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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Indian firms have a sprawling land empire abroad, especially in Ethiopia, as part of a move encouraged by different governments to safeguard the nation's food supply. But is the policy truly succeeding in helping feed over a billion Indians?
Erratic weather in India repeatedly causes a scare about low food stocks and rising inflation. As agricultural productivity in India has significantly come down, many Indians are looking to Africa, particularly Ethiopia, buying large tracts of agricultural land to safeguard food supply.
Indian firms have a sprawling land empire abroad, especially in Ethiopia, as part of a move encouraged by different governments to safeguard the nation's food supply.
According to the global land monitoring agency Land Matrix, India is the biggest investor in land in Ethiopia, accounting for 70 per cent of the land acquired by foreigners since 2008.
Firms from India have acquired over 600,000 hectares of land in the country, which is more than 10 times the land acquired by the companies in India under the 2005 Special Economic Zones policy.
US policy think tank, the Oakland Group, says that Hyderabad-based Karaturi Global operates 300,000 hectares of land to grow palm oil, cereals and pulses, leasing the land for a mere 1.81 crore per year for 50 years.
Apart from these, S&P and Energy Solutions operate 50,000 hectares of prime land to grow biofuels and edible oils, leasing the land for 2.2 crore per year for 50 years.
According to the US think tank, BHO Agro PLC operates 27,000 hectares of land to grow cereals, pulses and edible oils, leasing the land for 93 lakh per year for 50 years.
Exports to India from Ethiopia are primarily vegetable products which jumped from $2.7 million to $28.5 million between 2006 and 2012.
Despite strategic holdings and the influx of food grains from those holdings, India topped the United Nations' 2015 World Hunger list surpassing China. This highlighted that despite the supply, problems persist with the delivery system, which cannot meet the basic needs of millions of Indians.
Sports clubs are a popular summer holiday activity at SOS Villages
Summer break at SOS Children’s Villages is jam-packed with fun activities for children of all ages. It is a time where children can discover new talents, socialise and be active. We plan a range of summer activities from field trips to art lessons.
With July just around the corner, many SOS schools are starting to close for the summer. We take a look at how two Villages in Ethiopia Makalle and Hawassa – are keeping busy this summer.

Cultural learning in Makalle, Ethiopia 

Ethiopia is filled with many historical landmarks and natural wonders. At the Makalle Village (spelled Mek'ele in the local language), children 14 years and over have the chance to visit historical sites on their summer break. One ancient city they visit is Axum and its royal tomb. 
SOS girls mark the Ashanda ceremony in Makalle, Ethiopia
SOS children singing and dancing at the Ashanda festival
Children of all ages visit numerous museums such as the Hawelti Museum, where the children learn about the royal history of Ethiopia.The children under 14 years old visit a local amusement park in Makalle, where they enjoy bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, horse riding, roller coasters and other amusement games. The children also travel to the Quiha Zoo. 

Religious festivals

Throughout the year, several festivals take place in northern Ethiopia. SOS Children makes a conscious effort for our children to participate in the festivals. Ashanda is one popular festival that takes place close to the Makalle Village. It is a colourful festival where women dress in traditional clothing known as ‘Tilf’ and their hair is weaved into a cornrow called ‘Kunano’. The crowd walks in a line down the main street in Makalle while drumming and singing traditional songs.

Fun in clubs in Hawassa, Ethiopia

At the Hawassa Village in Ethiopia, we try to keep the children as busy as possible through a range of enjoyable games and activities. Children have the option to join various clubs where they can develop new skills and talents. There is a football club where professional coaches teach the children how to play. There is also a scouts club where children learn about first aid, conservation and navigation.
Taekwondo lessons at the Makalle Village in Ethiopia
The children at the Makalle Village have the opportunity to learn Taekwondo during their summer holiday
The Village also travels to Lake Langano, a popular lake just north of the Village. Here, children participate in water sports, horse riding, nature walks, beach football, and have the chance to see a variety of birds, hippos, baboons and warthogs.

Passion for running

The children also participate in organised events. One special event is the Great Run Race which is organised by Ethiopian Olympic gold medallist, Haile Gebrselassie. This event encourages children to stay active. The children practise well in advance and stretch together on the big day.
Saron is one of the SOS children who has a passion for running. She explains that being able to participate in the Great Run Race is very important to her. Saron was awarded a medal after completing the 5k children’s race. “I was so excited when I crossed the finish line and received my medal from Haile Gebrselassie. When he gave me the medal he encouraged me to continue practising because I will be a famous athlete when I grow up,” says Saron.

Caring for the community

Aside from field trips and clubs, children at SOS Children’s Villages also have the chance to help their local community. At certain Villages, children have the option to volunteer a few hours of their summer in local projects such as environmental protection, litter clean up, beautification activities and offering their moral support at local hospitals.

As the ruling EPRDF in Ethiopia claimed a 100% historic election victory, Britain’s   Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, calls on the government in Ethiopia “to increase diversity in parliament and ensure the voices of all citizens are heard”, a statement from the UK’s Foreign Office said yesterday.
The statement quoted minister Duddridge as saying he welcomed “the fact that the recent Ethiopian parliamentary elections were conducted in a generally peaceful environment and that the Ethiopian people turned out in large numbers.”

