the millions of people already requiring food aid in the drought-struck region, a US based think-tank warned on Friday.

Some 200,000 people are at risk of being displaced from land-grabbing, with at least 350,000 hectares of land leased since 2008 in south-west Ethiopia alone, according to the Oakland Institute.

"The impact is going to be terrible, because we can't expect this kind of development to benefit the local population," said Oakland's policy director Frederic Mousseau.

An additional 90,000 hectares are marketed as "available" in the federal land bank, Mousseau said.

"They will be losing their livelihood, and just join the millions of people that are relying on food aid in Ethiopia," he said.

Driven by recent food, energy and climate crises, investors from richer nations have been acquiring rights to vast tracts of land in several African nations to meet demand for bio-fuels, crops and mining resources.

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Fears that Eritrea may be hiding its famine victims from the world

July 30th, 2011

Fears that Eritrea may be hiding its famine victims from the world

By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent

Concerns are mounting of a possible hidden famine in Eritrea while international aid agencies scramble to fill a "black hole" in information coming out of the isolated Horn of Africa nation.

The UN, Red Cross and other organisations have appealed to the Eritrean government to conduct a joint-assessment as the impact of the drought crisis continues to worsen in neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia.

Eritrea has so far denied any shortages and accused the international community of crying "crocodile tears" over famine victims in other countries. Ethiopia, where 4.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, as well as 228,000 refugees, claims that more than half the population in Eritrea needs food aid. This has been strongly denied by Eritrea, where presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab said: "There [are] no food shortages in Eritrea at the present time. Last year, we had a bumper harvest."

Read More The Independent

World Bank Drought Plan Focuses on Ethiopia, Kenya

July 30th, 2011
Livestock drink from a water point in the Kenya-Somalia border town of Liboi, July 29, 2011

World Bank Drought Plan Focuses on Ethiopia, Kenya

By Gabe Joselow | Nairobi

VOA News

The World Bank Friday unveiled new details of its plan to help victims of drought in the Horn of Africa. The bulk of the effort focuses on Ethiopia and Kenya, not Somalia.

The bank's Country Director for East Africa Johannes Zutt says over $600 million is being made available to those affected by the drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

But only $9 million is going directly toward disaster relief in Somalia, the worst hit country in East Africa.

Zutt says the problem is access.

“As you all know, the fragility in Somalia, where the drought is at its worst and where famine has already been declared in Bakoool and Lower Shabelle, that fragility makes it difficult to respond to the situation because humanitarian agencies and development partners have limited access,” said Zutt.

The money for Somalia will be used to help communities at the heart of the famine, through programs implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Newly arrived refugees from Barane in Lower Shabelle region in Somalia, rest in the Kenya-Somalia border town of Liboi, July 29, 2011

But the bulk of World Bank funds are going to be doled out over three years to Kenya and Ethiopia, which are also experiencing drought.

The World Bank has a long history in Ethiopia, and, with other donors, has contributed $850 million to a so-called “safety nets” project in the country that now covers over 7.5 million people.

Zutt says the Bank is adding funds to that project and a similar one in Kenya.

“Those social safety nets are not intended to be a complete substitute for the livelihoods of people affected by drought," said Zutt. "They are merely intended to supplement the incomes of people who are affected, and both in Kenya and Ethiopia we have seen very large numbers of very poor people who are just on the edge of extreme vulnerability.”

Most of the World Bank's efforts are focused on medium and long-term projects. Of the emergency funding announced, $267 million is going toward economic recovery over the next two years.

Another $330 million is for drought resilience programs, such as investment in agriculture and water projects.

The clear message from the World Bank is that droughts will continue to be a part of life in East Africa.

“The Horn of Africa faces recurring droughts, but climate change is making them more intense. In the longer term, it's important for the countries of the Horn to prepare for recurring droughts," said Zutt. "All climate models agree that temperatures in the Horn of Africa will increase by one to three-and-a-half degrees Celsius over the coming decades.”

Food production and sustainable agriculture is a key part of the World Bank's initiatives, as recurring droughts have significantly raised the cost of food.

