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Sileshi Mengistu (right) and Temechegn Gutu (left)

The impact of hydro dam and sugar plantations development on the livelihood systems of downstream communities in Omo River Basin

PI: Sileshi Mengistu and Temechegn Gutu, Arba Minch University

Different scholars and interest groups have categorically argued that the combined effect of Gibe III and KSDP will have damn consequences on the people and environment in the Omo Turkana basin (Carr, 2017; Fong, 2015; OI, 2012; HRW, 2013; Girke, 2013; Fratkin, 2010; International Rivers, 2013).  Their argument however is based on either drawing experiences from other places in Ethiopia (Afar, Karrayu), and abroad (Brazil, Chad, Aral Sea in Asia) or knowledge prior to the actual completion of the Gibe III and the beginning of water diversion for KSDP.

Another group of scholars argue that the nature, duration and severity of these impacts are not the same to all dammed rivers (Richtel et’al, 2010). This suggests that the impact of any river basin development should be studied in a case by case approach and based on localized contexts.

In line with this approach, few scholars have studied the impact of Gibe III and sugar plantation projects on Lake Turkana and the surrounding communities (Sean, 2013; Gownaris et’al, 2016; Hodbod et’al, 2018; Stevensen, 2018). Their result shows reduction in Lake water level, reduction in fish production and eliminating seasonal flood pulse with daunting implication for food security and inter-group conflict. However, little is known about the issue at hand within the lower Omo basin. This study seeks to contribute to understanding of the impact of hydro dam and irrigated sugar plantations on the livelihood systems of pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in Hamar, Nyangatom and Dasenech woredas of South Omo Zone.

Endalkachew Hailu Guluma

Folklore and environmental conservation among the Aari of Southern Ethiopia: An ecocritical study of Aari traditional religious beliefs, myths and rituals.

PI: Endalkachew Hailu Guluma, Department of English Language and Literature, PhD in English Literature. endalkachew.hailu AT amu DOT
Co-Investigator: Zewde Jagre Dantamo, Department of English Language and Literature, MA in English Literature. zed2001 AT gmail DOT com

The traditional environmental thoughts and ecological knowledge and practices of the Aari people are explored through a critical appraisal of their myths, traditional religious beliefs, and rituals. Data are collected from ten South Aari Woreda elders selected through snowball sampling via unstructured interviews. Results showed places of ancestral origin and burial are sanctified with their vegetation cover and water bodies. Every Aari community has sanctified forests and springs put aside for worship rituals of Sabi (God), Beri (Goddess) and Aki/Bunka/Aka/ (ancestors’ spirit) and each household a small sanctified grove. Harmful spirit or Tsoysi forests are protected as entering them is considered calamitous. Power and holiness accorded to Baabis (Kings) and Godmis (Priests) originate from their mythical connection with and closeness to nature, spirits and deities. The environment has wholeness as a system and commands respect as gods watch over and visit it, spirits live in it, humans get created from it and return to it as spirits after death. Keeping and protecting it ensures ecological balance and attainment of blessed, prosperous, and healthy life. But nowadays, the spread of formal educational system that ignores indigenous knowledge, change of traditional livelihood practices, change of traditional belief system as well as loss or weakening of traditional institutions involved in environmental resource use and management are threatening Aari indigenous ecological thought, knowledge and practices of conservation. We argue that integration of indigenous ecological knowledge with scientific conservation practices will bring sustainable and effective environmental conservation and management in Aariland.
Keywords: Aari Ontology of environment; Ecocriticism; Ethiopia; Folklore; indigenous ecological knowledge; conservation; coagency

Gender-Differentiated Risks, Vulnerabilities and Coping Strategies in South Omo Pastoral and Agro- Pastoral Societies

PI: Sileshi Mengistu and Serekebrhan Fiquremariam, Arba Minch University

Perceptions, impacts and coping mechanisms of risks and are different for men and women, as men and women have different social roles, vulnerabilities, capabilities and opportunities for adjustment and unequal assets and power relations. Their physical abilities and the way they experience environmental changes and disaster can be different (J. Parikh and F. Denton 2003; cited in Parikh, 2007). Women have wide-ranging responsibilities in the pastoralist way of life, taking care of the family, the livestock and the land. In the course of their daily tasks, they have developed an intimate knowledge of natural resource management, which they put into practice for the benefit of both their communities and the environment.  The fact that women and girls are often the household care takers means their lives are directly affected by the changes brought about by climate change. These gender-based differences in the effects of climate change and in coping strategies in pastoral societies are not given proper attention in policy circles and research practices. This study is intended to fill this gap by looking in to the issue in South Omo pastoralists.

