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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Alain GASCON, Institut français de géopolitique-Université Paris 8, France

Paper presenters:

Davide CHINIGO; Sara SAPUPPO; MOGES Gebreegziabher Woldu; SENAIT Abrha Teamr;
GETAHUN Fenta Kebede; Alain GASCON; WUBANTE Fetene Admasu; Steven VAN PASSEL; TESSEMA Eseta

This panel explores the relationships of territory and infrastructure-led development across Ethiopian regions.

Accounts of rural bias in development have figured prominently in Ethiopian Studies. Scholars have often explored state interventions in rural areas, as in land reform and changing livelihoods (Planel 2014, Lavers 2012, Rahmato 2011, Zewde 1991), modernization programs (Ellison 2012, Donham 1999), and forced displacement (Pankhurst and Piguet 2009), as well as the rural foundations of revolutionary movements (Markakis and Ayele 1986). Such work contrasts “peripheral” life and worlds of peasants, pastoralists, and indigenous peoples with the laws, taxes and powers imposed by the city. However, as three meta-processes unfold in Ethiopia: urbanization, industrialization, and globalization, the classic rural/urban distinction seems ripe for reconsideration. Bold state commitments to infrastructure-led development have promoted networks that situate rural and urban areas in new territorial formations.

How, then, to capture the relational and territorial dimensions of infrastructure-led development today? What use are etic conceptualizations (such as spaces of flows, agglomeration, assemblage, planetary urbanization, policy mobilities, or others) in understanding Ethiopia’s regions? How might the specificities of the Ethiopian context refine or push back against such conceptualizations?

Papers in this session might focus on these themes, or others:

We welcome papers from a wide array of disciplinary, methodological, and theoretical perspectives. We welcome the participation of early or established scholars. Scholars based in Ethiopian universities and women scholars are especially encouraged to apply



Davide CHINIGO, Stellenbosch University

The Textile and Garment (T&G) sector has become a main strategic priority of Ethiopian industrial policy, which, altogether is expected to provide a main contribution to the country’s quest to attain rapid economic development over the next years. Global fashion brands and textile corporations started delocalizing production to Ethiopia attracted by a mix of incentives, such as import and export duty breaks and preferential trade agreements, as well as favourable structural conditions, including low cost of labour and availability of cheap water and electricity. Tigray has been at the forefront of such development and is currently regarded by many as the next ‘global textile hub’. The textile industry promises to hire tens of thousands of workers in the next few years, and to drive significant transformations in infrastructure and service delivery. This development comes as a game changer for the region, and more broadly for the country. It thus adds on existing trends of urbanization and transformation of the peri-urban economy from agriculture to manufacturing industry. This paper is meant as a preliminary attempt to reflect on the significance of the transformations underway, with a focus on the expectations of modernity that rapid industrial development brings with it, as well as its central contradictions. The article draws on discussions and interviews conducted with industrial actors, government offices, as well as trainees and workers in the textile sector in and around Mekelle. The paper proposes two main arguments. The first is that the narrative that identifies industrial development with the future of the country is central in shaping expectations of modernity and ideas of progress. The second is that in practice expectations of modernity that come with industrial development are mediated in many different ways, and intersect with a profound sense of uncertainty in the everyday, as well as with the ways in which people cope with it.



Sara SAPUPPO, Sapienza Università di Roma (Italy)

The aim of my study is to assess how the building of new landfill sites influences people’s perception and behavior with respect to the “cultural landscape”. The analysis of an ethnographic case study, conducted in Mekelle (Tigray, Ethiopia), reveals how people’s habits and feelings change and how they become socialised towards nature. The waste management service introduces new interactions with space. Plots of land are chosen and adapted to community needs, with the result that a new relationship with nature and with space develops. Focusing on these issues, I conducted a study analyzing the influence of the presence of a landfill site on Mekelle society and the local administration, on the roles of the workers involved and on the relationship with the area in question. In particular, I emphasise how environmental awareness has developed in recent years, how the landfill site influences people’s perception of waste management, as well as some of the potential downsides. In this context of action and reconfiguration, the voice of tradition also influences the multiple meanings of the landscape. This ethnographic study prompts us to think again about how the configurations and identity of a territory are formed.



