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[PANEL] 1206 GUARDIANS OF PRODUCTIVE LANDSCAPES: FARMERS AND FARMING IN ETHIOPIA
Ivo STRECKER, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the JohannesGutenberg University of Mainz, Germany
Günther SCHLEE, Professor, Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology , Halle (Saale), Germany
EYOB Defersha, Arbaminch University, Ethiopia
MITIKU Gabrehiwot, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
TESFAHUN Haddis; Marco BASSI; Ruth JACKSON; Takeshi FUJIMOTO; DESALEGN Amsalu; Jean LYDALL;
Ivo STRECKER; Jan NYSSEN; Amaury FRANKL; MITIKU Gabrehiwot
This panel aims at exploring the farmers of Ethiopia but not limited to, and how farmers interact with their physical and social landscapes. The farmers of Ethiopia and other countries have been custodians of the ‘ productive landscapes’ in their areas. But, how have the role played by indigenous farmers and farming practices changed over time and what can we learn from them? Amidst a globalized world and an obsessive quest for increasing production, what lessons can the rest of the world learn from indigenous farming strategies across varied ecological existence?
LIVING ON THE EDGE. THE WORK ETHOS OF TIGREAN FARMERS [Abstract ID: 1206-09]
The central focus of this presentation goes to the farmers of Tigrean highlands, who are living on the edge of rift valley and has been working for years with the land, particularly their farming working belief, strength,principles, meaning,values and historical background will be discussed. Two ethnographic films( ˝Abraham & Sarah. creators of productive landscape" and ˝ Dancing grass") from the "Guardians" series will be used as a supportive evidence.
DEALING WITH ETHIOPIAN LANDSCAPES: ONTOLOGICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS [Abstract ID: 1206-04]
The notion of landscape is increasingly getting attention in international programs cutting across different domains. Yet, different actors tend to understand the concept in different ways. In this presentation, I will introduce the anthropological approach, focusing on the interaction between human communities and their environment. The ordinary productive activities take place with modalities that are specific to the place and are based on local perceptions and knowledge. Human action shapes the environment and produces marks that become symbols of collective identities. This constructivist conception differs from objectivist views, as prevailing, for instance, in natural sciences and in biodiversity conservation, whereby the landscape corresponds to a discrete, physical and ecological territory. I will also present an overview of Ethiopian landscapes that are particularly valuable with reference to identity issues and biodiversity conservation, with a brief discussion of the relevance of indigenous and local knowledge and of the methodological challenges in studying and valorizing it in agro-ecological development.
FROM THE RAINFOREST TO THE POT: FOLLOWING A BROWN, DOUBLE-COMBED CHICKEN IN SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1206-01]
Background: Many people outside Africa still visualize Ethiopia through the media lens of a barren landscape, drought and famine. Yet the southwest is renowned for its rainforest and being the birthplace of coffee, for its spices and honey, and for being an important watershed production to the Nile. In 2010, UNESCO added the Kafa Biosphere Reserve—an area of 760,000 hectares—into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. As one of the world’s vital yet threatened areas for biodiversity conservation, most research about the Biosphere is scientific and technical focusing on biodiversity and climate protection, or on ways to improve the livelihoods of local communities including ethnic minority groups such as the Manjo. The aim of this project is to question ideas and assumptions of what might be thought as ‘mundane’ (food preparation) or ‘banal’ (the taken-for-grantedness of the rainforest as a resource for wood, coffee, spices and so on), by showing how the journey of a chicken—a brown, double-combed chicken that are prized throughout Ethiopia—from a rural neighborhood (kebele), through the rainforest, to the market, and then to the pot, connects a plurality of ordinary people during one of the Ethiopian Orthodox feasts.
Methods: Interviews and participant observation in Kafa Zone will provide narratives, pictures and a story about a woman accompanying the chicken on its journey; women who sell spices mainly comprising chili pepper (berberé) to add to the pot; and, those who make local beer (tella) or honey wine (tej). We’ll also meet some Manjo people who cut firewood and make charcoal to sell to households to cook the food, and women preparing the injera and wat and roasting the coffee after the meal. Discussion: I will be collecting and analyzing qualitative data and subsequently preparing a children's book and a book length manuscript for publication about the project. This presentation will be based on the first draft of the book for children.
HUMAN-MADE LANDSCAPES OF MANAGED FERTILITY, CROPPING AND AGROFORESTRY: THE CASE OF MALO FARMERS IN SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1206-05]
The Malo are Omotic-speaking farmers with a population of approximately 60,000–80,000. They inhabit a steep mountainous area in the middle of Southwest Ethiopia. Throughout the area, we find a characteristic pattern of landscapes; scattered dots of enset groves centered on individual homes (kettsa). Enset (uutsa), a local and prominent staple crop, is planted in kara kale, a home garden where soil fertility is carefully maintained by manuring and a mixed cropping polyculture of vegetables, pulses, spices, and fruits dominates. In the home garden, Lloyd, wild seedlings of various tree species are tended and transplanted for house construction, firewood, etc. Outside the home garden are large outlying fields (gade) where soil fertility is managed not by manuring but by short or long fallowing and a monoculture of cereal crops such as barley, wheat, maize, sorghum and teff is the norm. It needs to be mentioned that this characteristic landscape is created and maintained by the people’s daily farming activities. Although their farming system of differential management of soil fertility and cropping may be quite labor-intensive, it is considered to be highly resilient to unseasonal weather and recent climate change.
INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE OF WATER USE AND MANAGEMENT AMONG THE AWI, NORTHWESTERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1206-02]
This paper discusses indigenous knowledge of water and water use management among the Awi ethnic group in northwest Ethiopia. Awi cultural values are associated with both ground and surface water sources and resource use management. The people build traditional irrigation schemes operated and maintained by farmers themselves. Traditional water use associations led by elected chiefs undertake the operation and maintenance of traditional irrigation schemes. They also manage water sheds to improve water resource availability. When conflicts arise in water use, they resolve them through indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms. In addition to the documentation of such practices diachronically, this paper suggests indigenous knowledge in water management and use needs to be incorporated into “modern” water planning and use efforts. The research on this relatively less known and less written aspect of indigenous knowledge among the Awi (and even on other ethnic groups) was conducted in 2016 among the Awi through a qualitative approach.
THE BREAKDOWN OF SUSTAINABLE, SUBSISTENCE MODES OF PRODUCTION DUE TO THE CONSTRAINTS AND TEMPTATIONS OF THE COMMERCIAL MARKET ECONOMY AND THE EMERGENCE OF "GUARDIANS" OF PRODUCTIVE LANDSCAPE [Abstract ID: 1206-06]
Many factors have been eroding sustainable, subsistence modes of production, which used to be the norm throughout Ethiopia. One of the growing forces of change is the commercial (market) mode of production that impacts on the subsistence farmers (agricultural and/or pastoral), both luring and coercing people to abandon their ancient subsistence mode of production, or forcing them to find ways to make a living by juggling subsistence activities with commercial ones. The farmers who keep pursuing a subsistence mode of production, whether fully or partially, are emerging "guardians" of a sustainable mode of production, which urgently needs be sponsored. I will explore this topic with reference to what I have observed in the South Omo region over the past 47 years. Taxation, urbanization, deforestation, land grabbing, commercial production of grain (especially maize), food relief programmes, educational opportunities, compulsory schooling, manufactured clothing and other goods, armaments, alcohol, pesticides and fertilizers, medicines, mobile phones... are just some of the constraints and temptations that I will consider.
THE GRACE OF SUBSISTENCE: LESSONS FROM 'ABRAHAM AND SARAH' [Abstract ID: 1206-07]
The presentation will have three parts. (1) The first will briefly recall the main ideas and activities
that have led to the emergence of the "Guardians of productive landscapes" project under the auspices of Prof. Guenther Schlee, director of the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology (Halle/Saale, Germany), and the participation of scholars from the universities of Arba Minch and Mekelle. (2) The second part will call the various meanings of 'grace' to mind, which all are relevant for a full understanding of subsistence economy, not just as a technical process but also as an ethical and spiritual way of being. (3) Part three will support and deepen the argument using some passages taken from the first film in the "Guardians" series, entitled "Abraham and Sarah. Creators of a productive landscape".
VALORISATION AND DISSEMINATION OF INDIGENOUS AND SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE IN FARMERS’ LANGUAGE – A CASE FROM TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1206-08]
Farmers in north Ethiopia have developed a wealth of indigenous knowledge that allows near-optimal management of their farmlands. For instance, a study of land use in a 208-ha catchment in Dogu’a Tembien shows that patterns of land use and crop production system are strongly associated (P < 0.001) with soil type. Similarly, smallholders design their cropping system in accordance with spatio-temporal rainfall variability: in Tigray, five cropping systems could be identified, ranging between a ten-months system with two successive rainfed crops (around Korem) and a five-to-four-months cropping season with drought-resistant varieties near Sinkata. In addition there is variability in crop associations, depending on soil type, slope position and elevation. With inter-annual changes in precipitation, the cropping systems shift at catchment as well as at the regional scale. In addition, newly introduced technologies such as soil and water conservation are integrated into the farming systems. The farmers’ environmental knowledge is such that strong correlations exist between application of manure, compost or mineral fertilisers and site-specific land and climatic conditions. Excess fertiliser is sold off, particularly in areas where spate irrigation is traditionally practiced, since the floods bring fertile sediment from the upper areas. Outcomes of our research in the Tigray region of Ethiopia over more than 20 years have been published in many journals, and have contributed to scientific knowledge that is relevant for rural development and sustainable livelihood. Direct knowledge sharing with farmers was done through their involvement in field research activities. The implementation of six development projects, the organisation of Farmers’ Days in which research findings were demonstrated in the field, and the development of three extension manuals (two in Tigrinya and one in English) were further endeavours to disseminate knowledge gained. In a bid to better reach the rural community, to hand the knowledge directly to the farmers, and hence to empower them, we took inspiration from ‘almanacs’ as they had been used in northwest Europe, and which build on the close links between a calendar and farming activities. The developed booklet offers basic research findings, expressed in simple, often local, words in Tigrinya language, combined with other useful and sometimes lighter information. It has been distributed among farmers with the aim that it is not only read by farmers but also passed on and discussed within the communities (farmer-to-farmer extension).
VERITIES AND VALUES OF TEFF IN TIGRAY [Abstract ID: 1206-10]
Teff is believed to have domesticated in the highlands of Ethiopia. The ecological and cultural diversity of the country has resulted in different verities of teff. In the highlands of Tigray, teff is harvested in a group and it is very laborious. From a film project and research conducted in the highlands of Tigray, considerable varieties of teff are recorded. These varieties are identified by their color, texture, taste and size of the mother leaf. According to the farmers, each teff varity has different function and social value. While red and 'sergenewi' teff varieties are used for different food options, white and qazez are appealing to the eye. Cultivating and harvesting teff is also different from area to area. However, farmers suggest that these days, few varieties of teff are rare to get. The harvesting of teff is accompanied by cultural and religious norms the meaning of which can be traced to the biblical times.