By John Vidal
For a few thousands dollars a year, an Indian agribusiness, Karuturi, rents 2,500 sq km of land in Ethiopia’s Gambela province. Government ministers in Addis Ababa claim it is marginal, unused land, and its situation at the far western border with Sudan suggests this is so.
In fact, the black soil is extremely fertile, the vast landholding is accessible by a good road, and, above all, the land borders the mighty river Baro, a tributary of the Nile. It is prime land in one Africa’s least exploited regions. Karuturi’s owners, who are planning to grow palm oil, cotton, vegetables and maize there, only had to look at a good map to understand its real value.