Ethiopia: New mega irrigation project threaten pastoralist lifestyle
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who appeared at a ceremony in Jinka, a town in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State, on January 25 to celebrate the 13 Pastoralists Day announced his government’s plan to embark on a mega irrigation plan using the Omo river’s water.
The project will see the cultivation of sugar cane on 150,000 hectares of land. According to the Prime Minister, the irrigation project is expected to create 100,000 jobs; A situation that will promote not only a more settled lifestyle for local pastoralists but also harness the area’s water shortage and aid them to undertake more modern systems of animal husbandry. Gibe III Hydropower, another project on the the Omo River, has in recent years been an object of criticism among international NGO’s and pressure groups who have argued that the project will adversely impact the livelihood of surrounding communities. Critics insist that the dam will minimize the volume of water that enters Lake Turkana, in Kenya, from the Omo River and negatively impact residents of the area. Despite the project’s delay, caused by the withdrawal of international financial institutions, Ethiopia remained on its position and eventually gained financial support of close to 500 million US dollars from the Chinese government, covering 36 per cent of the project’s total cost.