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UNDERSTANDING A TOURISM PHENOMENON: “PHOTO FOR CASH” AS A LIVELIHOOD DIVERSIFICATION OPTION. THE CASE OF SOUTH OMO ZONE, ETHIOPIA. [Abstract ID: 1212-09]
The overall objective of the research is to look into the significance of tourism as a livelihood diversification option for local people, and to understand the local people’s perspectives on their direct engagement in the tourism sector as a means of livelihood option. In particular, it looks into a phenomenon called "Photo for Cash": an exchange of photo of local people with cash from tourists. This transaction typically describes the case of the tourism scenario in the remote agro-pastoralist village of Mursi-land, South Omo Zone. Tourism, which is promoted today as a promising economic driver in Ethiopia as in many African countries, is often criticized that it fails to provide opportunities for local people at destination in addressing their socio-economic needs. To understand this reality, the research takes South Omo Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region in Ethiopia, as a case study focusing on two purposefully selected villages: a peri-urban highland village within the zonal city of Jinka and a remote agro-pastoralist lowland village of Mursiland in the lower Omo valley of South West Ethiopia. This presentation focuses on an outcome of two fieldwork instances of in-depth interview and participatory observation in both sites. It was found that tourism-related activity in the zone is a means of a livelihood strategy for local people to earn cash income. This type of cash is more important for women who normally do not have direct access to such income, particularly the women in the Mursi villages. Furthermore, benefits from the activity are also reaching beyond the people directly engaged in the tourism business. However, changes in the social behaviour of the local people, such as girls abandoning lip cutting, is leading to some villages forfeiting their livelihood strategy. The challenge today is that the local people are at a crossroad between making a living from tourism-related activities and adapting a new social behaviour towards cultural transformation.