MOGES Gebreegziabher Woldu, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

The research was conducted in the capital of Amhara National Regional State of Ethiopia, Bahir Dar City. The need to develop this proposal and conduct this intensive and empirical case study emanated from multiple justifications. These rationale include: (1) the 2002 UNESCO Cities for Prize Award going to Bahir Dar for managing the challenges of rapid urbanization, (2) a travel article on the Amharic version magazine that described the paradoxical phenomenon focusing on dark side of Bahir Dar city administration, (3) research findings in the late 2000s that contradicted the UNESCO Cities for Prize Award, and finally (4) the researcher’s personal encounters around the slum as a new arrival in 2009 and the early 2010s. The major objective of the research was to explore and describe the prospects and challenges of Bahir Dar City Slum-Koshekosh Residents. The approach of the research is exploratory ethnographic design. The data collection techniques include unstructured in-depth and semi-structured interviews, focus group discussion, observation, and transect walks including social mapping. The participants of the study were purposely selected to collect the intended rich data. The data were systematically analyzed to fit with major themes and contextualized to local meanings. The analysis procedure was focused to address the research objectives. Therefore, the results of the study show that koshekosh is the worst slum (in the local meaning, a restless neighborhood) comparing to the 2002 UNESCO Cities for Prize Award. The number of prostitutes was more than the reports indicated in the magazine column (400 against over 598). The residents were living under extraordinary, frustrating ward against eviction by the municipality. Koshekosh was a women- dominated neighborhood. About 60 per cent were women-headed households and 76.49 % of the Koshekosh population was female. The sources of livelihood for the women-headed households were petty trade, daily labor, and prostitution for the rural-urban migrated young women and girls. Overall, these research findings show that women-headed households were the most affected, followed by the elderly and children as members of the poor households. Based on the findings, the following strategies are recommended as the way forward to mitigate the challenges of the Koshekosh residents. The municipality should design a new approach for the urban slum upgrading. Relocating the slum residents will cost the government in the near future by replicating another slum in the new resettlement sites. The interests of women headed households and the elderly should be given priority and an inclusive approach towards the residents in the slum upgrading should be given maximum attention.



SENAIT Abrha Teamr, IPHC, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
MOGES Gebreegziabher Woldu, IPHC, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

All disabled persons, women and men, share similar experiences of isolation, marginalization, and discrimination. Both disabled men and women are obliged to face daily battles against socially and culturally imposed restrictions on their activities. However, in addition to their disability women with disability suffer from gender based assumptions and expectations. This double discrimination means that disabled women’s experiences are profoundly different from those of disabled men. Though different studies have been conducted in Ethiopia relating with disabilities, studies on the double discrimination of women with disability are less visible. This paper examines the socio-economic impact of double discrimination on women with disabilities livelihoods in Adigrat town.The main objective of this study is to asses the socio-economic impact of double discrimination on women with disabilities livelihoods in Adigrat tow. Both primary and secondary data are used in this study. Primary data were collected using different data collection methods,such as household schedules,interviews,observation and case study method from the field. While secondary data were collected from different published and unpublished books articles, journals, magazines, thesis and reports. Snowball purposive sampling technique is used to select sample respondents for the study. The study found that women with disabilities participate in different activities to cope up with their challenges. As a result, around half of the respondents are engaged in different self- help activities. On one hand there are also a number of WWDs who are not employed and still involving in begging. On the other hand, this research also found out WWDs face different challenges in different sectors. Lack of awareness of employer organizations, lack of trainings, inaccessibility of vacancies for disabilities, complexity of credit services, lack of place to operate businesses, problem of market linkages are some of the challenges they face in the economic sector. Difficulty to form a family, exclusion and discrimination; violence and sexual abuses; and exploitation are social challenges WWDs face. Based on the findings, the research recommended that efforts should be made to improve awareness of the community as well as the stakeholders, different skill based trainings should be arranged for Women with disabilities and different facilities should be inclusive.



GETAHUN Fenta Kebede, Addis Ababa University, Center for African and Oriental Studies, Ethiopia

In recent decades, Ethiopia has recorded high rates of economic growth. While this growth has led to reductions in poverty, there are still concerns that it has not been inclusive in that it has happened in parallel with an increase in the number of people living in poverty and an increase in inequality. It has not generated sufficient jobs for millions of young and educated people who enter the labor market each year. Indeed, the slow growth of employment in the formal sector, coupled with the rapidly growing rural-urban migration, has forced the large majority of the workforce to join the informal sector. To address the problems of unemployment and poverty as well as to foster inclusive development, the Ethiopian government has implemented a range of policies and strategies. The various policy documents reiterated the importance of microenterprise development programs. Although improvements have been made, the performance of microenterprise development programs has fallen short of expectations. The programs have failed to focus on the very poor and to reach operators in the informal sector. This study explores the causes and forms of informal activity. It also examines why informal sector operators prefer to remain informal despite the existence of microenterprise development programs. The study was conducted in Addis Ababa and focused on street vendors, as they represent the most visible form of informality. It took a qualitative approach and data were collected through key-informant interviews and focus group discussions. The findings show that there are four types of informality, characterised by different reasons for joining the sector. The study also revealed that a failure to understand the nature and demands of informal activities – lack of adequate working premises; growth oriented business areas set by the government; the involvement of multiple institutions and excessive paperwork; low levels of service capacity and inefficiency; corruption and bureaucracy; inaccessibility of decision makers and little delegation to front office workers; business registration and licensing fees and taxes; fear of accepting change and resistance to formalisation – are among the challenges in developing the informal sector and achieving inclusive urban development. The study concludes that microenterprise development programs should pursue a flexible approach in their service delivery and should attend to the needs and priorities of informal sector operators. This calls for a participatory approach, which involves workers in the informal sector, policy makers and policy implementers, in designing interventions targeted at the poor and services that seek to achieve inclusive urban development.