But he said he agreed with the “European Union concerns about the negative impact on the electoral environment of arrests of opposition members and journalists, closure of media outlets, and obstacles faced by the opposition while campaigning.”

On the 100% electoral win for the ruling EPRDF, Mr. Duddridge urged the government in Ethiopia “to explore ways to increase the diversity of political parties in future parliaments, and to ensure those who voted for other parties this time still feel their voice is heard in the next five years.”

Mr. Duddridge’s comments came following the announcement on June 22nd by Ethiopia’s electoral board of the results of Ethiopia’s 5th general elections held on May 24th. The results show a 100% win for the ruling EPRDF and its regional allies which took 546 of the 547 seats in the national parliament, a globally thinning phenomenon and against the party’s own record in the past 24 years.
Ethiopia's ruling party has swept all but one seat in the election to the 547-seat parliament held in May, final results showed on Monday, again crushing an opposition that complained of voting abuses.
Voting for the last seat was delayed after clashes between backers of an independent and those supporting the candidate of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). But the EPRDF is expected to win that too.
Merga Bekana, the electoral board chairman, declared the final tally, barring the last seat, at a news conference.
The opposition secured just one seat in the last parliament, after winning an unprecedented 147 seats in the 2005 election, which was marred by violence. The opposition did not take up their seats after that vote, saying the poll was rigged.
Opposition activists have accused the authorities of irregularities and squeezing them out of politics in this latest and previous votes, a charge government officials dismiss.
"The election was coordinated in a free, fair, peaceful, credible and democratic manner," Merga said, adding turnout was 93.2 percent of the 36.8 million registered voters. Ethiopia's population is 96 million.
Opposition groups such as the Medrek coalition and Semayawi party said last month they would reject the results, citing harassment and abuse of their candidates.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his party have touted the government's success in delivering one of Africa's fastest growing economies. Rights groups say the government stamps out dissent and jails bloggers and journalists.

An Ethiopian woman casts her ballot as other queue up in Addis Ababa, during general elections on May 24, 2015 (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker)
Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia's ruling party and its allies achieved a clean sweep in last month's general election, winning all 546 parliamentary seats, the final results showed Monday.
African Union observers said the polls passed off without incident, but the opposition alleged the government had used authoritarian tactics to guarantee victory.The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn scored a landslide victory, stripping the opposition of the one seat it had held in the outgoing chamber, said Merga Bekana, chairman of the electoral board.
Preliminary results for the one constituency that still had to return final results -- the southwestern Bonga district where elections were delayed -- showed the EPRDF also winning that seat.
"The performance of the ruling party is good but the competition was strong," Merga told reporters at the release of final results.
"The general elections were characterised by high voter turnout and orderly conduct of the elections proceedings. The elections were culminated in free, fair, peaceful, credible and democratic manner."
The EPRDF, in power in Africa's second-most populous nation for over two decades, along with its allies also won a near clean sweep in regional state councils, winning all but 21 of the 1,987 seats.
Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said the party's success was the result of Ethiopia's economic advances.
"Voters have credited the ruling party for the economic progress it introduced in the country," he said, speaking before the final results were announced.
"They want the continuation of this policy. In view of the weak, fragmented opposition and the lack of viable alternative, it was very likely that the ruling party would win in a landslide."
Opposition leader Yilkal Getnet, president of the Semayawi or Blue Party, criticised the results.
"The political space in Ethiopia is totally closed," he told AFP. "The practical lesson for Ethiopians and for the international community is that the EPRDF has no interest in creating a multiparty system in Ethiopia. This policy of dictatorship have been uncovered."
Critics also dismissed the results.
"This result was completely expected, there is no multiparty system in Ethiopia. It's just fake," said Taye Negussie, a sociology professor at Addis Ababa University.
Ahead of the results, the Addis Standard, a rare independent voice in the Ethiopian press, commented on the "tragic demise of the multiparty system."
- Opposition lose all seats -
The EPRDF took back the only seat that was held by the opposition, securing all 23 seats in the capital Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia, whose 1984 famine triggered a major global fundraising effort, has experienced near-double-digit economic growth and huge infrastructure investment -- making the country one of Africa's top-performing economies and a magnet for foreign investment.
It also remains a favourite of key international donors, despite concerns over human rights, as a bastion of stability in an otherwise troubled region.
Ethiopia's former Marxist rebel-turned-leader Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, was succeeded by Prime Minister Hailemariam, who has said he is committed to opening up the country's political system to allow more space for opposition parties.
But rights groups routinely accuse Ethiopia of clamping down on opposition supporters and journalists, and of using anti-terrorism laws to silence dissent and jail critics.
Activists have said the polls were not free or fair due to a lack of freedom of speech.
The United States, which enjoys close security cooperation with Ethiopia, also said it remained "deeply concerned by continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views."
US President Barack Obama will in late July become the first sitting American leader to visit Ethiopia.
The European Union has also said that true democracy had yet to take root in Ethiopia.
The African Union deployed 59 observers for the polls, but European Union and Carter Center observers, who were present for the 2010 vote, were not invited.