Indigenous Residents near by Ayo Farmland Want to Discuss with Dr. Sheikh Mohammed Alamudi on Their Grievance

From an Ethiopian prospective, Dr. Sheikh Mohammed Alamudi is a highly respected figure in Ethiopia because of his generosity and huge investments. The residents of Ayo farmland in Amhara Region, Awi Zone, hold ambivalent feelings in this regard. The residents contacted by wlka’s informant said, “they have admiration to the Sheikh for his generosity and commitment in fight against poverty in Ethiopia. However, they said when it comes to their particular area the residents expressed strong grievances. They stated Sheikh declined to construct 26 Km road, from the main highway to the farm area (Ayo) his heavy trucks are using day and night. A woman argued vibration of the heavy truck on the road blows dust, which clouds the town for minutes. She added what we drink and eat is contaminated with dust. She thinks that Dr. Alamudi had no information about their problem, she said, “if he knew, he could solve our problem in matter of weeks, you see he is the gracious great man.”

The indigenous farmers have also long standing dispute on the land ownership since the previous military government, called Derg. Ayo farmland was established in 1983 during the previous government. The designated farm area comprises of about 5,650 ha of land from south of Azana town through Baku Kebele (residential area). Baku itself is not part of the farmland; it is located in valley, semi-george depression, which is inconvenient for machinery farming. Baku lays mountain to mountain, south to north and it is home of about 2,400 indigenous family members. Approximately, 160 ha of hill, the east of Baku is also plowed by the same farming company, leaving Baku Kebele (central Baku, got) in the Middle. This 160 ha of land is one of the points of dispute. Theoretically or in terms of the site map, the dispute area was incorporated into the company during the military government at the time of project establishment. Despite, the plan was not actually materialized because of stiff opposition from the residents. As the result of the farmers’ resentment, then military government’s State Farming Chief Executive Manager, Mr. Demse Reta reportedly declared cancelation of the plan that incorporates the east of Baku into the project. The cancelation was orally declared and the site plan was not discarded. When the dispute was at this stage, the new government assumed power in 1991, and eventually declared market oriented economy policy. Consequently, the existing state projects had to be privatized. In 2001, the Ayo farmland was privatized and the company owned by Sheikh Dr. Alamudi won the bid. During transfer, probably neither the government nor the company was aware of the farmers’ resentment.

After the ownership transfer, the company reportedly pushed 10 ha land toward Baku from the west. This move created another dispute front in area is called Cibcib (Tsibtsib).This time, the dispute reached to court. Regional Supreme Court passed the verdict in favor of the farmers’ case, but the company reportedly appealed to the federal court. One farmer stated if the federal court overturns the decision in favor of the company, me and my family no where to go, but will die in our land. Another farmer said, “our request is simple we want to see the company stay away from the east of Baku.” However, many people argued that problem would be resolved when they discuss with Dr. Alamudi in-person. They felt that the gracious Sheikh would not stand against the poor farmers. They thought the managers working in Ayo lack wisdom and understanding of their grievance.

Working condition in the area reportedly somewhat challenging. The nearest and larger town in the area is called Azana. The town has no light; the residents said they have no light for the past eight months, because the power transmitter in the area reportedly failed, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, North Brach is too slow to act despite of their complaints. The area is hot approximately 34 degrees in Celsius and plowed bare land, exceptions of green trees in the residential villages. There also two large farming companies to the south of this project area, which engaged similar activities. The area once with high rainfall is experiencing somewhat drought; the environmental protection appears be neglected. The wlka’s informant saw about 60 young males and females while working in the farm field. Some of them were mixing chemical fertilizer and corn seeds in the soil with their bare feet. They got paid 15 Birr per day, equivalent to UD 0.86 cents, paradoxically, daily meal even for junk food costs, 30 Birr, $UD1 and 72 cents in the area per day. A young man stated he was working to have some experiences to be qualified to work for “a planned auto-assembly in Kosober by MIDROC”, another company led by Sheikh. He said he was excited to work in the auto-assembly line “if the plant is going to be established as planned.”

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