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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WONDWOSEN Seide, Lund University

Pastoralist way of life is one of the oldest socio-economic systems in Ethiopia. Pastoralists constitute about twenty-nine different ethnic groups and about 12% of the total population. In Gambella The Nuer pastoralist way of life has been troubled in many ways. The Nuer are a transhumance community who have always been the most marginalized groups even from among other pastoralist communities in the country. In recent years, the Gambella region has been experiencing rapid processes of land leasing. This has been affecting the political economy of the region and the country. The Ethiopian government made it clear that large-scale land investment is an important part of the country’s strategy for steady development. To achieve this the government has leased large tracts of land to domestic and international investors in different parts of the country, particularly the Lare woreda (district). The government also had planned to resettle 1.5 million people in the four pastoralist regions of the country: Gambella, Afar, Somali, and Benishangul-Gumuz. The Gambella Regional State Villagization Programme Implementation Manual (2010), from 2010/11 to 2013/2014, with the objective of resettling the sparsely populated region settled in riversides that are engaged in shifting cultivation and exposed to natural disaster, like flood, by bringing them to safer and better settlement sites. Understanding the consequences of these state led Programmes requires rigorous sustained research and discussion, this paper is an attempt towards contributing to this debate by focusing on two major themes: large-scale agriculture and the villagization Programmes. It examines the dynamics of the political economy of the region and the process of incorporation of the Gambella region, particularly that of the Nuer people. Specifically, it explores how processes of commercial farming investments and the villagization programme impact Nuer pastoralists. Although a growing number of works address development in pastoral areas of Ethiopia (Little, 2010; Getachew, et. al, 2003, Yohannes,, 2011; Aklilu, 2009), there is still relatively little research done on the Nuer. The major research questions of the study are the following: How do changes in the political context and economic situation of the region affect the Nuer pastoralist? How has large-scale agricultural investment affected the Nuer? How has the villagization programme affected the Nuer? How have the Nuer been affected by the livelihood changes and what innovative strategy have they been employing to cope with these changes? Is there a future for Nuer pastoralist in the region? If so, what would it look like?