Last week violent protesters in Ethiopia targeted three Dutch agricultural companies. Jan van de Haar from Solagrow received a call on Friday December 11th from the farm manager who oversees 247 acres in Wenchi. He reported that rebels from the neighboring area around Ambo and Woliso had destroyed the farm.
"The rebels broke into the farm and got past the guards and our staff," writes Jan on his website. "There was no stopping it. In no time both the large potato seed storage units were on fire, as well as the cafeteria meeting hall and the guardhouses. Even the clinic, where we provide medical care to personnel and the population, was not spared. The machines were destroyed. After they were finished just a few black squares remained. In the attack we lost three years worth of growing seeds. That is nearly 50 tons of raw material and seed stocks."
Not an ethnic conflict
The staff at his company fled into the mountains. One guard was severely beaten by the rebels and is covered in bruises and contusions. According to Jan, these riots are not about hate for whites or westerners, "This is a result of political unrest, which is a permanent fixture in the area west of the capital Addis Abeba. The people there will not tolerate it when the federal capital expands at the cost of this region."
Jan will be talking to the residents and staff to calm tempers and hopes the activities in Wenchi and Ginchi can be picked up again soon, "This can't happen until peace has returned and that could take weeks or months." They do not know yet whether the greenhouse and the main storage area will have to be rebuilt, "I have other locations with similar temperatures, so I can spread them out, and in the future the buildings will be in a less remote area."
For now the future remains uncertain, "We will see if the Ethiopian government wants to contribute to the reconstruction because insurance does not cover this sort of thing. We want to put things back together and continue working hard."
Jan hopes that reason will win out over emotion. He is annoyed by the short-sighted reactions in which people write off Ethiopia as a good country to work in, "The act was local and incidental. Many overlook the fact that this country has had many peaceful years, especially compared to neighboring countries. Ethiopia remains the best candidate for potatoes."
More information:Solagrow PLC
Jan J. van de Haar