There is a gold rush happening in Ethiopia, but it’s not a hunt for the yellow metal. It’s a quest for the green gold of fertile farmland. A nation more associated with periodic famine and acute childhood malnutrition than with agricultural bounty is leasing millions of hectares — an area the size of Belgium — to foreign companies, who want to grow and export food to places like Saudi Arabia, China, India, and Europe.
One-third of the fertile Gambella area in western Ethiopia, for example, is being leased for the next 50 years by the Bangalore-based food company Karuturi Global. Forests are being clear-cut, swamps drained, rivers diverted, and whole villages moved to make way for flower farms and palm-oil and rice plantations. “It is very good land. It is quite cheap…. We have no land like this in India,” effused Karuturi’s project manager Karmjeet Shekhon to the…
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