'; ICES20 at Mekelle University: 20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies
Geralta mountains

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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[PANEL] 1202 CHANGING INTERSECTIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SHOCKS AND LOCAL INSTITUTIONS IN ETHIOPIA: DEBATES AND CASE STUDIES

Organizers:

TEFERI Abate Adem, Yale University, USA
Harald ASPEN, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Paper presenters:

TESFAYE Aragie; TESFATSEYON Yosef; ZERIHUN Berhane Weldegebriel; Martin PROWSE;
ZEGEYE W/Mariam Ambo; Harald ASPEN; AREGASH Abebayehu; Svein EGE; TEFERI Abate Adem;
LETA Mekonnen

Rainfed agriculture, which is the mainstay of millions of farmers in Ethiopia and many other countries, is highly prone to extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, poorly timed rains, floods, and outbreak of crop pests. These shocks, which are predicted to be even more frequent and severe due to accelerating climate change and climate variability (Li et al 2015), can have devastating impacts on households and communities, often leading to chronic food insecurity, increased vulnerability to poverty and destitution. However, there is a growing consensus that the magnitude of actual impacts often depended not only on food aid by international and government agencies, but also on the responses of affected households and communities themselves.

A range of local institutions, broadly encompassing communally sanctioned rules and practices, but also socially recognized ties, groups and associations exist in rural Ethiopia. Attuned to changes in household circumstances, these institutions provide culturally enforceable solutions governing the flow of key factors of production resources such as land, labor (including the use of draft animals), livestock, money, food (both cooked and uncooked), farm tools, seeds and other agricultural inputs. Some of the institutions (e.g. “makanajo,” “wonfel,” etc.) specifically address the horizontal flow of resources between household heads facing more or less similar constraints. Others (e.g. “magazo”, “kontrat,” “ribbi’, etc.) can be vertical and dyadic, often between economically well-off farmers and their less fortunate (but not necessarily politically less influential) neighbors and relatives. Still others deal with local collective action problems. One important example is Iddir (also called Kire) which enables farmers exchange much-needed labor, material and emotional support in times of death, conflict, accidents, property loss, and related crisis events. In some rural areas, the Iddir also serves as an important platform for governing common pool resources such as pastures, woodlots, and water sources (Pankhurst 2001; 2003). Our definition of collective action groups also includes informal gathering (e.g. rotating coffee clubs or “tertib”, communally organized rituals variously known as “wodaja”, “adbar,” etc.), religious congregations (e.g. Senbete, mahber, etc), rotating credit clubs (ekub), and more formal, and relatively recent, organizations like farmers’ cooperatives, group owned small-scale enterprises, and politically-oriented age and gender-based associations.

With this panel, we hope to inquire whether, or to what extent, such local, more or less special-purpose institutions have adapted to help farming households in responding to, and recovering from, environmental shocks. We invite papers that explore if links are evolving between the resilience and adaptive capacities of some of these institutions with climate change-induced increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Papers may address a range of questions such as: why do some households and communities exhibit greater resilience than others in responding to, and recovering from, particular shocks? Which types of institutional responses appear to help enable, or deter, households and communities to better manage environmental shocks? What sociocultural and political factors contribute, or deter, institutional innovation and resilience to weather shocks? What other non-climatic factors (e.g. expansion of rural roads, improved access to markets, increased out-migration, differential access to safety-net and other transfers, etc.) might have contributed to variation in the resilience of local institutions?

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ABWALAD: A KINSHIP-BASED ASSOCIATION FOR HORIZONTAL COOPERATION AND MUTUAL HELP AMONG THE AMHARA OF BORANA SAYNT [Abstract ID: 1202-06]