The World Bank says since 2010 rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty and says a further 10 percent increase could impact another 10 million.


Famine and abundance rub shoulders in Ethiopia

July 22nd, 2011
Red and friends work on Karmjeet Singh Sekhon's farm in western Ethiopia (Philipp Hedemann)

Famine and abundance rub shoulders in Ethiopia

by Philipp Hedemann in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,


While millions of people in the Horn of Africa suffer a terrible drought, foreign investors are harvesting tonnes of cereals to be exported to Asia and the Gulf states. reports from western Ethiopia on farmland leased by an Indian entrepreneur, where it is not unusual to see young children labouring in the fields.

Kneeling in the middle of a sugar-cane field in blistering 40-degree Celsius heat, a young boy is digging up weeds. An Indian worker stands over him to make sure he doesn’t miss any. Red is eight years old and earns €0.83 (SFr0.96) for a day’s work, less than the cost of using pesticides.

The United Nations says 4.5 million people in Ethiopia are currently in need of aid as a result of a devastating drought. Three million are affected in Somalia, where there are pockets of famine, 3.5 million in Kenya and 120,000 people in Djibouti.

The humanitarian crisis threatens to become worse than the terrible 1984-85 famine which devastated the region and caused the deaths of a million people. Today most emergency food aid is imported.

Meanwhile, Indian tenant farmers are hoping to earn millions by exporting crops grown in Ethiopia. In the world’s twelfth poorest country the race for the country’s most productive agricultural land has only just begun and the social and environmental consequences are immeasurable.

“It’s still total wilderness here, but we will soon start growing sugar cane and palm oil,” explained Karmjeet Singh Sekhon as we drove through burning bush land in his Toyota 4x4.

The 68-year-old Indian investor is the manager of a huge farm, which covers an area of ​​nearly 300,000 hectares in western Ethiopia, one of the biggest in the region.

Land rush

Since 2008 there has been an unprecedented rush to secure farmland in Africa, South America and Asia as a result of rises and fluctuations in prices of foodstuffs on world markets and food riots in a number of countries.

Countries including India, China and the Gulf states want to feed their own growing populations but are also looking to position themselves in the race to produce biofuels.

The World Bank says 45 million hectares of farmland were negotiated in 2009 – up from four million a year between 2006-2008. It is estimated that by 2030 another six million hectares will be leased annually in developing countries, two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

“Land acquisitions are a huge risk. The veil of secrecy that hangs over these deals must be lifted so that poor people do not pay the ultimate price and lose their land,” declared Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank.


In Ethiopia 85 per cent of the 80 million population live off the land. But little has changed in the past 100 years and most of the barren fields are still worked using ox-drawn ploughs.

The government hopes that leasing farmland to foreign investors will lead to a wave of modernisation.

According to the Rome-based UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), food production needs a 70 per cent boost between 2010 and 2050 to meet global needs.

Investors seem to have woken up to this fact, however. Agricultural groups like Karuturi Global are blooming. The firm, owned by Ramakrishna Karuturi, is the world’s largest rose producer and wants to become the number one agricultural business. And the Ethiopian government should help.

All Ethiopian land belongs to the state, which hopes to dedicate three-quarters of it to agriculture in the years ahead. This remains an ambitious target as so far only 3.6 million hectares, mainly in the west, has been leased to investors. But with one hectare of land only costing SFr5 a year to rent the situation could change rapidly.

Sold off

Critics say the developing world is being sold off but Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rejects the attacks.

“Those who accuse foreign companies of landgrabbing are ill-informed,” he said. "We do not want to admire the beauty of our country while we starve.”

It is not surprising that the Ethiopian government has become the darling of international agro-business investors.

But local farmers like Ojwato despair. It only takes him a few minutes to cross his one hectare of sugar cane on foot, whilst Sekhon takes several hours to cover his by jeep.

The idea that his neighbour’s harvests are being exported while the country is on the verge of famine makes him angry.

“Foreigners promised to bring electricity, water and hospitals. But in the end only a few of us have worked in their fields and the pay was poor,” Ojwato told

Philipp Hedemann in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Infosud/
(Translated from German by Simon Bradley)