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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MULUGETA Feseha, Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Paper presenters:

EBRAHIM Damtew Alyou; AHMED Hassen; BELETE Dawit; KELIL Demsis; ZENAWI Gebremeskel;
MULUGETA Feseha; AZEB Girmai

The thematic areas of this panel include:

  1. Impediments in the Ethiopian Tourism Development.
  2. Community empowerment and tourism development in Ethiopia.
  3. The challenges in linking tourism with Agriculture
  4. Overcoming the challenges in the Ethiopian Hospitality Industry.
  5. Ethiopian heritages and tourism
  6. The challenges in developing domestic tourism in Ethiopia and related topics



Jan NYSSEN, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
Miro JACOB, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
Amaury FRANKL, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
MIRUTS Hagos, Department of Earth Sciences, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
Andrea SEMBRONI, Department of Science, University of Roma Tre, Italy
Jean POESEN, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, Belgium
MITIKU Haile, Department of Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection, Mekelle University, Belgium

In order to reach all persons interested in geosites and human-environment interactions in Ethiopia’s tropical mountains, we prepared a geoguide about the Dogu’a Tembien district in Tigray, Ethiopia, a mountain district with a varied geography and spectacular landscapes. Since we are a large team conducting research in that district and local people tell that we know not only every footpath but even every stone on those footpaths, we prepared it as a geo-trekking guide (published by Springer).
Dogu’a Tembien (13°39’N, 39°11’E, approx. 1000 km²) was selected as a representative district and mountain massif (up to 2850 m high) in the Northern Ethiopian Highlands, as it is easily accessible, presents scenic landscapes, and holds almost all geological formations, and associated landforms, occurring in Ethiopia. The subhorizontal structural landscape of scarps, ledges and mesas, resulting from the differential erosion resistance of the various lithologies is locally described as “imba” landscape, or “amba” in Amharic.
After deforestation, which took place over the last 4000 years, topsoil and subsoil disappeared in many places, predominantly by water and tillage erosion, as well as by landsliding. Presently, there is an active policy to reforest steep slopes and to apply various soil and water conservation measures.
Around 150 scientific publications addressing various environmental and social aspects of this district were used to prepare the Geo-Trekking Guide, whose objectives are:
- to illustrate the geodiversity of Dogu’a Tembien by providing an overview and descriptions of geosites;
- to convey all research results on geomorphological processes, geology, hydrology, vegetation, human-environment interactions, rural sociology, land management, and soil and water conservation, to a broader public;
- to popularise the large effort that is done on environmental management to the broader public;
- to indicate the exact field locations of, and (foot) access to the geosites by Ethiopian residents and visitors;
- to provide concise and site-specific information for scientific and students’ excursions;
- to enhance and promote geoheritage and geotourism; and
- to enhance sustainable trekking tourism in Dogu’a Tembien and Ethiopia.



MOHAMMED Jemal Ahmed, Izmir Katip Celebi University, Izmir, Turkey, PhD student

Ethiopia is the birthplace of both the coffee tree and coffee culture. Ethiopian wild forest coffee is the genetic root of all coffee. It is also the country’s most important export item. At the same time tourism is also booming in Ethiopia. Hence, the marriage of the two sectors has an irreplaceable role for the development of the country. In Ethiopia, coffee is more than just source of income or beverage; it is the spice of social cohesion. From tree to cup, coffee preparation in Ethiopia is accompanied by various cultures, performances and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation; therefore coffee became a part of being Ethiopian. Coffee is not just a drink but also a symbol of daily social activities, drinking it with other people is one of social significance. Over 4 million householders in Ethiopia are involved in the cultivation of the coffee plant. Moreover, the motto of Ethiopian tourism- “the Land of Origin” has been selected as Ethiopia is the origin coffee and human beings. Therefore, Ethiopia has great opportunity to be branded as a coffee tourism destination. However, the Ethiopia tourism industry has over the years relied only on cultural heritage and some selected parks. Linking coffee and coffee culture with tourism is lucrative business but the area has been marginalized. Other countries which later took coffee from Ethiopia like Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and African countries such as Uganda and Ivory Coast are promoting their tourism industry with coffee. Ethiopia, the “mother of coffee”, a land where wild coffees still exist on earth, is not utilizing the marriage of the two sectors. This paper therefore, explores the potential and feasibility of linking coffee to tourism in Ethiopia.




