2013 Projects
Ethiopian Resource Education
Jonathan Leonard

The problem is something that is being referred to as “Neo-Imperialism.”  Although not a particularly accurate term, it refers to a very serious inequality spurred by international capitalism.  The problem is that corporations from booming industrial nations (especially China) are buying parcels of land from African governments and tribes for a fraction of what they are worth.  The sellers have no understanding of the value of such raw materials in a production process, and thus are giving away their livelihood and economic future for cheap (or for free)!

In Ethiopia especially, the denizens of the land are not being consulted by the government before the sale of their land is made.  This is in direct violation of their National law which states:

Article 26/1:”Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.” The declaration also outlines compensation measures for landowners. Article 28/1.: “Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.”

Unfortunately, these articles have been fully ignored, and land has been leased/sold to foreign investors without any consultation of the land’s denizens.  Land has been leased to US, Chinese, and Saudi Arabian investors, many of which displace the people,and destroy the land (diverting rivers, digging canals, deforestation, etc).  According to the UN, It’s estimated that by 2020 135 million people will have been driven from their lands either by direct removal or degrading soil conditions.

Part of the solution is education.  A starving and uneducated person might trade a diamond broach for a loaf of bread, not knowing that they could get 1000 loaves if they sold their diamond through a proper channel.  The Ethiopian Resource Education project will begin at a grassroots level:  educating the denizens of “available land” as to it’s potential value in an industrial production scenario.  This will give them an idea of how valuable the land is to the foreign investor, which is currently unknown to them.  The value of their land, as compared to the “sale” price of other Ethiopian parcels of land will no doubt incite rage and bitterness towards both the government and investors.

Education will then branch out into rights/laws afforded to them by both Ethiopian and international standards.  This will include, not only information on how they are being marginalized, but also provide connections to international organizations and Ethiopian politicians who advocate action in accordance to the National/International laws.  Advice will be garnished on potential channels of recourse, as well as advice on structuring grassroots organizations.

Depending on the success of these two steps, a third step will be to use grassroots leaders in conjunction with international watchdogs to approach the government, demanding their input or compensation in the matter.  Since the people will now have an idea of the value of their land, they will be able to demand a reasonable compensation and legitimately enter the negotiations.


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