Beles Sugar Development Project, Ethiopia
“I live with my husband and with my two children. I give flour to my husband when he goes to the farm in Berha, because if I bake injera here it gets spoiled easily on the road. I have to go many times to the mill house, because I can carry only small loads. In the past, before resettlement, it was more convenient: the mill was closer by and I could carry my baby easily. Mill house, fuel wood and water were quite near. Now my husband doesn’t help me because he is away most of the time. If I had money I would pay for a cart: it is 20 birr to transport a quintal. But since I have little money, I prefer to use it for other expenses.”
“Here I am near a shop to buy oil. We get one litre of oil, but this is not enough. Sometimes we do not get oil at all. Resettled people get one liter of oil, regardless of the size of the family. The government said that one litre is enough, because it assumes that we use butter. But the problem is that cows and women now are living far away from each others. Many people in my neighbourhood do not keep their cattle in their compound. The milk is just used for the shepherd who stays with the cattle. The milk gets spoiled if it is transported here. As an alternative to oil I am using sesame. We asked the government ‘why only 1 litre?’ but there was no response. Together with the oil we also get two kilos of sugar.”
“Here a boy is fetching water in the house of my husband’s uncle. Digging your own well is difficult. People asked us 3,000 birr to dig a well in our house. I fetch water from my husband’s relatives for free, but when I notice bad expressions on their face I prefer to fetch water from my father’s house. But it is very far, so I do not so often. There are people who sell a jerry can of water for one birr. Before I also used to collect water from the government communal water. But there was always a long queue. Three years ago they started asking people to contribute money to repair the system but I refused to do so. Although the quality of the communal water was much better than from the well. If there was enough water the hygiene of the house would have been better, we could wear clothes washed properly, plants will get enough water. Even though all men and women need water, women are most affected by the absence of it. They need water for all their activities. There are many plants in my house. In the past I used to water the plants but now not any more. The availability of water in the wells is influenced by the water in the sugar plantation. When the small canals are on hold (closed), the well here dries. When the water in the canal is released, there is also more water in the wells, when the water is released there.”
“The grain in the picture is dagusa (finger millet). We sell the soya beans we produce and we buy dagusa. In the past we used to produce peanuts, dagusa, soybeans and sesame. Now the land is not good to produce gobe (sorghum) and soya beans. The price of gobe is 3 birr per kilo, while the dagusa is 7 birr per kilo. But gobe can last only two weeks after grinding while dagusa can last up to 2 months. And one injera of gobe and half injera of dagusa are the same. Gobe doesn’t fill your stomach. People are producing gobe because the land is not suitable for other crops.”
During the rainy and harvest season, Alemitu’s family moves to another area where her husband cultivates a rented plot, which is considered more fertile than the one he received as compensation after resettlement.
“This used to be farm land around the Sugar Scheme, on the road to Dangla. I took this photo to explain the idea that we used to have surplus grassland for our livestock, but we have lost it all. Here they construct a new road. The man in the photo is carrying grass to feed his animals. You cannot get it near your house. The Sugar Project doesn’t seem to have limits. It continues to expand, displacing poor people like me. You know the saying: ‘A nomad doesn’t have home?’ We are like that, we don’t have a home anymore. The only benefit that the Sugar Project has is that men get jobs as guards while women work in the sugar fields. We also cut the grass, hiding ourselves, when the guards are not around. This is because we are not allowed to use the grass.
Our community has been invaded by many migrants seeking a job in the Sugar Project. As a consequence, many animals have been are stolen by strangers, sometimes armed. These are dangerous people!”
“My family migrated to another region, where we can get fertile land for farming. I rent farm land for 2,500-12,000 birr depending on its fertility and size. We make tents where we can stay for the rainy and harvest season, from June to January. I bought the tent for 200 birr to make a shelter, but it does not protect us properly from rain and wind. At the farm place, we share household items with the other farmers there. Life there is really challenging. There is also malaria. The place is very far, it takes about four hours to walk there. It is in Region Six (Benishanghul-Gumuz, west of Beles), where there is vast and fertile land and abundance of water.
Migrating is particularly bad for women. They have to walk a lot and they face special challenges, like if they have to carry their infants, if they are pregnant, or if they have their periods. A men can sleep everywhere at night, but women need protection. I carry bed-nets to protect my family from malaria infection when we migrate to that place. My wife was pregnant during the last farming season and it had been very challenging for her.”
“The photo shows cattle sleeping between two canals of farming land. The size of the place where my cattle could sleep is reducing from time to time because the farm is expanding. I am worried about the place where I will leave my cattle after some time. As you can see, the cattle are staying along the road because they don’t have another place to sleep.”
“These donkeys have loaded grain harvested in Region Six. It shows the challenges we have after harvesting the crop. We are asked to pay tax on our way back home. We need to pay 300-400birr for a load of one donkey. The farmer seen in the picture (above) ploughs his land using the donkeys because the land is too sloppy. Oxen can’t do it. But the donkey does not have sufficient energy to plough a large land and it cannot adapt to harsh weather.”