“How can they say the land is not ours?” asks Okello O to the camera, horrified. “Our ancestors are buried here, we were born and grew up here.” The old farmer is just one of many who were forced to leave their hometown in the Gambela region in Western Ethiopia. A Saudi-run agricultural company purchased large areas of a national park and planned to turn them into rice fields.
The fate of people like Okello O and the conflicts in the region are explored in the film “Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyena: The Green Gold”. The documentary by Swedish director Joakim Demmer was presented at the 15th Africa Film Festival in Cologne. The festival features 80 films from 25 African countries, including a series of documentaries and feature films on land grabbing and migration. Many filmmakers and activists are also guests.
Hunger persists despite investment
So what repercussions do African countries experience after a large amount of land is acquired by foreign companies for industrial agriculture or mining purposes? Together with Ethiopian environmental journalist Argaw Ashine, Demmer investigated the background and consequences of land-grabbingin Ethiopia. An important issue is basic food security, says Ashine. “Millions of people need food aid every year, and the assumption was, if we have investors from agriculture in the farmland, we will gat a chance to feed our own people. But it’s not true, the investors are coming to produce crops for their own people, not for us” he explains.
Demmer’s film shines a harsh spotlight not only on foreign companies, but also on the complicity of the Ethiopian government. In addition, it highlights the role of international institutions. A development program sponsored by the World Bank, for example, sought to provide access to water, food and social facilities for the rural…