Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


TILAHUN Tefera, Haramaya University, Ethiopia
MAMO Hebo, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
HIRUT Terefe, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

The general objective of this article is to explore the introduction and expansion of jimaa cultivation on the Lake Harmaya-Tiniqe Watershed as well as the existing challenges of its production. Data for this article were gathered in 2013 and 2014 as part of my PhD fieldwork. The data were predominantly collected through qualitative methods, but these were substantiated with quantitative data. In the 16th century, Alla and Nolei Oromo inhabited Lake Haramaya-Tiniqe Watershed as pastoralists. Gradually, through their contact with sedentary Harari agriculturalists, some sections of the Oromo abandoned pastoralism and began sedentary agriculture. However, the turning point in their conversion to sedentary agriculture came in the last quarter of the 19th century when Egypt occupied the area in 1875. From the Egyptian period (1875-1885) to 1973, most of the land on the watershed was used for cereal cultivation. On the basis of historical accounts, Ezekiel (1997:75) argued that either Ethiopia or Yemen might be the origin of jimaa. However, according to informants, jimaa was initially introduced to the city of Harar from Yemen and spread over time from the city into the surrounding Oromo communities. The Harari people largely practised sedentary agriculture. However, after the Oromo settled in the environs of Harar, the Harari increased their practice of business, though still continuing their agricultural activities (Yusuf, 2002: 381, 382). They were known in particular for jimaa cultivation. Harari jimaa plantation owners employed kuulii/day labourers from surrounding Oromo communities to work on their jimaa land (Waldron, 1984: 10). As indicated by the remote sensing data, jimaa cultivation is the prominent livelihood strategy of Alla and Nolei Oromo on the Lake Haramaya-Tiniqei Watershed, followed by cereal and vegetable cultivation. However, the main livelihood strategies of households are challenged by the scarcity of water, rainfall and land, as well as by amadaay/frost. Finally, in terms of food security, households were better placed when they predominantly cultivated cereals than they are at present. On the other hand, with regard to access to goods such as drinking water, education, health care, and transportation services, they are better off producing jimaa as their main cash crop.