Somali Region, DBE in negotiations over land restoration

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Abdurahman Eid Tahir

Somali region is negotiating with Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) to restore the land that the bank seized for collateral from those who failed on agriculture investment.

Abdurahman Eid Tahir, Head of Irrigation and Basin Development Bureau of Somali regional, told Capital that the interest of investors in the region mainly in the past couple of years is growing. He said that the interest of foreign investors is growing giving an example of an investment on agriculture irrigation at Adi Gala that is run by two investors.

“Few days ago, we have received investors from Saudi Arabia to investment on irrigation development, which was not observed in the past,” he says, “the regional peace and security have created good opportunity for foreign investors.”

He expressed his anger on the previous so-called investment practices that made local investors grab huge amounts of land without coming up with results.

“These so-called investors have secured huge amount of loan from DBE on collateral of the land but disappeared without any action,” he explained the situation that had transpired in the previous administration before the reform.

He expressed that those who received the loan without settling the payment made DBE to possess the plot which currently has massive potential for development, whilst it sits idle at the moment.

The plots that are located around Gode area shall be developed because of their potential due to that the region is negotiating with the bank.

“This potential land is idle, borrowers and the money is not available so we are looking for solution to tap the potential,” he explained.

A steering committee led by Mustafa Mohoumed Omer, President of Somali region, are in talks with DBE so that the bank can at least transfer the land for other investors to be productive.

Similar mischievous undertaking of loans from state banks mainly from DBE have transpired in different regions like Gambella and BenshangulGumuz, while the expected investment was not registered.

Due to that financial institutions were in trouble because they don’t have adequate collateral possession except the plots, which is under the constitution are public asset not individual’s resource.

New hope

Investors are interested not only in crop production but also fodder cultivation and export to potential markets in the Arab World.

Abdurahman said that mainly in Gode area about 2,000 hectares of land have been covered by lowland wheat cultivation, which is a new initiative that the federal government commenced to cut the wheat import that consumes a billion dollar per annum.

Under the participatory project that is led by the government but developed by the community, new promising performances are observed, according to the regional bureau head.

He said that this new approach to develop the resource by using the community and resource there, signals new hope.

In the past six months, 10,000 hectare has been in development by the community by supplying different agricultural equipments like water pump, “we have four major rivers; Genale, Dawa, Weeb and Wabi Shebelle, and besides that there are also potential small rivers like Fafen and Cherer so we have distributed about 1,000 water pumps with different capacity for the community to engage on agricultural activities based on the revisers,” he said.

The region is working to attract investors because it needs huge investment and there is enough resource including land and water.

“If the government facilitates the required infrastructure, investors shall exploit the opportunity and produce for local and international market and we will work to ensure that than the previous experience,” Abdurahman said.

He reminded that significant number of the society in the region is living on aid, “Under the safety net program, about 1.8 million people have benefited, which shows that the food security issue in the region is a priority, therefore, the federal and regional governments should give priority.”

Regarding agricultural investment, the regional reformist government is working strongly and if the outcome is positive for wheat production it would be a good lesson for further development.

“We are focused on food sufficiency in the ten-year development plan that is expected to be run by different stakeholders in the coming 10 years,” he explains.

The region has 1.5 million hectare of land that shall be easily developed by using Genale and Shebelle rivers.

“If we include resources other enormous underground water resources like in Shinelle, City Zone, the capacity shall be expanded thus the land is very suitable for irrigation development,” the Head of Irrigation and Basin Development Bureau added.

Under the new commercial farm and participatory investment, the cultivation will not only cover crop but fodders in the regional like Somali, which has a huge pastoralists base that needs to mitigate the environmental effect and natural disaster for their livestock.