There are serious changes in the south-western part of Ethiopia, which hosts some of Africa's most fascinating and colorful ethnic groups. Things are changing very fast and not everything is for the better for the people there, like for example the Suri people around Kibish, Tulgit and Koka. The Ethiopian Agriculture and Rural Development State Minister Aberra Deressa once claimed: " ... at the end of the day we [do] not really appreciate pastoralists remaining in the forest like this ... pastoralism is not sustainable ... we must bring commercial farming, mechanized agriculture, to create job opportunities to change the environment." In 2011 the Ethiopian government started a 5 years development plan for the region around the Omo River. It covers among others state-run sugar plantations and factories in South Omo, the Gibe III dam, a resettlement program and the Malaysian plantation in Koka.
In October 2012 I visited the Koka plantation which is operated by the Malaysian company Lim Siow Jin Estate. The plantation was founded almost 2 years ago. Right now around 140 people are working on the farm, among them also a few Suri people. The manager of the plantation explained me the master plan of the 55-year leasing contract between the Malaysian owner and the Ethiopian government, which is quite impressive. The plantation has a size of about 31.000 ha, which is half the size of Singapore. The plantation grows palm oil, sesame and rubber trees. For 2013 an airport is planned, and in the near future a number of factories. The plantation is far away from the harbor (Djibouti), so transportation will be a problem. Since the target of the plantation is the world market, the plantation is planning to process the raw material in new factories directly on the farm, and the transport will be managed by airplane. At the end of the leasing time over 40.000 people should work on the plantation and in the nearby factories.
When you are travelling off the beaten track there is no guarantee to only see the wonderful things of the world. In fact, sometimes you also have to face very sad situations like for example begging children. You shouldn't give them anything, because they supposed to go to school, but they learned that is simpler asking tourists for sweets or money instead of walking a long distance to school and study. Sometimes it breaks your heart, but that is also part of travelling, especially in Africa.
Recently I watched a German documentary (still unreleased) with the title 'Süßes Gift' (which means translated 'sweet poison'). And I read the book 'The Trouble with Africa' from Robert Calderisi. Both publications, the documentary and the book, describe the problems with foreign aid, food aid and the huge difficulties the continent of Africa still has to deal with. Like the 'forbidden gift' to the begging children, a lot of people are questioning the foreign aid and the food aid. Among others it has been argued, that as long as the people in Africa are used to getting free food aid, why should they use their own strength and help themselves? Well, maybe the connection between begging and ditching school in case of children is quite obvious, but is foreign aid really a 'sweet poison' and are all the Africans lethargic? The whole field of foreign aid is undeniable far more complicate. But as a matter of fact, foreign aid is a global business.
Historically the idea of the foreign aid started after World War II. Institutions like the World Bank and the IMF were founded in 1944. The Marshall Plan (1947) was a major program to rebuild the war-battered European economies. In the 1960s the foreign aid flourished when most of the African Countries became independent. A basic idea was to give money to undeveloped countries that they supply raw material and manufacture light products like textiles and shoes. Right from the beginning the foreign aid was a business and the donor countries expected to benefit from the process as well: Foreign aid is given as a loan and, if the development is successful, the rich countries eventually find new ready markets for their products. Since the 1960s the foreign aid was increased steadily. In 2009 roughly $35 billion of international foreign aid from the ODA countries went to sub-Saharan Africa each year.