Daily Video

April 23, 2010

Ethiopian Farms Going Global

The African country of Ethiopia has often been associated with chronic famine, and many Ethiopians still depend on food aid to survive. But, more and more foreign investors are discovering that Ethiopia has abundant land rich for farming.

Many commercial farms have sprung up across Ethiopia that grow food destined for wealthier countries. While Ethiopians work on the large farms, they do not usually make a living wage and lack the technology to farm the land themselves. Many experts and Ethiopian government officials criticize the foreign farms because the benefits to ordinary Ethiopians are minimal. And, the large farms often run the smaller Ethiopian farms that do exist out of business.

Other experts see the situation in a positive light and view Africa as the next breadbasket for the world. They say that if the native Africans are treated properly and are able to benefit from their land’s abundance, leasing African farmland to foreigners could become a win-win situation.


“They swindled us. They promised roads, schools, water and whatnot. But the only evidence we saw is when they wanted this piece of land for a road, they came in with excavators and created huge mounds. It was extremely muddy, and it was hard to get around.” – Wedajo Gonana, farmer

“It’s immense in terms of employment and job opportunities. And this is — this is where people can really think positive, rather than saying, oh, money is coming from outside.” – Nebiyu Samuel, investor representative

“The productivity is very low due to technology. Most of our farmers are plowing with ox.” – Esayas Kebede, Ethiopian ministry of agriculture

Warm Up Questions

1. Where is Ethiopia?

2. What is arable land? What qualities must good farmland have?

3. What parts of our country are known for their abundant farmland?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think leasing Ethiopian farmland to foreign investors is a good or bad idea? Why?

2. Merera Gudina, the political science professor in the video, likens the Ethiopians’ work on large farms to a “colonial arrangement.” What does he mean by this?

3. What other resources does the African continent have? Take a look at diamonds in Botswana, oil in Nigeria, wine and agriculture in South Africa. How is farming in Ethiopia similar or different from those examples?

Additional Resources

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