Alain GASCON, Institut français de géopolitique-Université Paris 8, France

It was not until the construction of the centralized road network during the Italian occupation that Ethiopian regions saw the end of their isolation. The French-Ethiopian only provided a limited and fragile outlet to world markets. Despite a steady economic growth encouraged by an open access to the world the "African Lion" is still experiencing a wider gap between the better-integrated central regions and the remote peripheries. In accordance with the vision of the Growth and Transformation Plans the Djibouti-Addis Abäba Development Corridor along the new standard gauge electrified railway is the first step towards a network that will extend across the highlands and the lowlands to the borders. Similarly, the massive production of hydroelectricity generated by the big plants, built in the canyons carved in the central plateau, is transported along the high voltage lines of the Ethiopia Power Grid across the peripheral regions and further across the borders into the neighbouring countries. Ethiopia intends to be in a few years’ time an emerging state, which will export manufactured goods by creating a network of regional industrial parks. Maps show how the National Railway Network and the Power Grid have anchored the federal regions to Addis Abäba. New territorial divisions based upon these centres of industrialization will compete with the kellel, the established federal regions. It is a fact that this recentralization process owes a lot to the increasing demographic and economic weight of the country. This contribution will address issues of national and regional integration, which is a challenge in Ethiopian geopolitics.



WUBANTE Fetene Admasu, 1. Department of Land and Property Valuation, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia 2.Department of Engineering Management, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Steven VAN PASSEL, 1.Department of Engineering management, University of Antwerp 2. Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, Belgium
AMARE Sewnet, Associate Prof., Department of Geography, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia
Jan NYSSEN, Prof., Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
ENYEW Adgo, Associate Prof., Department of Natural Resource Management, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia

Globally, urbanisation is increasing rapidly around the world due to overall population growth and rural-urban migration. The urban population is projected to increase by more than 60% by 2030, and 90% of this growth is projected to take place in developing countries. The rising demand for urban land due to urbanisation tends to be met primarily by converting peripheral rural land. In Ethiopia, rapid urban expansion is one of the areas where the rural farmers and the government are engaged in local land deals. Bahir Dar city is one of the fastest growing cities in Ethiopia, where large numbers of local land deals are concluded every year. On average more than 2900 land deals were concluded every year from 2007/8 to 2016/17 (for ten years). The Ethiopian constitution gives farmers a lifetime right of use of their land, the right to transfer it to the next generations and the right to receive commensurate compensation if they are evicted on public interest grounds. However, it is argued that the compensation paid does not adequately cover the farmer’s loss. This creates numerous economic and social challenges for the affected people, and can also create difficulties for the country’s development efforts. In spite of the seriousness of the impacts of local land deals associated with rapid urbanisation, no comprehensive empirical study has been done on the socio-economic effects of this phenomenon in the study area. In this study, using a unique dataset on 10 years of compensation payments and a stochastic budgeting technique, we quantify the risks associated with local land deals, and offer tools that can be used to inform the decisions of policymakers.



TESSEMA Eseta, Dept of Administration and Public Management, MPMP, A.A.U

Lack of access to transport has a major impact on the lives and life choices of disabled people. Transport is essential for disabled people to access education, employment, health services, social events and leisure pursuits. The lack of an accessible means of independent travel creates social exclusion for many disabled people. Many people with disabilities do not have equal access to health care, education, and employment opportunities, do not receive the disability-related services that they require, and experience exclusion from everyday life activities. The aim of this paper was to study and collect empirical evidence on the transport problems faced by people with disabilities and to produce policy-relevant data on disability that can be used by policymakers to design transport systems that serve everyone equally. The study was conducted in Addis Ababa using both qualitative and quantitative research methods and different instruments. The study was based on primary data collected in the month of March, 2017 from randomly selected clients of the study population. In addition, secondary data, semi structured interviews, observation and desk study were used to collect data for analysis. This study showed the impact of lack of access to transport on disabled people in terms of education, employment, health services, social events, leisure pursuits and social exclusion. It confirmed the importance of transport as a policy issue for an inclusive society. It concludes by presenting recommendations based on the findings.