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Desert voices: Ethiopia

Through stories, songs and memories, these narrators talk about the sharp contrast between past and present. Concerns include conflict, deforestation, a decline in pastoralism, and the impact of agriculture.

Desert voices: Ethiopia testimonies

Arima: punishment from God

As a child Arima tended cattle, making butter to sell in the market. Now she is 65 and the cattle have been lost “due to invasion by Somalis and drought”, as well as being more vulnerable to disease. She also observes that people are far less healthy now that they lack milk and other animal…

Chuqulisa: love is lacking

Chuqulisa is divorced and supports her six children by selling firewood. Her land has been reclaimed by the community but she doesn’t mind, as this change is part of local conservation efforts. She says life in the past and life now are “incomparable”. In her view, the drought has been caused by the increase in…

Diramo: tied to our cattle

Diramo, who is 70, remembers a time when grass was “the height of a person” and cattle gave plenty of milk. Despite current hardships she is “happy with everything,” particularly with her marriage, children and grandchildren. Her only regret is that she did not have an education. She explains that her community first learned to…

Duba: solutions to problems

Duba has two wives and 12 children. He remembers a time when raising cattle was productive, but today his community struggles to buy basic necessities. Now” the quantity of milk that we get from a hundred cows… is almost the same as the amount that we got from a single cow in the old days.”…

Gurracha: conflict devastated it

“Poverty made it die out. Conflict devastated it.” This is how 67-year-old Gurracha says the forest was destroyed in the area that “belonged to our forefathers”. He reflects on the complex process leading to such poverty and devastation and says that there is a “direct relation” between deforestation and desertification. He says agriculture has not…

Huqa: pleasure from family

Before, says 36-year-old Huqa, “cattle rearing was a reliable venture”. People did not have to search for water and pasture, and even in times of drought water could be found nearby. “In the past animals didn’t die in the dry seasons. They might become weak but they survived until the rains came.” He says that…

Ibrahim: the crazy heat

Ibrahim puts his people’s current difficulties – both the “crazy heat” and the conflict over land – into a wider context. He feels strongly that his own government has not treated its own people fairly, favouring the Somali ethnic groups by handing over land that used to belong to the Oromo/Boran, and that it does…

Iyya: conserving the forest

Iyya’s main worry is water scarcity, which has reached catastrophic proportions. “Because of lack of water our development is regressing,” he says. His community used to have “a highland type of climate” with adequate rainfall and plenty of ground water. “Even when the ponds dried out, we dug the ground and found the water at…

Loko: farming from necessity

Loko is 50 years old and has 12 children and 23 grandchildren. Two of her children are still at school, and she says that she would have given them all an education if”it had been [available] as it is today”. She says that her community prefers male children because during times of conflict they can…

Rufo: goodbye to farmland

Rufo is 70 years old and describes what the highlands used to be like. There were “shady trees, vegetation and grasses. We used to shelter ourselves when heavy rain poured down… The highland was everything for us. You can compare it to a mother”. She says that excessive population pressure – both of people and…

Testimonies

Arima: punishment from God

Chuqulisa: love is lacking

Diramo: tied to our cattle

Duba: solutions to problems

Gurracha: conflict devastated it

Huqa: pleasure from family

Ibrahim: the crazy heat

Iyya: conserving the forest

Loko: farming from necessity

Rufo: goodbye to farmland

Key themes

Introduction to the project

Pastoralism

Conflict

Agriculture

Food security

Desertification

Forestry

Water

Social institutions

Government assistance

Health

Gender

Education