This paper argues that introducing tourism police in Ethiopian policing is necessary to ensure safety and security in the tourism industry. Previous studies indicated that establishing well organized tourism police as a central anchor in the realm of the travel and tourism industry is required to keep keenness in the market, where competition has become fierce among tourist destination countries. Therefore, the formation of the specialized body of the National Police in the tourism sector is getting due emphasis in our country to increase tourists’ sense of security and protection. An exploratory qualitative study was employed to investigate the practices of policing in the tourism sector. Key informants were selected by employing a purposive sampling technique. Inclusion criteria were employed to select key informants knowledgeable and proximate to the case under investigation. Data pertinent to the study were gathered through interview and analyzed thematically. The findings indicated that the tourism policing is not independently institutionalized and supported by the policy. On the one hand, the concept of tourism policing is not well realized by the security institutions and the police as well. The main reason to this is lack of attention emanating from a state security apparatus. With this vein, some practical recommendations have been set forth to found the tourism police in charge of rescuing tourists from any form of crimes and malevolence.



TESFAYE Zeleke, Addis Abeba University

Ethiopia has been epitomized with diverse natural, cultural, historical and archaeological tourism resources. Despite the recent moves towards critical institutional reforms, infrastructural expansions, development of destinations and promotional endeavors underway in the tourism sector, the trends and practices of domestic tourism fall below ones expectation. As a result, the contribution of domestic tourism in the discourses of development appeared negligible. The share of domestic tourism in the realization of sustainable tourism development pillars was also out of sight. In tandem with these perspectives, the review of knowledge created on the development, management and promotion of tourism resources in Ethiopia inclined more towards linking and tailoring tourism in international frameworks than a reasonable concentration toward domestic tourism practice. Coupled with this, there is little available research results and topics in Ethiopia covering issues dealing with eco-tourism, community based tourism, culture-based tourism, impacts of tourism (positive and negative), community engagements on tourism and the roles of various actors [private, government, NGOs and other stakeholders in tourism]. As a whole, there has been paucity of knowledge on the trends, practices, potentials and challenges of tourism in Ethiopia, especially in terms of producing knowledge that impacts policy implementation environs, taking strategic options and uplifting domestic tourism towards realizing sustainable developments goals. Consequently, this paper would shade a light on the practices of domestic tourism in Ethiopia deploying mixed research methods [qualitative and quantitative techniques] informed with the philosophy of pragmatism. The paper will specifically explore the potentials, opportunities and challenges that either enhance or undermine domestic tourism in Ethiopia. Following the outcomes of the study, strategic options will be indicated to give options to enhance domestic tourism while edifying the manners to overcome the challenges that impeded domestic tourism in the national and regional context. Policy, development and further research implications will be drawn from the outcomes and conclusions of the investigations.



EBRAHIM Damtew Alyou, University of Gondar, Ethiopia

The objective of this work is to explore the potential of religious rituals and practices for tourism in the case of Gondor town. This is a qualitative research and uses direct observation, interview and secondary sources as a data. Ethiopia is a land of nations, nationalities and people and its people share several religious and cultural values. In relation to this, the contribution of different religions practices and celebrations for tourism is paramount. There are several religions in Ethiopia. All can be categorized under traditional religions on one side and Abrahamic religions on the other side. Sources indicate that these religious values contribute a lot for the development of tourism. In Ethiopia however, this value is not given the attention it deserves. This article tries to relate religious rituals and practices with tourism. The town of Gondor is known for harboring the three Abrahamic religions: Jewish, Christian and Islam together. There are several holy places in the town with religious and tourism implications. However, such religious practices and place are not well documented and contribute to tourism development. With the exception of epiphany, celebrated colorfully, other religious celebrations of different religions are not well documented and used for tourism. In particular, Islamic heritages and celebrations are not give due attention. In addition, the contributions of other cultural and religious values to tourism need to be explored in depth. The contribution of these cultural and religious values for peace building and mutual respect and economic growth is huge.



AHMED Hassen, Institute of Ethiopian Studies

The basic import of this article is a search for junction at one point between the sacred places and tourism. Whereas a sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces, it qualifies due attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. Tourism is a travel for pleasure or business, also the theory and practices of touring, the business of attracting, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. One question reveals itself quite clearly from the above lines. Where is the junction point between the two? It is in the environment of a sub set of tourism, a cultural branch of it, commonly known as cultural tourism or culture tourism. The crux is that both spirituality and tourism operate in a given platform of human cultural arena. It however goes without saying that one feeds another in a complementary manner in a sense of both balance and harmony. Each could serve each other without altering or affecting one another’s values. With respect to the surrounding social environment, sacred places support tourism and tourism supports social development. The ultimate role will remain in the hand of sociality in doing two things but in simultaneous and continuous manner. It is that of preserving sacred sites and promoting religious tourism development to genuinely challenge the financial side of the story that notoriously challenging the social life in the 21st century. Ethiopian reality fits into this trend and encouraging tourism development is one of such prerequisites to successfully confront such inevitable economic challenges.