Teshome Yirgu Bayu

Climate Change and Institutions of Sustainable Land Management among the Pastoral Community: A case Study from Lower Omo River Basin, Ethiopia

PI: Teshome Yirgu Bayu

The research is conducted in the two districts of South Omo zone, namely Dasenech and Gnangatom.  Geographically, it is located between 4025’N to 5045’N latitude and 35050’E to 36025’E longitude (Figure 1). The study area is inhabited by four pastoral communities, namely Dasenech, Murub, Kuyobu and Gnangatom ethnic groups. In the area the long term annual precipitation at Gnangatom and Dasenech stations is 840.3mm and 728mm respectively. While the average annual temperature in the two stations fluctuates between 28oc and 420c.  River Omo is a perennial water resource and without which the communities and animals in the area would hardly survive. The people of lower Omo valley are heavily relying on traditional livestock farming, small fish catch, apart from seasonal wetland farming on flooded banks, when the river water retreats during the wet season. Since these communities are pastoralist, in the dry season they moved their cattle to distant location in search for pasture and water.
In the study area the livelihood of the community and the environment is badly affected by the changing climate conditions. But to withstand the problem and sustainability manage the natural resource, the pastoralists used indigenous institutions as an organ of enforcing mechanism. To this end, traditional institutions (traditional belief, rituals) and community elders enforce codes to protect and clearly prohibit activities, which affect forest resource.
In this regards, little is known and documented on the effects of traditional institutions in arresting the environmental problems in the area. Thus, the objective of the research is to assess the role of indigenous institutions in rehabilitating degraded land in lower Omo valley. The project has six month duration and expected to consume about 63,200 ETH birr to be covered by South Omo Research Center, SORC. Currently we are in data collection stage and the project is expected to be completed after four months, if the challenge with COVID-19 goes well.

       Figure 1: Map of Lower Omo Valley, South Ethiopia

A Functional Analysis of Braile Folktales

PI: Zewde Jagre and Endalkachew Hailu

This study was motivated by the fact that there was no former attempt to collect and analyze the folktales of the Braile community in South Omo, Ethiopia. This community was selected through purposive sampling technique from the zone because it has an endangered language, Ongota, with only seven native speakers at this time, and is among the least studied group. The study attempted to answer the research questions:- what folktales are commonly told within the Braile community, what roles do the folktales appear to play for the communities that tell them? What do the folktales reveal about the different sociocultural aspects of the community? The folktales are collected from the elders of the community selected by snowball sampling techniques, and data collection techniques were in-depth interview and focus group discussion. A number of folktales have been collected, translated into Amharic and English and analyzed qualitatively. The results of functional analysis showed that the folktales are chiefly used to portray cultural experiences of the people; to improve social life of the society, and to educate them. Most folktales appeared to be meant for passing on moral lessons, cultural values, and cultural experiences. They predominately play the role of warning against betrayal, jealousy, boastfulness, infidelity, enmity, imprudence, and foolishness. 
Key terms: folktales, Braile, Ongota, South Omo, Functional analysis, cultural values, cultural experiences, moral and social values

Where Did You Take Our River? Development, Dispossession and the Feeling of Insecurity among the Nyangatom, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

Master thesis by Temechegn Gutu Bira, University of Leuven, academic year 2018-2019. gututemechegn AT yahoo DOT com