TESFAYE Aragie, Ministry of Culture

A number of anthropologists have argued that unlike other ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, the Amhara people lack kinship-based mechanisms, such as lineage corporations, for horizontal cooperation and mutual help. Instead, the Amhara are said to be traditionally organized hierarchically, along dyadic, patron-client, ties. However, actual observation of Amhara social organization proves the prevalence of strong kinship-based vertical ties and social cooperation, which challenges this presumption. The Amhara people have a distinct descent corporation for mutual help and cooperation; locally known as Abwalad, literally, “children of the same father.” Named after the founding apical ancestor, the Abwalad consists of all descendants related to each other through a line of ancestors, either through the mother’s or father’s lines. The Abwalad in contemporary Amhara communities provides culturally enforceable solutions for governing social conflicts, sharing natural resource and coping with natural disasters. In the past, the Abwalad was the basic sociological unit through which individuals claimed and acquired rist rights to land previously held by both maternal and paternal ancestors. This paper discusses salient features of this previously neglected and misunderstood institution by drawing on ethnographic data recently collected from Borena Saynt, a sub-region in southwestern Wollo where the Amhara culture and Amharic language are believed to have been originated. My central thesis is that Abwalad, while organized on principles of cognatic descent, shows strong resemblance with unilineal lineage corporations widely prevalent in the rest of eastern Africa.

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY ON THE LIVELIHOOD ASPECTS OF FISHERS-LAKE INTERACTION AT LAKE HAWASSA:PRACTICES, OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. [Abstract ID: 1202-07]

TESFATSEYON Yosef

The interaction of residents of Hawassa city and rural areas with the lake takes different forms and involves diverse interests - livelihood interest being the most important one. This study mainly focused on understanding the local people’s livelihood-based interaction with Lake Hawassa through fishing practices. The study further aimed at exploring the socio-economic and legal (policy) factors that have been affecting, positively or negatively, the fishers-lake interaction. Data has been collected through qualitative (observation, in-depth interviews, FGDs and case studies) method and supported with some quantitative (questionnaire survey) method. The study result reveals that Lake Hawassa provides diverse services to the population inhabiting its catchments: scenic setting for tourism and associated diverse businesses, and water for irrigation and city beautification, all contributing to people’s livelihood in one way or another. In the two major fish landing sites, Amora Gedel and Fiker Hayik, which are the focus of the present study, fishing and related activities constitute either the major livelihood strategy or a supplementary means of income for 1000-1500 people. Main actors in these activities include: individual fishers, fishers organized into cooperatives and suppliers of fish products for market at Lake Hawassa. In this regard, social networks play a key role serving as a means of value/supply chain, employment and cluster-based fishing practices. Fishing activities at Lake Hawassa seem to be increasing over time. For instance, while the maximum carrying capacity of the lake’s fishing is said to be 750nets/day, currently there are 1200-1400 nets/day operating on the lake. The number of people involved in fishing at the two major landing sites also increased three times from around 300 in the past five years to around 900. Currently the daily income of fishers ranges between 250 and 500 ETB, which correspond to the production of 32 and 50 Kgs of fish respectively. Fishers try to maximize their livelihood interest or fish production and income by using officially prohibited gill nets, reducing the mesh size and fishing more than once per day. These informal ways of trying to increase fishing with the aim of improving livelihood goals obviously put pressure on the fish resources at the lake. In addition, competing claims between members of different cooperatives over access to fishing grounds by setting imaginary or informal boundaries are causing net thefts and leading to conflict. Therefore, local communities’ increasing socioeconomic interests in fish resources, their struggle to maintain access to the lake to sustain their livelihood on the one hand, and inadequate management practices or rules by institutions in charge of natural resources management on the other, are exposing the lake’s fishery and other resources to pressure. This is creating conditions that could serve as a threat to the sustainability of the lake's resources and people’s relations as well as livelihood in the long run.

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CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND LIVELIHOOD DIVERSIFICATION IN NORTHERN ETHIOPIA: A CASE STUDY OF LASTA AND BEYEDA DISTRICTS [Abstract ID: 1202-02]

ZERIHUN Berhane Weldegebriel, Addis Ababa University, Center for African and Oriental Studies, Ethiopia
Martin PROWSE, Lund University, Department of Human Geography

This article examines smallholders’ perceptions of climate variability in two districts in northern Ethiopia, and the diversification options pursued within and outside agriculture. Meteorological records corroborate smallholders’ belief that temperatures are increasing but do not support assertions that rainfall is decreasing. Farm-level adaptation mainly involves soil and water conservation measures learnt from state-led schemes as well as planting a broader crop mix. Diversification outside agriculture is mainly wage labour: international and national migration, construction work in local towns, participation in public works and piece work on nearby farms.The article concludes by arguing that policymakers could do more to support non-farm diversification strategies by recognizing the importance of rural–urban connections in fostering adaptation.

