The Triumphant Journey of Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project

  1. Introduction

The command area of Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project incorporates some areas of South Omo Zone (Selamago and Gnangatom Districts), Bench Maji Zone (Surma and Mienitshasha Districts ) and Keffa Zone (Diecha District) of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State of Ethiopia.

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1.1 The Land Selected

According to the revised plan of the sugar development sector the command area of the project selected for the construction of four sugar factories, one with 24,000 TCD and the rest three with 12,000, is 100,000 hectares where cane cultivation is going on. The area of the project is very close to the Kenyan border which strategically makes export to the neighboring countries easier. The landscape of the selected sugarcane cultivation field is a plane one making cane farming through canal irrigation much convenient.

1.2 Population

The data gathered on a survey issued in 2011 shows that the population of the aforementioned districts which the command area of the project encircles is less than 279,026. Less than 53,596 people are expected living around the actual project command area.

1.3 Population Density

The areas mentioned above are very sparsely populated and the average population density of the districts as a whole is 9.6 persons per kilometer square. When it comes to the selected actual point of land of the command area the population density will definitely get much lower. Therefore, there has been actually no need for massive villagization, let alone resettlement program while Ethiopian Sugar Corporation has been carrying out the project work during the last six years.

1.4 Practice of Locals for Living

irrThe majority of the locals living in and around the command area of the project are pastoralists leading their lives wandering around searching for grazing land and water of their cattle. Besides, they had been repeatedly exposed to shortage of food due to erratic rainfall. Prior to the inception of the project there was no significant crop production going on in the project command area districts except small amount of crops grown using flood retreat farming. Therefore, by then those living on agriculture were very insignificant in number. And, the main food sources for the households were market crops, livestock products such as milk & meat. It is rather with the inception of the sugar development project that many have become familiar with crop farming being allotted with irrigable land from the Project. Currently they, growing sugarcane at their allotted irrigable land, are waiting their turn to supply it to Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory One and Two.   

1.5 UNESCO Registered Heritages

The national as well as internationally registered heritages of the country of natural, cultural and religious nature around the project area have been preserved well all the way since the start of the Project. Therefore, there has never been no internationally as well as nationally registered historical, cultural, archeological or religious site affected due to the project.

1.6 The Omo River and Lake Turkana

An Italian company- SGI Studio Galli Ingegeneria which had conducted a study on Omo River for 20 years has proved that the river’s water discharging capacity per second is 5,000 Cubic Meter. And, the amount of water which shall be used for the whole sugarcane cultivation activity will only reach around 4% of the discharged amount and out of it 30% will later on go back to the river course, irrigating the cane cultivation field. Hence, the impact of the project on Lake Turkana is very insignificant.    

2. The Sugar Dev’t Sector During the GTPs

2.1 A Glimpse at the Sector During the First GTP

A national survey conducted regarding the sector has confirmed that Ethiopia has more than 500,000 hectares of land suitable for sugarcane development. And, the abundant water resource, suitable climate and untouched fertile as well as irrigable land needed for the sector which the nation is naturally endowed with have demanded a strategic plan that has enabled the country to utilize this huge potential effectively. Accordingly, the first Five Years Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) the FDRE government had set were highly cognizant of these potential of the nation for the sector. 

shchoolThe sector is one among other key development issues, in the long run, believed to play a pivotal role in transforming the country’s economy to the level of those countries with middle income. This is because that the ten new sugar factories the nation had planned to build at the start of the GTP and been actively engaged in together with the concluded expansion projects on its existing sugar factories help the nation a great deal in not only doing away with the import of sugar but also enable it to export sugar to the international market in the very near future.

Moreover, the wide job opportunities the sector was proved capable of creating to citizens of the nation and the electric power these factories will in the end generate and send to the national grid will also play a significant role to the country’s move to become an economy of industry-led one. Therefore, as the sector is an indispensible one to the effort the country has aggressively been exerting to get rid of poverty, it has, since at the outset, won the full commitment of the FDRE Government. And, to attain the aforementioned goals with regard to the sector, the nation has been actively engaged in building ten sugar factories since the kickoff of the First GTP.

Hence, Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, since the start of the First GTP, has been constructing four sugar factories at Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project among which three with a capacity of 12,000 TCD (Tone of Cane Crushed per Day) and one with 24,000 TCD.

