Omo Change

Shortlist 2017

Fausto Podavini

Fausto Podavini was born in Rome, where he currently lives and works. He received his Master's degree in Reportage at the Photography Academy "Jonh Kaverdash" in Milan. He began his photographic journey first as an assistant and studio photographer, to approach gradually to photo-reportage. Podavini has also been part of MIFAV Tor Vergata University, where got to know and been in contact with many photographers. After abandoning studio photography to devote himself exclusively to reportage, he then embarked himself as a freelance, working with various non-profit organization for the realization of reports in Italy, Peru, Kenya and Ethiopia, where he currently is pursuing some personal photo projects. In 2009 he began a collaboration with the Collective WSP, joined permanently in 2010, where, in addition to work as a photographer in collective projects, he works as a professor of Photojournalism. In addition to his various reports in Africa, South America and India, Podavini has carried out important work on the Italian territory such as a report on sport for disabled, a report in a juvenile prison and a work on Alzheimer's disease, with whom he won the Daily Life section of the World Press Photo 2013. He published on the Italian and international magazine and has received major international awards such as the WPP in 2012 and exhibited in New York, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, London, Milan, Tbilisi, Buenos Aires.

The Problem

Omo Change

Ethiopia is a country in the central part of Africa that is suffering one of the biggest and quickest economical and industrial develop of the whole African continent. A develop average in the last 10 years of 10.8% (World Bank data) made Ethiopia the fourth economic power in Africa after Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. The populous country of the Horn of Africa, almost reaching the 100 million inhabitants, is developing fast and its goal is to become a medium income nation within the next 10 years. Between 2014 and 2015, GDP increased by 10.6% due also to the foreign investors who thanks to the development projects of the last years made by the Government, are changing the aspect of this country. One of the most impacted area if the Omo Valley. Crossed by the homonym river that starts in the Ethiopian mountains, the Omo Valley has an archeological and naturalistic relevance. This area is internationally known as a rare dry and semi-dry region with an extraordinary biodiversity, to the point that since 1980 the Omo Valley has been included in the list of the UNESCO heritage sites. This area has approximately 500,000 inhabitants which work mainly in agriculture and sheep-farming. Alluvial agriculture is fundamental for the sustenance of the local communities and its made possible by the flooding that make the fields naturally fertile, giving food to approximately 100,000 people, divided in 20 ethnicities that cultivate almost 12,000hectars along the shores of the river. Being an extremely fragile area, the Omo Valley is inhabited by different ethnicities that were able to develop the agricultural system that works on a delicate and precious balance between survival of the human kinds and the usage of the natural resources. Sorghum plantations and corn, and beans in the alluvial clearings along the shores of the river, the alternately cultivation of the pluvial forests, and sheep-farming in the field that are caused by the flooding, allow, all together, to contrast every climate adversity, provide a fundamental contribution to the local economy. In 2010, the ex-Prime Minister Zenawi, who died in 2012 and replaced by the actual Prime Minister Desalegn, announced the construction of the biggest dam ever made in Africa. To start the construction of the Gibe III Dam, the Italian construction company Salini, received 4.8 billion euros. This investment is the biggest ever made in the whole African continent. Gibe III, in the final stage of construction at the moment, will be 240 meters high and will have a 1.870 MW power and will create a 150 KM long artificial lake. The construction of this dam has a double target; to produce hydro electrical energy to export in the neighboring countries (Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya) and stimulate the development of agriculture through the construction of a dense network of irrigation ditches that will allow to include the extensive crops which have a high economic value, such as cotton fields. Furthermore, controlling the Omo River, will allow to make a huge government project possible: the Omo Kuraz Sugar Factories Project, which sees the cultivation of approximately 245,000 hectares of land for the production of sugar cane, to be used to produce both ethanol and sugar. Italian and Turkish investments for the cotton fields, Chinese investments for the construction of new roads up until Kenya, are bringing a new economy and development in this country, radically changing its aspect. Some experts foresee strong environmental and social-economic impacts in the Omo Valley. The reduction of the flow of the Omo River will reduce the extension of the pluvial forest and the loss of biodiversity. These projects will also stop the natural floods, and the procurement by the government of parts of the land, will create new geographical borders between the different tribes, who will have less and less land to be used for agriculture and sheep-farming, changing the social assets of those tribes. These changes are already happening.