Lands in Gambela that are part of Karuturi's 300,000 ha concession (Photo: Bloomberg)
BY ELLENI ARAYA
Karuturi Global Ltd. is to construct embankments around 25,000ht of farmland, half the size of Addis Abeba, in Gambella Regional State, at a cost of 15 million dollars, following its report of a loss of 15 million dollars due to flooding.
The loss incurred was due to the destruction of maize planted on 12,000ht of farmland in Jicao and Pulldong Weredas, 700 km southwest of Addis, according to Ramakrishna Karuturi, General Manager of the company.
The company announced last Monday that fresh floods from the river banks of Alwero and Baro in Western Gambella submerged the farmland, destroying crops that would potentially have produced 60,000tn of maize. The farm, which has a perimeter of 150km, had dikes on the side that faces the river, according to Karuturi.
“However, the dikes which covered a length of 80km across the farm and stood at around 1.8 metre tall were not enough to withstand the flooding,” Karuturi told Fortune. “We are trying to make the land a polder by building taller dikes surrounding the entire farm, which are four meters tall, nine meters wide at the bottom and three meters wide at the top.”
Polders are low-lying tracts of land enclosed by dikes forming an artificial hydrological entity with no connection to outside water other than via manually-operated devices.
The company hired Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS), an Indian public sector enterprise with autonomy to enter joint ventures and subsidiaries, to provide consulting services in flood control and the design of irrigation & drainage systems.
Along with WAPCOS, Water Watch, a Dutch advisory firm, has also been retained by Karuturi. The firm provides satellite information on hydrological processes and water management issues.
“These companies were hired six months, before the flooding because they have great expertise in the area of flood control and irrigation in the region,” Karuturi told Fortune.
WAPCOS had previously signed agreements with the government of Ethiopia for the study of Koga Irrigation and Watershed management project, extension of services for Wabi Shebelle river basin master plan study and the feasibility study of Kesem and Tendaho Dams in 2004.
Water watch also had previous involvement in Ethiopia, when it presented an inventory of the natural resources and planning of an irrigation system for Tana and Beles basin in 2009.
Karuturi Global already had plans to make the farm a polder before the flooding.
“We had long-term plans to slowly build barriers around the farm; however the recent flooding has necessitated that construction should begin soon, ahead of our plans,” Karuturi told Fortune.
The cost of building the dikes is three million dollars per 5,000ht of land spanning 30 km, according to Karuturi.
“Plans for the construction of the dikes will be finalized in November and we will start construction then,” Karuturi told Fortune. “We plan to cover 5,000ht of land per month and finish the project in five months.”
The company still has plans to plant crops in late October or November 2011, which will cover 5,000 to 10,000ht of land, and expects to harvest the crops in March 2012, according to Shilpa Roi executive assistant at Karuturi.
“The rainy season is over so we do not have to worry about another flooding in the near future,” Karuturi told Fortune.
Karuturi agreed to lease 300,000ht of land in Gambella region in 2009 for the production of cereals, sugar cane, palm oils and vegetable. For Phase I of the project, Karuturi has been given 100,000ht of the agreed upon land.
Karuturi, who is the largest rose producer in the world, also has 100ht of land in Holeta, Oromia Regional State, 40 km from Addis Abeba and 3,85ht of land in Wolisso, South Western Shoa district, 90 km from the capital.