Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Echi Christina GABBERT, Goettingen University, Germany ; Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle/Saale; Germany

In light of the rapid pace induced by fast track development plans in Ethiopia, it is appropriate to take a step back and reflect on the history, ecology and future of the people and land that are in transition. The paper will present approaches for analysis of the current land use practices and discuss alternatives in case studies. When analysing investments, the global neighbourhood approach tries to understand the different and often contradictory views and missions of the “global neighbours” - local communities, policy makers, investors, NGOs, human rights organizations, scientists etc. - involved and interested in the use of a particular territory, and wants to bring actors together in order to find points of convergence and constructive solutions. This approach, however also entails dangers because the world is made and managed by a few who are not necessarily interested in other points of view or the dynamics between them. Under such circumstances positive features of neighbourhood such as interest in one’s neighbour, mutual respect and communication become irrelevant. One obvious reason is that people who decide or talk about land use are far away from those who know every tree, every plant and the seasonal variations of every water point in detail. This asymmetry of interest and power is a decisive limiting factor and constant challenge in multiparty settings such as land use and environmental politics. The paper will scrutinize divergent perspectives on land use under the light of recent developments in Ethiopia and elsewhere to listen to the emerging tenor of global neighbours, their grounds, their relations, their fissures, their possibilities and abysses. When reassessing the expertise and potential of people who make the future of the land, in very different ways, the goal is to bring peaceful ideas into life that matter.