Ethiopia Drives Its Peasants


Year : 1989

HARAR, Ethiopia – With rows of
Marx and Lenin volumes in his bookcase
and piles of tracts on his desk,
Ali Youssef, the head of the ideology
department here, explained the alacrity
with which the process being
called "villagization" had been accomplished
in his region.
In seven months, he said, half a million
houses for more than two million
people were built. "There is systemization;
there is mobilization," he
said, lifting some of the argot from
his desktop literature. "They used to
construct at midnight."
It is precisely the speed and authoritarianism
of the Government's
villagization program – the relocation
of peasants from their traditionally
scattered homes in nearby areas
to new villages established in gridlike
patterns – that have caused many of
its problems, Ethiopian and Western
agricultural experts say.
Villagization vyas heralded by
President Mengistu Haile Mariam in
1984 as the answer to many of the difficulties
of the impoverished,
drought-stricken Ethiopian peasantry,
who make up 90 percent of the
country's population. By being
grouped together, the argument went,
peasants would be able to produce
more and have easier access to such
services as schools and health clinics.