French company relocates investment plant over land dispute

Addis Fortune | 12 August 2017 [FR]

French company relocates investment plant over land dispute

by Berhane Hailemariam

The Oromia Investment Commission (OIC) has faced a challenge in relocating 600 farmers from the 335ha of land out of the total 800ha leased to European Food and Cattle Plc in East Shoa, Liben, Chukana Wereda, near Ziway.

The French company, European Food and Cattle, obtained the land a year ago to establish a company which will process animal fodder and dairy products, with a 681 million Br investment capital and working capital of 50 million Br.

Having obtained a license in 2014 from the region’s Investment Commission, the company leased the land after getting approval from the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) in February 2016.

A month after the approval, the regional investment commission assured the company to hand over the land in 30 days, according to Yirgalem Gebre, deputy manager of the project.

Nevertheless, the investment office failed to keep its promise.

“Seven months have passed without receiving the land,” said Yirgalem.

OIC could not live up to its word as it failed to convince the farmers to evict the land, according to Belay Duferra, OIC Support and Follow-up team leader.

“The farmers did’t agree with the compensation payment offered to them,” said Belay.

The land belongs to 643 farmers who resided in the area under Gogeti Goro and Liben Gadula Kebele. The farmers used the land for farming and cattle grazing.

Gudeta Senbeto, 27, is one of the farmers who resisted relocating his farm that is growing teff and vegetables, citing a reason of low compensation.

“We are offered to get 38Br a square metre as a compensation, which is unfair,” said Gudeta.

Another farmer, Doba Teko, who lives in the same area, agrees with Gudeta.

Doba Teko, a 32-year-old farmer, is optimistic about the investment, hoping it can alleviate the unemployment rate in the area. But he resisted leaving the area for the same reason as Gudeta.

“We only ask the government to give us reasonable compensation,” said Doba.

But as a temporary solution, the company currently has settled in Alage Agricultural TVET College on a 200ha plot of land, cultivating maize and sorghum to feed the 6,000 milk cows planning to start breeding in a month, according to Yirgalem.

European Food has also requested 1,000ha of land for expansion in Alage.

The cows, according to Yirgalem, are breeding by using a hormone transfer system, also known as Embryo Transfer, where the hormone will be sourced from France to breed 6,000 cows that can give 32 litres of milk a day.

Currently, the company has 77 permanent workers at Alage with a plan of pushing the total number of employees to 801 when it becomes fully operational.

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