WG Film Presents
A film by Joakim Demmer
Around the globe, there is a massive commercial rush for farmland – the new green gold. One of the most profitable new spots for farming is Ethiopia.
Hoping for export revenues, the Ethiopian government leases millions of hectares of allegedly unused land to foreign investors. But the dream of prosperity has a dark side - the most massive forced evictions in modern history, lost livelihoods of small farmers, harsh repression and a vicious spiral of violence. Contributing to this disaster are the EU, the World Bank and DFID, providing billions of dollars in development money.
Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas investigates these foreign land-investments and exposes their impact on people’s lives. In the pursuit of truth, we meet investors, development bureaucrats, persecuted journalists, struggling environmentalists and small farmers deprived of their land.
Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas was triggered by a seemingly trivial scene at the airport in Addis Ababa, six years back. Waiting for my flight late at night, I happened to see some tired workers at the tarmac who were loading food products on an airplane destined for Europe. At the same time, another team was busy unloading sacks with food aid from a second plane. It took some time to realize the real meaning of it – that this famine struck country, where millions are dependent on food aid, is actually exporting food to us.
The bewilderment over this paradox would soon give way for something else – anger. Anger over the injustice, that hundreds of thousands of small farmers were robbed of the land that they and their ancestors had worked on for generations, just to see it be given away to foreign investors coming from the other side of the world. The unbearable injustice that all these people’s livelihoods were ruined, not only meaning that they are losing the possibility to feed their families, but also an irreversible loss of their culture and identity.
The anger also came over the ignorance, cynicism and sometimes pure stupidity of international societies like the EU, DFID, World Bank etc., whose intentions might mostly be good, but in this case, ends up
supporting a dictatorship and a disastrous development with our tax money, instead of helping the people.
There would also come a feeling of shame when I realized how much landgrabbing is connected to ourselves. The sugar in my coffee, the cotton in my t-shirt and even the flowers for my mother might very well come from stolen land. Our companies, banks and pension funds, they are all investing in land. In the complex world of globalization, the responsibility might be so much dispersed that it apparently dissolves. But nevertheless, there are always people paying the price and they are real.
Even if this project is very much a journey into the darkness, it has also been such an extreme privilege to meet so many great and courageous people in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya and Cambodia. In spite of very often high risks, we always came across people who were willing to take part in the film or were willing to support it. Some have already paid a very high price. Their reason for doing so is solely the hope that their voices at least shall be heard and that one day there will be an end to the injustice.
This brings a big commitment to us as filmmakers, to spread their testimonies as much as possible, and my personal hope is that we will deserve their trust.