Information About Gambela Economy
The economy of Gambella state is based on agriculture, pastoral, beekeeping and imported industrial products. Agriculture is practice mainly by Anuak people who occupy five districts out of seven districts making it the larger part of the state economy. Pastoral is practice mainly by Nuers and low scale by other ethnic groups, including Anuaks. Beekeeping is practice by Mezenger, Opuo, Kommo, Olam, Dhwok, Bula and Maw.
A picture of sorghum plants taken by Omot Oman in a farm in Goge, Gambella
Gambella state, with a total area of about 75,912 square kilometers, is one of the few lower land states in the entire Ethiopia Empire that is very rich in resources and arable land. It has fisheries, big Openo River (Baro), the Alworo Dam, Cotton, Palm oil, nature, mango, coffee, arable land, gold, other minerals fields, and these minerals are distributed throughout the region.
Oil is located in Jor, northeast of the region. The government of Ethiopia has made some preliminary agreements with the Chinese Oil Company and Malaysia to start exploring this oil in Jor this year, 2005, which included a plan to remove Anuaks and relocate them to yet known place to pave the way for exploration. Earlier the government made the same agreement with the Canadian oil company Talisman, which blowout after Anuaks in Gambella and worldwide pressured the company to severe its agreement for the fact that the oil exploration will done for the sole benefit of Prime Minister Melez Zenweni’s tribe and other corroborators.
Gold is located in Dimma district in southern most of the region and small deposit in Luga, Gambella. Dimma’s gold has been one of the resources Anuaks and other ethnic groups have depended for at least near century for earning incomes and buying clothing, creating business, paying dowry for their marriages, and for other basis trade needs with their neighbors in Ethiopia.
Entire region is blessed with arable land and this availability have enable Gambellan to easy access to food as well made the region very attractive for Ethiopia policy of land grads. The Ethiopian government has attempted before, under Mengistu Hail Mariam in the 1980s, to take away the Gambelan land, particular Anuaks, and natural resources. Mengistu’s administration relocated a large number of Tigrayans and other groups from Northern Ethiopia to Gambela and settled them in the Anuaks’ cities and villages. This was a grab land attempt by the government that government in power now to do.
Dr. Gebrhab Barnabas, Ethiopia Minister for Gambella Affairs, called the region a “basket land” and he argued if it developed properly for agricultural purposes would feed the entire population of Ethiopia. The character of Gambella as a land with many untapped resources have been identified by many political analysts as one of the sole reasons Ethiopia government ordered genocide in December 13, 2003 and other violations against Anuaks. View of Dr. Barnabas is seen by these analysts as the clear indication government ordered the genocide of Anuaks to take over the region’s rich. Ethiopia subsequent government policies toward the region have been to keep it from being developed for agricultural purpose and other needs. Only about 5% of the region’s total land is being cultivating.
Picture of sorghum plants taken by Omot Oman (pictured here) in Goge, Gambella
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported in 2000 per capita income in Gambella was US$10, which is one of the lowest in Ethiopia. Poverty is widespread in the region and many policies Ethiopia are responsible for it. Infrastructure seen by the international economic development theorists as a key to any economic development is neglected in the region. No proper roads subsequent governments in Addis Ababa have attempted to construct to encourage the region to develop economically and politically.
As result, surveys Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) and Household income and Consumption (HC) carried out in 1999 documented that population of Gambella lived in a situation than anywhere. In their studies, they found that Gambellans eat less then enough breakfasts, meals and diners that do not properly provide enough for their bodies.
Education for the region seen by many economic development theorists a key to any economic development is seriously underdeveloped in the region. In a column tracing Ethiopian education policy in Gambella on this website, Ojulu Odola, a former Gambella’s Supervisor/Curriculum Developer and a Bible Translator in Addis Ababa, estimated that “Since the rein of Emperor Haile Selassie I, up to today, there are only less than twenty Gambellan students who get a chance to go overseas and attain tertiary education. The few who get the chance went to socialist Cuba for military training and Russia Republic.”
Failure by Ethiopian various governments to provide education to citizens of the region, develop land for the purpose of the region, exert minerals for the benefit of the region, exert these minerals instead for their tribes’ benefits have hampered citizens’ ability to achieve economic growth that could environment conducive for political stability.