BELETE Dawit, Wolaita Sodo University, Ethiopia

The marginalization of artisans is the ubiquitous phenomenon in Ethiopia, and its occurrence is true from countryside to towns and from past to present. In the Konso case, there are two social groups: Farmers (Etenta) and artisans (Xauta). The artisans include blacksmiths, butchers, tanners, potters, weavers and traders. Xauta have been considered subordinate to Etenta; they were people without land and ‘poor’ and their occupation was regarded as impure. The irony is that though Xauta are labeled as impure and landless groups, almost all items Etenta use in everyday basis such as hoe, pottery, cloth, iron tools, hide bags and so on are produced by Xauta. The main thrust of the study is to examine critically to what extent the socio-economic status of Konso’s artisans is impacted due to their involvement in tourism business. To achieve this objective, I employed qualitative research strategy with ethnographic research approach. The tools used to collect data were participant observation, informal conversations, key informant interviews and case studies. The data was analyzed using Bourdieu’s Practice theory. The study shows that the growth of tourism business along with the free-market policy in post-socialist Konso brought about new opportunities to artisans. The Xauta took advantage of these opportunities to earn more income from selling handicrafts for tourists, and they became major suppliers to souvenir shops. Artisans’ involvement in the tourism industry extricated them from the poor economic status. The Etenta came to understand that it is the works of artisans that attracted the tourist. The economic benefits the Xauta gained from tourism have a direct impact on their social integration into ‘mainstream groups’. The Xauta are now invited to social meetings of the farmers, and intermarriage becomes common among these groups. Overall, the findings reveal how the involvement of artisans in touristic business help them preserve their skill from extinction, revive the cultural heritages of Konso and enhance their socioeconomic status, thereby ameliorating their marginalization.



KELIL Demsis, Department of Socioology, CSSL, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
ZENAWI Gebremeskel, Department of Socioology, CSSL, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

The study was conducted with the objective of examining the role of tourism in developing a sustainable livelihood in Tigrai region. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods and a sample of three clusters were selected from the total five tourism clusters of the region. Particularly, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, a sample survey, and observation were used as research methods to gather primary data. The findings of the study revealed that the development of tourism in the study areas has been arrested by a number of intricate aborting factors like a lack of due attention from the government at all levels, lack of infrastructures and human capital, administrative factors, and lack of technology related to the sector. As a result, it was found that tourism falls short of helping members of the host community, especially poor households to build sustainable livelihoods. Besides, there is a differential distribution of wealth derived from tourism across different actors involved in the sector. Members of the host community are least benefited when compared to other actors like owners of hotels, restaurants, and other recreation establishments. When it comes to effectively utilizing the potentials of tourism, it was reported that despite the huge tourism potential the region is endowed with, there is an unaddressed issue in utilizing all assets of tourism in which much focus is given to the cultural aspects of tourism to the neglect of nature focused tourism assets. What is more, even the region's cultural heritage has not been promoted to the outside world as it ought to be. Apart from this, the involvement of the private sector in developing the tourism industry has been low. Finally, the study suggests that there is a need for a concerted effort by the government and other stakeholders such as the host community. Higher learning institutions, and the private sector, among others, need to design a comprehensive plan of intervention which identifies the bottlenecks that hinder the development of the sector as well as the remedies, so that the sustainable development of tourism can be achieved. Tourism would then enable the host communities to establish sustainable livelihoods, and the region would derive dynamic economic benefits from the sector.



MULUGETA Feseha, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

This research paper resulted from several years of successive research on community based ecotourism development, it details the natural and cultural tourism attractions which Ethiopia is endowed with, how to transform tourism resources into products and the a-b-c’s of implementing tourism which makes the community a beneficiary and part of the tourism development process. The research paper recommends inclusive and sustainable community based tourism development in Ethiopia and emphasizes:
a) the diverse natural and cultural tourism resources that Ethiopia is endowed with;
b) the various forms of tourism activities which can be developed in Ethiopia;
c) the A-B-C of tourism resource mapping and concurrent empowerment of communities residing in destinations which includes: i) understanding the existing social, cultural, economic, environmental, and technological context of communities; ii) identifying barriers which hinder communities from involvement in tourism development; and iii) capacity building of the community to enable them to be part of the tourism development process and to become beneficiaries;
d) the transformation of tourism resources of a destination into authentic and customer friendly tourism products;
e) mechanisms of community empowerment: offering awareness and training on resources and services, diversifying employment opportunities, building tourism entrepreneurship skills, financing small and micro community based tourism businesses, strengthening the agriculture-tourism linkage, awareness on socio-cultural values of society, and creating learning and practice sharing platforms.
The paper concludes by stressing that if properly developed, Ethiopian tourism can diversify livelihoods, create jobs for millions of youth, women and other members of the society, reduce cultural erosion and tourism dependency syndrome and can create huge revenues which can contribute to the national economic growth.



AZEB Girmai, Division of African Area Studies, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Japan

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.