Among them Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Two has started production in March, 2017 while Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory One has carried out trial production by end of June, 2017.

om1And, during the First GTP the nation has concluded the expansion work of Wonji Shoa Sugar Factory in which the two pioneering sugar factories namely Wonji and Shoa sugar factories both of which had been built more than sixty years before are replaced by a new and modern Wonji Shoa Sugar Factory with 12,000 TCD. The two old sugar factories had a design capacity of only 3000 TCD altogether. Wonji had seized production in mid 2012 while Shoa did the same in mid 2013.

The other sugar factory which had undergone through an expansion work was Fincha Sugar Factory in which it had been transformed from 5,000 to 12,000 TCD.

Moreover, efforts made during the First GTP have enabled the nation to make new sugar factories operational namely - Tendaho, Kessem and Arjo Diedessa sugar factories into regular production by 2014/15.

On the other hand, the cane cultivation expansion work carried out in line with the factory expansion job has enabled 65,363 hectares of land to be covered with cane. The land covered with cane at the start of the GTP was only 30,397 hectares and it, compared with the current coverage, shows 215% growth. 

Likewise, the 2 million 903 thousand 740 quintals of sugar which had been produced in mid 2010 had reached 4 million quintals by mid 2015.

2.2 The Sector in the Second GTP

om3The endeavor of the nation on the sugar development sector has now proved promising when it is observed at the second year of the Second Growth and Transformation Period. Taking a lesson from practice, the nation, since the First GTP till now, has built and made operational four sugar factories (Tendaho, Kessem, Arjo Didessa and Omo-Kuraz Factory Two) while one (Omo-Kuraz Factory One) has carried out trial production.

Moreover, Omo- Kuraz Factory Three which’s construction works are undergoing at Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development is expected to enter operation till end of 2017 while the factory construction works of Tana Beles One and Two; Omo-Kuraz Five as well as Wolkayit sugar factories are going on and all are expected to be operational till mid 2020.

Vis-à-vis the factory construction work carried out since the start of the First GTP the nation has been constructing three big dams among which the Tendaho, Kessem-Kebena as well as the temporary dam of Omo are completed while the construction of two dams namely Wolkayit and Arjo Didessa is underway.

And, both residential and non-residential or service giving blocks which are 3,363 and 85 in number respectively and accommodate hundreds and thousands of employees and their families have also been built at all project sites.

Hence, many international companies are now showing interest to participate in the sector either in joint venture or foreign direct investment(FDI) modalities while some are signing Memorandum of Understanding /MoU/. One foreign company is making itself ready to engage in Ethanol production at Wonji Shoa Sugar Factory in joint venture modality.

3. The Triumphant Journey of Omo-Kuraz Sugar Dev’t Project

 3.1 Efforts Made to Address Social Responsibilities

siraedelThe FDRE government, while launching Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project and also other projects some six years back, gave priority to all forms of benefit of natives of the project areas. Accordingly, prior to the inception of the project, the Government had held successive discussions with the locals of the area as well as the concerned people and had started running the project getting their full consent.

As the majority of the people living in and around the command area of the project were pastoralists leading their lives wandering around searching for grazing land and water of their cattle there had never been any resettlement program around that had caused displacement. What in fact there was is a villagization program with willing natives.

And, it is with the inception of Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project that locals in and around the project areas got the privileges of various infrastructures and social services such as schools, road, health stations of both human and cattle, flour mills, potable water, ponds, cattle-crossing structures, irrigable land, etc. There are about 167 students enrolled at Aligobiya Elementary School which was established in 2011/12 and found at Selamago District of Village Two. And the first enrolled have now completed fourth grade schooling.

Hence, the youth of these pastoralists have now got the chance to be enrolled in schools constructed around while other social service institutions built at their localities have made the lives of all natives of the project area much easier.

Moreover, to enable the locals become semi pastoralists, Ethiopian Sugar Corporation has made irrigable land ready to them. And, as the natives of the command area were unfamiliar with farming specially plowing, the Corporation had delivered farming skill training program which now-a-days has enabled them to cultivate crops of their own choice.

sharamapicThe successive experience sharing programs of natives travelling to one of the nation’s pioneering sugar factory- Wonji Shoa Sugar Factory has brought about attitudinal shift from the locals so that they became more eager to see the factory under construction at their place start producing sugar. And they have now seen their dreams being realized with the Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Two entering production.

Natives of the project area, organized in sugarcane out growers associations and cultivating cane, are now ready to supply it to the Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Two which has started production. Till to date sugarcane out growers organized in three associations which have 1,067 members in total are cultivating cane at 864.75 hectares of land of the Project. 

Training of natives of the project area as well as the surrounding locals in various skills such as tractor operation, machine operation and other professions relevant to the sugar development sector is the other approach made to meet the social responsibilities of Ethiopian Sugar Corporation. 

