Ethiopia forces starving farmers to repay loans

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- The UN Emergency Unit for Ethiopia Friday released a report on an unfolding food crisis in the southern part of the country, blaming the government for forcing starving families to repay farm credits.
Forcing farmers facing serious food shortages to pay back money borrowed to improve their land was "immoral," according to the report.
The report urges the Ethiopian government to ease the credit burden on already overstretched farmers facing severe food shortages.
It says many farmers in Sidama Zone of southern Ethiopia are already relying heavily on humanitarian help from charities and cannot repay their loans.
In some parts of Ethiopia farmers who have been unable to repay money borrowed for improved seeds and fertilizers have been jailed.
Interest on loans taken out by farmers can be as high as 12.
5 percent --higher than bank rates-- for "agricultural extension packages" of improved seeds and fertilizer.
"It is just immoral and impossible to expect full repayment for the supplied agricultural extension packages from farm households that are already experiencing a food shortage.
"If part of their debts cannot be written off, they will experience even bigger problems, and it will become very difficult for them to overcome this unfortunate livelihood situation without government support and humanitarian assistance.
"The current extension package being disseminated and implemented throughout Ethiopia should be a supplement to indigenous cereal production rather than total substitution that threatens food security and subsistence agriculture," the report says.
Sidama Zone was hard hit during the 1999 drought.
Massive soil erosion and failure to tackle the drought problem have exacerbated the situation.
As a result many farmers have been unable to pay back their agricultural loans.
They had resorted to cheap second-generation hybrid seeds, leading to reductions in yields by as much as 30 percent.
In 2000 the farmers used 2,740,000 kg of fertilizer compared to 311,900 kg in 2002.
Improved seed usage has also dropped dramatically from 519,000 kg in 2000 to 13,600 kg this year.
Although the price of maize has gone up to 65 Ethiopian birr per 100 kg, the amount is not high enough for farmers to break even.
It is estimated that at a price of 70 birr (US$8.
20) per 100 kg farmers could break even.
Presently, about 90,215 people and 15,000 children in Sidama Zone are desperately in need of food aid.
According to the report, many under-five children are suffering from acute and chronic malnutrition, resulting in kwashiorkor and marasmus.

14 يونيو 2002 16:54:00




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