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Sunday, Apr. 18, 2010


Honored to accept invitation

Chairman, C.W. Nicol Afan Woodland TrustNagano

In response to the April 11 letter from Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane, of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia ("No 'land grab' in Ethiopia"), may I first say that it has long been my dream to be able to return to Ethiopia to see what has happened to the Simien Mountain National Park since I left some 40 years ago. I have been deeply saddened over the years hearing tales and reading letters and articles about the loss of wildlife, forest cover and topsoil in this region.

The article that appeared in my regular column on April 4, inspiring the ambassador's response, was written after I read the detailed article by John Vidal, a respected veteran journalist with The Observer, titled "Food shortages drive new land grab in Africa," which appeared in The Japan Times on March 15.

Vidal quotes an Ethiopian from the Gambella region: "The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with tractors to invade their land."

Vidal also quotes a letter of protest written to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by Haile Hirpa, president of the Oromia studies' association: "This is the new, 21st-century colonization. The Saudis are enjoying the rice harvest, while the Oromos are dying from man-made famine as we speak." Is this article all nonsense? If so, shouldn't the ambassador be protesting to John Vidal and The Observer as well?

I personally know of the efforts of a leading Japanese company that is cooperating with African farmers to create sustainable systems that blend technology with traditional African lore, improving not only life for the farmers through the production of high-value product, but at the same time enhancing the local environment in restoring natural diversity.

Can you show me that in modern Ethiopia? If so, I would be greatly honored to accept the ambassador's invitation to visit Ethiopia and to tell our Japan Times readers about it.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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