Widow Achala Gora is worried about the future. Will she be able to keep her small patch of land, or is she going to lose it to investors?
Photo: Jörg Böthling


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With its extensive resettlement programme, the Ethiopian government is promising people improved access to government services. In reality, however, its policy is resulting in forced displacement, conflicts over scarce resources and ethnic tension. And ultimately to hunger, as the example of the west Ethiopian region of Gambela shows.

When smallholder Mark Ojulu wants to work in his field of maize, he faces nearly an hour’s walk to get there. Just like his village neighbours. Since they were resettled by the Ethiopian government six years ago, they have had to cover long distances to get to their fields. And they are not the only ones in this situation in the Ethiopian region of Gambela. According to estimates by human rights organisations, between 50,000 and 70,000 smallholders living in widely scattered communities in the swampy bushland bordering on South Sudan had to abandon their ancestral holdings in order to live in compact villages in future.

Only few promises kept

Villagisation is the name of the programme. It is meant to provide people with more education and healthcare, roads, granaries and better protection. That’s what the government says in the capital. Critics maintain that the programme is being used to clear the land for international investors.

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