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CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUES IN CONSERVATION OF CULTURAL LANDSCAPE: REVISITING A VANISHING INDIGENOUS ‘DEEJJOO’ RITUAL PRACTICE AMONG THE KAFECHO IN SOUTHWESTERN ETHIOPIA. [Abstract ID: 1202-08]

ZEGEYE W/Mariam Ambo, Lecturer at Bonga CTE and a PhD student at Mekelle University, Ethiopia

This Panel is intended to describe the cultural and spiritual values in the conservation of cultural landscape among the Kafecho in southwestern Ethiopia. The historical Omotic people of Kafecho are among the ecological communities who live in typical southwestern highlands of Ethiopia having complex indigenous intangible cultural and spiritual ritual practices which are environmentally harmonious. Their very survival has depended upon their ecological awareness and adaptation. Hence, they are the repositories of vast accumulations of traditional knowledge and experience that links humanity with its ancient origins. Nevertheless such indigenous ecological literacy in the forested landscape has never been well investigated and recognized clearly. Thus, this panel discloses one of the indigenous Deejjoo practices and its transformation in the aforementioned area. As the findings of the research depicted, Deejjoo is a thanksgiving sacrifice ceremony to the forest spirit (Qoolloo) in the forested cultural landscape with its series of procedures and rules as symbolic reminders of the performers and their survival, which depends on the forest and in fact its complementary relationship of the two. Hence the ritual practice recognizes and honors the ethics and taboos of forested cultural landscape for what it is. However, the prevailing arena realizes that there are enormous alterations in the ritual practice. These changes include reduction in the number of participants, vanishing of the cultural sacred landscapes due to other pressures and reluctance towards the norms, taboos and values of the ritual practice. Some of the agents identified for these changes are change in the belief system due to currently spreading Christian missionaries, cultural diffusion due to the ‘Westernization’ narratives, state led interventions and its contradictions with the values and norms of local socio-cultural practices. However, despite these pressures and discouragement from internal and external dynamics against the practice of Deejjoo, it still represents the religious ritual practice and cultural identity of its adherents which is ecologically meaningful in the study area.

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DAILY LABOURERS AND THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY NETWORK IN KOMBOLCHA, SOUTH WÄLO [Abstract ID: 1202-04]

Harald ASPEN, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dept. of Social Anthropology
AREGASH Abebayehu, Wollo University, Ethiopia
NEGASH Abebe, Wollo University, Ethiopia

The Kombolcha industrial park in South Wälo was inaugurated in July 2017 as a result of a 90 million US dollars investment. It is expected to create jobs for 20,000 people.
During the first half of 2018 I shall commense fieldwork in Kombolcha, focusing on resilience/local mutual help institutions in the rural-urban nexus in relation to industrialization and urbanization connected with the newly established Industrial park. Based on my earlier research in the Kombolcha area the role of traditional institutions to keep up contact between first generation “urbanites” in Kombolcha with their families in the countryside, I believe that local, traditional institutions are vital for the new immigrants to town. My presentation at ICES20 will be a first presentation of findings and provide a sketch of a future publication on the issue.

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IN THE SAME EDER: COMMUNITY AND COLLECTIVISM IN NORTHERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1202-03]

Svein EGE, Department of Social Anthropology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim

