The Blessed Land

GLF 2017 Blog Competition
Eden Yitna Teferedegn

History is a witness that Ethiopians are great warriors in defending their land against foreigner intruders. They defeated Italy bare handed saying no to colonization back in the 18th Century.  For every Ethiopian, Ethiopia is the land that is protected and given by God. We all are taught that Ethiopia’s  rivers, mountains, forests, crops and animals are just made perfectly by God. However, there is another dark side of our history where the introduction of drought late in the 1970s changed the image of the country as the land of curse instead. Since then the world knows the country as a place of famine, drought, contagious diseases and much more. Even though, Ethiopia, as imagined by most of its citizen, is a place of fertile land, a country where there is sunshine for thirteen months according to Ethiopian calendar, owner of beautiful landscape with endemic wild animals with amazing buildings from our ancient civilization, immeasurable cultural diversity and more importantly the green land rich in valuable organic and inorganic minerals. Thus, with such natural gift major economic source of the country is farming and livestock. For every Ethiopian farmer, land is everything. Land is the source of food, the measure of wealth, a guarantee for the well-being of the owner. For a farmer, its piece of land can be passed from his ancestral lineage or its treasure to pass it to its coming generation. Ethiopian Farmers are fortunate enough to be able to be grown a wide variety of crops in different times of the year. Though farming is not supported by current advanced machinery, local farms have been able to feed the country just depending on the natural source of water meaning , relying on seasonal rain. For the majority, access to safe insecticide, pesticide, and fertilizer depend on their financial capacity and it is largely unaffordable. As a result, it requires an enormous amount of labor and a longer period than normal to harvest and collect in Ethiopia. However, at present, the most challenging situation that farmers are facing is they are displaced from their own land by government for industrial development and city expansion. Lands which surrounds main cities are mostly the focus of government plans. Despite most people are against both movements, major protest broke out because of the displacement of farmers to expand cities. However, the majority are not aware of the long-term consequence of transforming farmlands into industrial zones. Accordingly, industrial effluents which are drained to local small farm and vegetation areas are indeed polluting both the land and plants. The effect will enter into food chain endangering the life of human and animals consuming plant sources from those areas. Some areas which are known to be fertile to produce corn and ‘teff’ are turned to be the site for flower plantation. Which in fact poison the land after a frequent use then it will be impossible to treat it for later agricultural use. To date, there are many protests across the country against the government for its act of taking their land for expanding the main cities. Despite the expansion of cities is part of development, displacing farmers for the sole purpose of building skyscrapers left the government with serious opposition. A couple of years back the government of Ethiopia encouraged a movement of planting trees across the country by civil and non-governmental employees and students of all level. After a while, the trend has lost its followers and the planted trees have for the most part not survived. This implies that there is no solid plan in replacing the green land while giant buildings are the concern of the government. The most horrifying aspect of displacing farmers from their land is the compensation that the government proposes to provide them if they give away their land peacefully, which is clearly too low when it is compared to the price of the current market for a single square meter of real-estate apartments. As I tried to mention above, for Ethiopian farmer land is everything. It is their source of food, economy, accumulation of wealth and most importantly it has a sociocultural impact. For the current landowner, its land is its family lineage. They can give their life for a piece of land. It is in the blood of the majority of Ethiopian who believed they belong in the land where they own it. There is a close attachment to the land and its owner in the essence of its heritage. Losing it is like breaking that lineage and there is no family line that can be recognized anymore. Giving up of their land is a defeat. Land for Ethiopian farmer is not for sale at any cost. As it is stated above, the rise of people’s voice is not the case of insufficient settlement, it is the matter of identity and belonging. For the government, of course, the issue is not what concerns the community. The only means to stop protesting and the refusal of settlement is law enforcement by which people can be silenced through mass shooting and sending to prison. However, that doesn’t stop local community from going against the government when it comes to their land which they believe is their surname, in which they have trust. The question is how far? And when will it stop? That is left for the government to consider it very seriously.

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