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Huge irrigation scheme planned for the Lower Omo Valley

Speaking in Jinka, capital of South Omo Zone, on 25 January 2011, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced plans to convert 150,000 ha. of the Lower Omo Valley into irrigated sugar cane plantations.


This will be made possible by the completion of the Gibe III hydroelectric dam, which is expected to begin operations in September 2013 and which will eliminate the annual flood. The reservoir is due to start filling in June 2012.

The announcement was made during the 13th Annual Pastoralists' Day Celebrations, organised by the Ministry of Federal Affairs, the Pastoral Affairs Standing Committee of the House of Peoples' Representatives, the Southern Regional Government and the Pastoralist Forum of Ethiopia. The motto chosen for the celebrations was 'We will bring Ethiopia's renaissance to an irreversable point by realising the Growth and Transformation Plan in pastoral areas'.

Human rights organisations have expressed concerns that the Gibe 3 dam could have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of over half a million people, in both Ethiopia and Kenya, who depend on the Omo flood and on Lake Turkana for cultivation, pastoralism and fishing. It has also been predicted that the level of the Lake, which receives most of its water from the Omo, could be drastically reduced by large-scale irrigation schemes in the lower valley.

In his speech, the Prime Minister dismissed such concerns, saying they came from ‘the friends of poverty and backwardness’ who wanted to keep pastoralists as ‘a case study of ancient living’ for the benefit of tourists, scientists and researchers.


More information

The Prime Minister's speech in English

The downstream impact (David Turton)

The impact on Lake Turkana (Sean Avery)

USAID Ethiopia trip report (Leslie Johnston)

USAID Kenya trip report (Leslie Johnston)

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