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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ABINET Shiferaw, Lecturer in Wolkite University, Ethiopia and Social Anthropology Ph.D student at Addis Ababa Universty

The paper explores aspects and dynamics of 'Jaforo' as an indigenous architecture and cultural space of Gurage peoples. The objective was to investigate features, roles, and status of Jaforo as a system of indigenous architecture in the area of settlement and village road networks and cultural space. A qualitative approach was used to generate and analyze. Key informant interview, group discussion, observation, and sketching were used as sources of data. Four districts of Sebat bĂȘte Gurage (Cheha, Ezha, Gumer, and Enemorener) were places of data collection. Jaforo as a system of indigenous architecture and cultural place is evidence of long and well-done society-environment interaction. It has basic architectural manifestations together with multiple socio-economic and ecological purposes. It is a long-lived system of architecture in relation to settlement and village road networks and sources of livelihood and environment management practice protected by customary rules and regulations. Architecturally, it shapes settlement patterns, maintains a social network of villages, supports livelihood, and environmental management practices. Livelihoods wise, it facilitates villages' socio-economic activities like social support, cooperative works, market activities, farming and animal husbandry and efficient use of scarce natural resources. Culturally, it is a place for socio-cultural practices, leisure and emotional attachment for village community. Environmentally, it enables rotating uses of limited natural and agricultural resources. However, Jaforo has been facing increasing threats due to development intervention, land scarcity and growing overlook of culture among youth, encroachment of villages and increasing village transportation. The situations are affecting qualities and purposes of Jaforo as cultural landscape and indigenous knowledge system and posing questions on its continuity as knowledge system and survival strategy. So grassroots development approaches, alternative resource access systems, and awareness building need to be considered to safeguard and promote the tradition.