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Ethiopian farmer and celebrated conservation figure murdered in Italy

‘Courageous, sunny and intelligent’: Italy mourns the death of Agitu Gudeta


Italian authorities have arrested a shepherd in connection with the murder of Ethiopia Agitu Gudeta who had become a symbol for integration in Italy after founding a remote farm to protect a rare breed of mountain goat…. 

Agitu Gudeta, 42, was found dead in her home in Frassilongo, near Trento, on Tuesday night. An employee, who lived in her house, reportedly confessed to murder.

Gudeta was well known for creating a successful agricultural company – ‘La Capra Felice’ (the happy goat) – in the northern Italian region of Trentino.

She had become a prominent member of the local community with her farm in the Moncheni valley, where she had 80 goats on over 11 hectares of land, and with her store in Trento, where she sold goat cheese and cosmetic products made from goat milk.

A Ghanaian employee on the farm in northern Italy has confessed to killing 42-year-old Agitu Ideo Gudeta before raping her as she lay dying, Italian media says.

The suspect, 32-year-old Adams Suleimani, is said to have killed her with a hammer in a dispute over an unpaid salary.  

Gudeta, who fled Ethiopia in 2010, had made her home in the Valle dei Mocheni and was seen as a shining migrant success story at a time of rising hostility towards immigrants in Italy. 

Agitu Ideo Gudeta, an Ethiopian migrant who built a thriving farm in northern Italy and became a symbol of successful integration, has been killed with a hammer on her estate

Gudeta with a Mochena goat in a stable in her Valle dei Mocheni farm in northern Italy, where she produced goat's cheese and beauty products on previously abandoned land

Gudeta was renowned for making goat’s cheese and beauty products on her farm La Capra Felice – the Happy Goat – which was built on previously abandoned land.

‘I created my space and made myself known, there was no resistance to me,’ she told Reuters in a 2018 interview.

However, the same year she revealed that she had received racial threats, and earlier this year a man was jailed for nine months for injuring Gudeta. 

According to news agency Ansa, that man was initially questioned by Italian carabinieri over Gudeta’s death but was found to have no connection. 

Instead, Suleimani was apprehended overnight and taken into custody after confessing to killing Gudeta, it is believed.   

Gudeta, pictured on her farm, had made her home in the Valle dei Mocheni and was seen as a success story at a time of rising hostility towards immigrants in Italy

Gudeta with some of her products, which she sold in Italy after fleeing Ethiopia in 2010
Gudeta with some of her products, which she sold in Italy after fleeing Ethiopia in 2010 

Inspiration for other refugees

The death of Gudeta has sparked pain and outrage across Italy among citizens, politicians and unionists.

“Despite her tragic end, UNHCR hopes that Agitu Ideo Gudeta will be remembered and celebrated as a model of success and integration that will inspire refugees who are fighting to rebuild their lives,” the UN refugee agency in Italy said.

“Dismay and horror are the first feelings that have gripped all people of Trentino in learning about the horrible murder of Agitu Ideo Gudeta,” said Roberto Paccher, the president of the regional council of Trentino Alto Adige.

The secretary general of the union Fai Cisl, Onofrio Rota, wrote on Facebook that Agitu was a “courageous, sunny and intelligent woman: with her farm she had become a positive symbol of integration and of women who are leaders in the food industry.”

Employee confessed to murder

Neighbors reportedly found Gudeta dead in her bedroom after being contacted by one of her friends who was concerned because she had not turned up to an appointment.

Police arrested a 32-year-old farmworker, Adam S., who reportedly confessed to raping and killing Gudeta. He worked as a shepherd at the farm and lived in Gudeta’s house. He allegedly told investigators that he had fought with Gudeta over money because he had not received his monthly salary, and that he had then attacked her with a hammer.

Carabinieri police in charge of the investigation had initially questioned a man who had been reported to police by Gudeta in 2018 and was convicted of violence. However, he was cleared of having played a role in the murder, sources in the investigation said.

In his statement on Facebook, Union leader Rota said: ”The fact that (Gudeta) was apparently killed by a shepherd she had welcomed and helped makes us even more sad. What is certain is that we will never forget Agitu, her contagious smile, her work for a better world.Agitu Ideo Gudeta lives in Trentino Alto Adige in Italy. Agitu came to Italy for the first time in 1997 to study. She was 18 years old. After training in sociology in Rome and Trentino, she returned to Ethiopia to devote herself to sustainable farming projects, working in fields and nomadic pastures.

The life of Agitu Gudeta

Gudeta was born in Addis Ababa in 1978. She studied sociology at the University of Trento and then went back to Ethiopia. In 2010, she returned to Italy to escape the conflict in her home country. She moved to Valle dei Moncheni and founded ‘La Capra Felice’.

Gudeta was hailed as a role model for successful refugee integration and profiled by several broadcasters, newspapers and magazines. “Most of the people make their living from farming. Industrialization doesn’t exist, the only resource is the land,” Agitu says. “”In 2ooo, the Ethiopian government announced that land no longer belonged to the farmers but to the state. This authorized it to take land away from owners.” It’s an “invasive and unacceptable” method, the entrepreneur continues.

“Land is taken and given to foreigners from large multinationals that invest in cultivation in Ethiopia,  where there are many unexploited resources like cane sugar, palm oil and corn,” she says. Farmers are forced to go to work for the multinationals and are underpaid. “We’re talking about 85 dollar cents a day. The farmer has always worked that land and now he sees it all taken away, without being able to put up any resistance, and forced to work without protection, safety, assurances, with an increase in cases of cancer due to pesticides. The GDP is growing, but healthcare and education don’t exist. Everything is privately run and if you can’t pay you can’t have access,” she adds.

© Copyright ANSA
© Copyright ANSA

Repression and escape from Ethiopia

That’s why Agitu protested in the square since 2005 with the farmers and with university students, but the military shot at them and many young people died. The demonstrations continue but many are arrested, some killed. “There’s a state of emergency in the country and all villages are under surveillance. No one can protest or use internet,” Agitu explains. That is why she was forced to leave the country in 2010. Luckily,  she still had her stay permit from the time of her studies in Italy, thanks to which she had an advantage compared to her fellow citizens, She already knew the place and the language.

Once she arrived in Trentino, she began to create my sustainable farming project. Agitu decided to create a goat pasture. “They give added value to the area. The goats fertilize, while walking on the land they help water drainage and also enrich the landscape.”

Agitu took over land that had been abandoned and was “just another maintenance expense for the towns.” Here she began “The Happy Goat” with 15 animals. Today there are 80 goats in the pasture in Mocheni valley, together with 50 chickens and 4,000 square metres of vegetable gardens.

“This is a biology laboratory. The food we produce is healthy and it has a different flavor,” Agitu elaborates. She is also planning to train others interested in the project. “We would like to create jobs. Young people are interested in starting projects like ours,” she says. In exchange for a few weeks of work, trainees will also learn the value of sustainable farming. The land, Agitu says, “doesn’t belong to us.  We are all guests and we all have the right to make use of it without exploiting it”.

© Copyright ANSA 


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