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Dhaka, Sunday, 26 March 2017

The construction of a huge dam in Ethiopia 

2015-01-06 21:05:14
The construction of a huge dam in Ethiopia 

The construction of a huge dam in Ethiopia and the introduction of large-scale agricultural businesses has been controversial - finding out what local people think can be hard, but with the help of a bottle of rum nothing is impossible.
After waiting several weeks for letters of permission from various Ethiopian ministries, I begin my road trip into the country's southern lowlands.
I want to investigate the government's controversial plan to take over vast swathes of ancestral land, home to around 100,000 indigenous pastoralists, and turn it into a major centre for commercial agriculture, where foreign agribusinesses and government plantations would raise cash crops such as sugar and palm oil.
After driving 800km (497 miles) over two days through Ethiopia's lush highlands I begin my descent into the lower Omo valley. Here, where palaeontologists have discovered some of the oldest human remains on earth, some ancient ways of life cling on.

The construction of a huge dam in Ethiopia and the introduction of large-scale agricultural businesses has been controversial - finding out what local people think can be hard, but with the help of a bottle of rum nothing is impossible.
After waiting several weeks for letters of permission from various Ethiopian ministries, I begin my road trip into the country's southern lowlands.
I want to investigate the government's controversial plan to take over vast swathes of ancestral land, home to around 100,000 indigenous pastoralists, and turn it into a major centre for commercial agriculture, where foreign agribusinesses and government plantations would raise cash crops such as sugar and palm oil.
After driving 800km (497 miles) over two days through Ethiopia's lush highlands I begin my descent into the lower Omo valley. Here, where palaeontologists have discovered some of the oldest human remains on earth, some ancient ways of life cling on.
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Some tourists can be found here seeking a glimpse of an Africa that lives in their imagination. But the government's plan to "modernise" this so-called "backward" area has made it inaccessible for journalists.
As my jeep bounces down into the valley, I watch as people decorated in white body paint and clad in elaborate jewellery made from feathers and cow horn herd their cows down the dusty track.
I arrive late in the afternoon at a village I won't name, hoping to speak to some Mursi people - a group of around 7,000 famous for wearing huge ornamental clay lip plates.
Mursi woman with lip plate
The Mursi way of life is in jeopardy. They are being resettled to make way for a major sugar plantation on their ancestral land - so ending their tradition of cattle herding.
Meanwhile, a massive new dam upstream will reduce the Omo River, ending its seasonal flood - and the food crops they grow on its banks.
It is without doubt one of the most sensitive stories in Ethiopia and one the government is keen to suppress.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised schemes like this, alleging that locals are being abused and coerced into compliance.
I'd spoken to local senior officials in the provincial capital of Jinka, before travelling into the remote savannah.
The suspicion is palpable as the chief of the south Omo zone lectures me. Local people and the area's reputation have been greatly harmed by the negative reports by foreigners, he says.
Eventually a frank exchange takes place and I secure verbal permission to report on the changes taking place in the valley.

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