Kuraz Sugar Development Project: Vital for people residing around it
SC Legal and PRs Division
Realizing the economic advantage that can be gained through industries that use agricultural inputs to produce goods for local consumption and export, the Ethiopian government has given a priority for the establishment and expansion of agro-processing industries and has already started exerting maximum efforts towards its implementation.
As part and parcel of the GTP, developing sugar industries is one of the priorities in the agro-processing sector. Out of the ten sugar factories planned to be built within the GTP period, six of them with a capacity of 12,000 tcd each are located at the South Omo Zone.
By the time they reach at their full production capacity each of these factories are expected to produce 278,000 tons of sugar and 26,162 m3 ethanol per annum respectively. As part of the project, 20,652 residential and 720 non-residential houses will be constructed in the sites. Roads that will link the plantation to the factories and villages will be constructed as well. In addition to this, water works, land preparation and plantation of seed canes have already begun.
Vast irrigational Constructions and infrastructures including dams will also be undertaken to cultivate sugar cane for the factories. Currently at Kuraz Sugar Development Project major tasks are being implemented. Preparations are underway for the construction of 16 meters high and 804 meters wide diversion weir on the Omo River. The diversion is planed to provide water for 150,000 hectares of sugar cane plantation.
The benefit of the project for the people
No doubt, the project benefits the people around the site. The people of the Lower Omo Valley had long been marginalized and deprived of any development opportunities. Apart from living in a naturally endowed environment the people have never been provided with education, health and other basic services and lived in a harsh condition. Absence of roads and other communication infrastructures have alienated the people of the Omo Valley from their surrounding community.
With no education and no contact, the people of south Omo lived being victims of natural disasters and harmful cultural practices which give them nothing except remaining to be an amusement for foreign tourists. Presently the situation is changing with the government’s policy to foster equitable distribution of recourses to citizens residing in any part of the country. Thus followed the introduction of development activities to the region of which the sugar development project is one.
Thanks to the sugar development project institutions, now that infrastructures which were non-existent in the past have began to be in place. Roads, electricity, potable water, schools, health stations, veterinary centers are now available. Even from the outset of the project, 1,392 pastoralists, organized in SMEs, have managed to get job. Out of the above pastoralists 249 youth have already been made permanent workers of the project. The number is expected to increase along the expansion of the project. Moreover, the pastoralists will benefit out of using by-products of sugar cane for animal feed and also start sedentary farming which leads to zero-grazing system.
Is there a forced relocation?
Basically there is no one to be relocated at all, let alone forced relocation, due to the sugar development project. Since the indigenous people of Salamago, Daasanach, Nyangatom and Hammer woredas live totally outside the 150,000 hectare project site; there is no need of relocation of people. Some of the pastoralists of Bacha and Mursi of Salamago woreda live along the Omo river hunting fish. Bodi and few Mursi tribes practice ‘flood retreat cultivation’ using the rich silt left along the river banks by the slowly receding waters, growing sorghum, maize and beans. Similarly Nyangatom, Murule and Kwegu tribes of Nyangatom Woreda, Kara tribe of Hammer woreda, and Daasanach pastoralists of Daasanach woreda also live on ‘flood retreat cultivation’.
However, when rains and crops fail and the tribes travel to places in search of grazing lands periodic conflicts arise. Due to the volatile nature of the climate and their pastoralist way of life they didn’t ever settled. That is why a settlement program is started by the regional government and the corporation in order to make the people benefit from a settled way of life along the irrigation schemes developed by the sugar development project. Sugar Corporation and the Regional government have provided a total of 23.8 million birr for the first round of the settlement program so as to help the people engage on sedentary farming.
According to the settlement program, 2,250 households of the Bodi tribe, who are the first round settlers in four villages, preparation of farm and grazing land, potable water is underway. 1,700 hectare land is already prepared near the projects command area and soon will be distributed to the Bodi tribes in order to enable them to use the irrigation infrastructure made by the sugar project. The construction of a primary school, grain mill, administration offices, and residential houses for teachers, development and health workers, health stations and other public service amenities has already been started. And they are provided with regular food assistance until the distribution of land is finished and they start to get their own yield.
The Lower Omo Valley, where the sugar development project located, is a spectacularly beautiful area with diverse ecosystems which supports a wide variety of wildlife and cultural resources. There are three national parks and a World Heritage Site. With recognition of this fact the government has taken all the necessary precautions not to endanger the environment alongside the construction of dams, irrigation infrastructures, clearing of forests etc by undertaking an environmental impact assessment which is abided by the guidelines of the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority.
Moreover, with the involvement of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, coordinates of the location of the World Heritage Sites have been identified and provided to the study team. And also the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority is involved regarding the three national parks. So far the study revealed that the environmental impact of the project is negligible.
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