Hence, both the direct and indirect wide job opportunities created due to the Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project is benefitting the locals as well as citizens around greatly. And, 50,692 citizens have got job opportunities till mid 2017 organized in micro and small enterprises. Among them 81,661 are recruited at the project on permanent, contract as well as seasonal basis.

The construction of a sack manufacturing factory by Ethiopian Metals and Engineering Corporation at Jinka town of South Omo Zone which has created wide job opportunities to the youth of the zonal administration and others as well as the opening of a vocational technical school at this same town is worth mentioning to show the multifaceted growth the sector is bringing to the area.  

The market linkage created due to the construction of various infrastructures which are crucial to the sugar development project is the other advantage locals get and thereby become able to sale their products such as livestock, honey, etc at a fair price.

Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project has brought with it an overall development to the zonal administration too. Hence, many hotels, service giving institutions, vocational technical schools and factories such as a sack factory are now working at Jinka Town which is centre town of the zonal administration. Furthermore, an airport constructed at Jinka Towen has started giving service while  a referral hospital is under construction which are the fruits of the Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project.

3.2.  Efforts Made to Realize the Goal Set

1.Construction of Infrastructures

As the area where the Omo- Kuraz Sugar Development Project is so remote to urban areas of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State carrying out the various works of the project is not imaginable without constructing infrastructures such as roads, telephone lines, electricity, Internet Network, etc. Therefore, construction of various infrastructures is one among other major efforts made to realize the goal set at the project.

2. Construction of Dams and Weirs

The ongoing construction of a water weir after constructing cofferdam at Omo River is one major effort made to cultivate 100,000 hectares of the Project’s cane cultivation land. Moreover, the construction of a small earth dam, intake structure and irrigation canal at Sharma River, a tributary to Omo River and which enables the project to cultivate sugarcane at 10,000 hectares of land, is constructed using the Corporation’s as well as Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Three’s own capacity.

3. Construction of Canals

Long kilometers stretched canals of main, secondary as well as tertiary levels are constructed to cultivate the wide sugarcane cultivation field of the project.

Canal structures capable of cultivating 25,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation field are constructed till mid 2017 while the work is going on to irrigate the whole plantation field of the project.

4. Construction of Residential & Non-residential Houses

The building of residential and non residential houses to accommodate thousands of employees of the project is the other effort made to see the goal set realized. Till now there are around 1,016 residential and 11 non residential houses constructed at the project.

5. Plantation of Sugarcane 

Till June, 2017, 14,000 hectares of land is covered with sugarcane out of the total 100,000 hectares of land to be cultivated at the Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project.

6. Construction of Sugar Factories

6.1 Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Two

One among the four sugar factories planned to be constructed at Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project i.e. Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Two with 12,000 TCD has started production in March, 2017. The construction work of the Factory is being carried out by a Chinese Company- COMPLANT.

6.2 Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory One

Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory One with similar crushing design capacity has carried out trial sugar production by end of June, 2017. Metals and Engineering Corporation, a government institution, is carrying out the factory construction work.

6.3 Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Three

The construction of the third sugar factory i.e. Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Three has reached 80% till June, 2017. Same Chinese company- COMPLANT is constructing the construction work. It is expected to enter production by the end of 2017.

6.4 Omo-Kuraz Sugar Factory Five

The construction work of the fourth sugar factory which is expected to enter regular production in 2020 with 24,000 TCD has begun a few months before the end of 2016.  The factory construction work is being carried out by-Chinese Company known as JJIEC.

The Way Forward

om11Ethiopian Sugar Corporation is looking forward to work with domestic as well as foreign companies in the sector either in joint venture or else in foreign direct investment.

Currently, a German company- Eugen Schmitt Company, signing a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopian Sugar Corporation to work in joint venture modality, has started work to build an ethanol plant at Wonji Shoa Sugar Factory while some have signed MoU and many other foreign companies showing interest to do same.

The nation is awaiting partner companies to take part either direct in the sector or in manufacturing using by-products and co-products of sugar as inputs.

The journey started at Omo-Kuraz Sugar Development Project where there has never been any kind of infrastructure was the toughest one unlike other projects.

Though full of ups and downs as the project area had been in accessible, the locals, around as well as the Ethiopian Government’s relentless effort has now bore sweet fruit! And, it will soon flourish even more! THE JOURNEY OF OMO-KURAZ SUGAR DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IS PROCEEDING PROVING ITSELF TRIUMPHANT!!!

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