The eder (funeral association) is generally recognized as one of the key local organizations. In the peasant communities studied (T’arma Bär wäräda, Northern Shäwa), this is certainly the case. The first eders were founded in the late Haylä-Selasé period, they operated on a fairly modest scale under the Därg regime, but under the EPRDF they expanded both in numbers and functions. There is now often a main eder of the household heads (the original eder), a women’s eder, and perhaps one or more youth eders. The original role of the eder was to organize the local community to provide both mourners and specified monetary and food support (nefro) for those who had lost a close relative, with detailed rules and strict enforcement. This was an important change from kinship and neighbourliness (gurbetena) to collectivity — formal organization with rules and a fixed leadership to enforce those rules. The modern eder goes far beyond this. It has taken it upon itself to enforce holidays, property rules, security, religious uniformity, and to limit the competition for land. The expansion of the roles of the eder has sometimes been stimulated and sometimes been resisted by the state. One of the most fascinating aspects of the eder is its enforcement capacity. Non-compliers can be expelled, which does not only mean exclusion from the eder per se, but ostracism from the local community. The remaining members are prohibited from any cooperation (weleta) with the expelled member, such as to rent land, borrow oxen, cooperate in work, or associate in any way, even if they are close relatives. Members who disobey, may themselves be expelled. Due to these draconian measures, the local administration has found the eder to be more efficient in enforcing compliance than their own web of organizations, which raises some interesting questions about legitimacy.

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LOCAL RESILIENCE TO ENVIRONMENTAL SHOCKS IN SOUTH WOLLO [Abstract ID: 1202-05]

TEFERI Abate Adem, Yale University

Rural communities have a range of community-level mechanisms and cultural institutions that help them deal with, to varying degree of effectiveness, environmental shocks such as prolonged droughts, untimely rains, violent floods and outbreak of animal disease and crop pests. With accelerating climate change, which is predicted to increase in the frequency and severity of these shocks, there is a growing concern that the effectiveness of local institutions can be greatly diminished. However, we lack systematic knowledge to understand how the resilience capacities of local institutions are shaped and reshaped over time by environmental and political forces. I address this question by comparing changing roles of Qire, an all-inclusive residence-based association, in two rural villages in south Wollo. While sharing a broadly similar vulnerability context, the villages vary in degree of food self-sufficiency mainly due to location at contrasting agro-ecological zones. The first is a “dega” where cultivation is constrained by erratic rains which tend to be spotty and unreliable in the spring (“belg.”) and extremely heavy and cold in the summer (“kirmet”). The second is a moderately hot lowland (“kola”) endowed with, although prone to moisture-stressed, fertile soils and a rich repertoire of crops. Although hardly a perfect laboratory, this variation provides a unique opportunity for exploring if variations in Qire roles can be linked with variation in degree of exposure to environmental shocks. In exploring this issues, I also recognizes the centrality of state (in)action, as well as other non-climatic trends (e.g. improvements in market access, transportation, food aid, social services, etc.), for understanding the effectiveness of community-level mechanisms for dealing with environmental shocks.

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THE ROLE OF GUMUZ WOMEN IN AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES: THE CASE OF DOBI KEBELLE, BULLEN WOREDA, BENISHANGUL GUMUZ, WESTERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1202-09]

LETA Mekonnen, Lecturer, Mekelle University, Department of Anthropology, Ethiopia

Rural women play a significant role in agricultural production activities, while coping with a variety of challenges in Benishangul Gumuz western Ethiopia in general and Gumuz community in particular. This study was focused on the role of Gumuz women in agricultural activities using the case of Dobi kebelle in Bullen woreda Benishangul Gumuz western Ethiopia. A simple random sampling strategy has been used to get 126 households to gather quantitative data and of these 55 respondents were selected to collect qualitative data. The primary data used to conduct this study was obtained from household surveys, nonparticipant observation of women’s participation in agricultural activities, household decision making, and domestic activities in the study community. Simultaneously other data was collected through in-depth interview of elders of both sexes in the community and agricultural experts of the woreda. Lastly, focus group discussion and case study data collection instruments were used. Simple descriptive statistical analysis including frequency, percentage and graphs were used to analyze quantitative data and a narrative has been used to describe qualitative data. The result of this study revealed that women are integral to all agricultural activities related to crop production except plowing with ox among the Gumuz community in Dobi kebelle. In addition to this women carry out the clearing of agricultural land, hoeing, preparing threshing ground (locally called shich’a) and others agricultural activities in addition to reproductive and household chores in the study community. The results further show women in the study area have equal rights with men in the acquisition of new agricultural land through free land holding without any bias and dominate decision making on agricultural activities which relate to crop production in the community. However women have less access to productive resources such as extension services, finance, fertilizers, improved seed, and they lack inheritance rights to property in the study area. These factors limit their agricultural output production and productivity to subsistence farming and local markets rather than commercial production.