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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Chiharu KAMIMURA, Kyoto University, Japan

This study examines the medical perceptions and practices of local people in the rural Amhara region, in northwestern Ethiopia. In this presentation I will demonstrate how people maintain their health, based on field data including the use of medicinal plants such as spices and herbs and foods that are embedded in their lives. I conducted research from September 2017 to November 2017, and from December 2017 to February 2018. My data consist of my personal interviews with 3 people about their use of spices available near the village. I also observed the diet of a family for 70 days and recorded the ingredients, preparation and frequency. There are two main findings: 1) All the informants used spices daily as seasonings, and sometimes used them as medicine. Informants’ explanations of the meaning and effects of each spice varied depending on whether it was being used as a condiment or medicinally, even though it was processed the same way. For example, one informant said “garlic makes wet taste better,” and added it to the pan when cooking a side dish called wet, which is eaten at every meal. She also mentioned that she uses it to relieve symptoms when her family gets a cold. The preparation is the same, chopping and grinding the cloves of garlic and taking it orally cooked or raw mixed with other spices. 2) Food was sometimes considered in association with both physical and mental health. Mat'at'ayb is a cottage cheese paste with spices that is normally eaten for breakfast or with coffee. Informants generally considered it to have health benefits, such as keeping the stomach healthy. People often serve it at feasts and may eat it for the first meal after a fasting period in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with a sense of gratitude for life. Keeping themselves healthy and dealing with sickness were among the most basic concerns for local people in their daily life. Because of the link with their well-being, informants particularly considered food as essential. These findings can provide an insight into the local attitudes toward well-being of the rural Amhara region.