Ethiopians Resettle in ‘Villagization’ Plan
Ethiopia’s effort to resettle local farmers into main villages while also leasing land to foreign corporations or wealthy Ethiopians has put it under scrutiny for charges of violent forced relocations.
- According to the Christian Science Monitor article, about 45,000 rural households (usually, families) in the Gambela region of western Ethiopia are being relocated in a process called “villagization.” Read our short encyclopedic entry on “village.” Can students identify the two forms of rural settlements at issue in Gambela?
- Households are moving from isolated farmsteads to villages.
- Relying on information in the “village” encyclopedic entry, can students identify a key difference between isolated farmsteads and villages? How will Ethiopian families have to adjust to life in their new settlements?
- Isolated farmsteads are much more self-sufficient settlements than villages. Ethiopian villagers will have to learn to live in a more densely populated area, and rely on other people and communities for goods and services.
- The Ethiopian government lists many advantages to living in villages. Can students name some benefits to living in villages or cities as opposed to isolated farmsteads?
- larger, more organized, and better-funded schools
- more sophisticated health-care facilities
- greater access to electricity, running water, and other utilities
- greater access to government resources, such as the court system
- more diverse career opportunities
- greater exposure to different lifestyles, ethnicities, religions, cultures, etc.
- Some relocated Ethiopians are criticizing the villagization program. Why do students think some people would object to villagization?
- Most importantly, critics say the government forced them to move, often using violence. (The government denies this and says all villagization has been voluntary.)
- Critics say villagization has created greater poverty in Ethiopia by reducing individual independence and self-sufficiency.
- Why do students think the Ethiopian government is encouraging rural farmers to relocate to more densely populated villages?
- The government says villagization is part of a greater modernization program. Villagers have greater access to infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, retail and industrial businesses, and utilities such as electricity and running water.
- Critics say villagization is part of a authoritarian plan to benefit foreign investors and wealthy Ethiopians. The Ethiopian government has leased abandoned land to billion-dollar Indian and Saudi corporations. These corporations have established large agricultural businesses on the land.
- Some Ethiopians affected by villagization say they have been forcibly displaced. Read our encyclopedic entry on refugees or our media spotlight “Mapping Displaced People Around the World.” How would students classify the relocated Ethiopians?
- Ethiopians forcibly relocated as part of the villagization program would be considered internally displaced people (IDPs). Although the Christian Science Monitor identifies some Ethiopians who ended up in Kenyan relocation camps, most displaced farmers have relocated to more densely populated villages inside their own country.
- Look at our MapMaker Interactive layer showing internally displaced people around the world. Does Ethiopia have a large population of IDPs? Can students think of reasons why or why not?
- The map shows Ethiopia has very few IDPs. This may be due to the fact that villagization is not considered a form of forced relocation. The Ethiopian government maintains that villagization merely encourages families to migrate to more densely populated areas, and communities where relocated Ethiopians resettle are not considered refugee camps.
- As outlined in the Christian Science Monitor article, the villagization program has contributed to a dilemma for the World Bank and Western aid organization. These organizations directly benefit rural Ethiopians: They finance most government programs providing teachers, nurses, and development workers in Gambela. However, many organizations are increasingly worried that supporting the Ethiopian government amounts to supporting forced relocation and torture. If students represented a foreign aid organization, what factors would they consider in evaluating whether to support programs in Ethiopia?
- Would their considerations change if they represented a corporation evaluating whether to lease land in Gambela? If so, how?
- Would their considerations change if they represented the Ethiopian government? If so, how?
- Would their considerations change if they were a native of Gambela asked to relocate? If so, how?