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Karuturi Global plants Sugar and Other Crops in Gambela, Ethiopia


Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd, founded by Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, is the worlds largest producer of cut flowers. In 2008 Karuturi invested in agriculture in Africa through its Dubai holding company, Karuturi Overseas. Ethiopia and Karuturi signed an agreement in November 2010 for a long-term lease on 11,000 ha in the Oromia Region and a 50-year lease on 100,000 ha in the Gambela Region, with an option for another 200,000 ha if the company completed the project within two years. By 2012 only 12,000 ha were planted with rice and corn, prompting the government to renegotiate the lease and reduce the landholding to 100,000 ha. Human Rights Watch, The Anywaa Survival Organisation, and other opposition movements have accused the Ethiopian government of forcing farmers from the area leased to Karuturi (and other international companies) to resettle via the ‘villagization’ program, and violent repression, but on May 18th, 2012, the US government denied allegations of coercion and abuse on behalf of this program. Karuturi has failed to make satisfactory progress (just 5% of the area is under cultivation in 2013), causing the Ethiopian government to rewrite policy and only lease more than 5,000 ha if an initial project is completed in a timely manner. On April 22nd, 2013, the Kenyan government found Karuturi guilty of tax evasion for nearly $11 million.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Karuturi Global plants Sugar and Other Crops in Gambela, Ethiopia
State or province:Gambela and Oromia
Location of conflict:Bako, Oromia and Ilea, Gambela
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Corn/Maize
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Karuturi has leased 100,000 ha of land for 50 years to produce corn, oil, rice, flowers, and sugar for export, hoping to reach an annual export level of 1.3 million metric tons of sugar. It has already worked out a 40,000-tonne-per-year supply agreement with Djibouti, and is negotiating similar deals with other African countries. The government of Ethiopia is planning to spend 1.4 billion dollars to increase sugar plant infrastructure to support this project.

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Project area:311,000
Level of Investment:500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Village Ilea, 100,000 people in the tribe Anywaa o
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Karuturi Global Ltd from India
Karuturi Overseas Ltd
Gambella Green Valley Plc from Ethiopia
Karuturi Agro Products Plc from Ethiopia
Surya Blossoms Plc from Kenya
Water Watch - irrigation for the project
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
International and Finance InstitutionsCommercial Bank of Ethiopia from Ethiopia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Cultural Survival,, Oakland Institute,, Human Rights Watch,, Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local Population, International NGOs
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Advocacy by international NGO and diaspora groups
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:Conduct environmental assessment surveys, enforce relocation only if voluntary policy
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Due to pressure by NGOs and organizers the Ethiopian government has set up the Agricultural Investment Support Directorate to monitor land allotment which, according to its chief Essays Kebede, will be capped at its current levels. However evidence abounds of human rights violations in the villigazation process, which continues.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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Human Rights Watch, 2012, 'Waiting Here For Death'
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ICRA Equity Research Service, 2011, 'Karuturi Global Limited'

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The Hindu, 2013, 'Karuturi debacle prompts Ethiopia to review land policy'
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, 'Karuturi sets sight on sugarcane crushing factory'
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, 'African roses are as beautiful'
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, 'Karuturi Global Ltd contemplating $2.5 billion investment in Tanzanias agriculture'
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, 'Land rent contractual agreement made between Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Karuturi Agro Products PLC'
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GRAIN, 2013, 'Karuturi Guilty of Tax Evasion'
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Ethiopia Investor, 'Controversial Karuturi to go Public, Here'
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Marant, Alexis, (Capa Presse TV) 'Planet for Sale'
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Other comments:Says Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi in January 2012, 'We are also working closely with the government to build a healthy relationship with India. I am currently the honorary consul-general for Ethiopia in Bangalore.'
Meta information
Contributor:Aliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014
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