Thesis Abstract

This thesis investigates how the process of making development as pursued by the Ethiopian developmental state is resulting in the dispossession and insecurity of the local communities in Nyangatom, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia. Lower Omo Valley and its resources have been hosting different state and non-state development projects including dam construction on Omo River, Sugar development projects, Protected area conservation, and privately owned agribusiness. The development intervention in the area has achieved twofold functions. First, by intensifying its presence in the region through development rhetoric, the Ethiopian state is building itself in the peripheral lowlands of Lower Omo Valley. Second, by expanding state-space over the non-sate space, the process is making the lowland resources accessible to the exploitation by state and other private owners. The process entails the dispossession of the local communities from the resources on which their livelihood depends. The Nyangatom are dispossessed from land resource through largescale land appropriation for a sugarcane plantation, protected area conservation and private investments whereas they dispossessed from water resources through dam closure and dam-irrigated plantation projects on Omo River. In addition to this, the less absorption of their labour in the industry due to the structural problem related to recruitment make them a ‘surplus population,’ that should be kept safely at a distance by ‘development.’ Hence, apart from the official discourse as a scheme of livelihood improvement, the villagization program in Nyangatom is an element of security governance through biopolitics in the face of dispossession. As a result of the dispossession through development intervention and the failed development promises, the Nyangatom people have experienced insecurity. The process yields declining in the different categories of human security adopted by the UN.
Keywords: Lower Omo Valley, dispossession, development, insecurity

Mohammed Shure

Exploring the practice of Extensive Reading in English Language

PI: Mohammed Shure

This study investigated the practices of extensive reading within six selected secondary schools of South-Omo secondary schools. The main objective of the study is to explore the practices of the extensive reading among the students of the sample schools. To achieve the stated objectives mixed research design was used to have a better understanding of the existing problem. Students were given questionnaire which focused on the ten principles of extensive reading practices. Then teachers and the librarians of the sample schools including the public library works were interviewed to get the in-depth information regarding challenges for the practices of extensive reading. Finally, observation was also made to evaluate the extent of extensive reading practice in the study environments. Likewise, the analysis of collected data were made with simple descriptive statistics (mean, SD and frequency) to describe the existing situation. Finally result from the study shows that the source of the student’s reading material is mainly school library (47.5%) and school libraries in which students could not access the reading materials that did not fit their reading level and interests. Students also reacted as they read to pass exam or do home-work. This was found to be against the principle “free reading” or reading without worrying about the result you gate from the reading purpose. Result from the interviews and observations also show that there is a poor and unfertile ground for the practice of extensive reading at the sample research sites.
Keywords: Extensive reading, reading fluency, challenges, libraries

Multilingual school setting and its impact on the cognitive development of pre-school children in South Omo Zone.

PI: Thomas Tolla, Department of Psychology, Arba Minch University & Muluken Tesfaye, Department of Special Needs and Inclusive Education, Arba Minch University

Southern Nations Nationalities and the Peoples Regional State of Ethiopia is such a diversified region in its linguistic, ethnic, and cultural composition, which makes the region, the most diversified and multilingual region in the country. Among 56 languages spoken by the people of the region in different localities, few haven’t yet developed their own curriculum so as their offspring learn in the education system. Hence, in some localities, Amharic, the national working language of Ethiopia is being used as a medium of instruction. These areas include the whole districts of the South Omo zone. The heterogeneous nature of the population of Jinka town, the seat of the Zone, and its attractiveness has caused people from other regions of the country. When the offspring of non-native parents sent to a school of the nearby community, the children face certain difficulties to effectively communicate with their peers in school settings. 
The studies on the effect of the exposure of children to two or more languages at early childhood on their cognitive development and acquisition of early childhood literacy skills are not available in advance. Among the factors that affect a child’s school success in early childhood, the medium of instruction as well as the consonance between the naming’s of phenomena at home and schools plays a great role. Failure to communicate with the language spoken by peers or used at school settings creates confusion in not only the child’s acquisition of concepts but also results in delays in the overall socialization process of the child. Hence, this study aims at investigating the effect of multilingual settings on the cognitive development of preschool children by developing the following leading questions.
– Does exposure to dual-language settings create a delay in cognitive development in pre-school children? 
– Is there a significant difference in cognitive development between pre-school children of monolingual and bilingual school and classroom setting?