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Qadi (Muslim religious leader)
Tcherqos village (highlands)
A fairly long interview with mainly short but informative answers. The narrator, a Muslim, talks about changes in land use, how these have affected him, relationships between the various groups and his own religion. He is particularly concerned that there may be more land redistribution to come and that he will lose more land. He is self-taught and well-travelled and emphasises the importance of modern education.
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|Productivity of land in the past. Deforestation, population increase and overgrazing leading to soil erosion and loss of income. Drought, lack of grazing land and reduction in livestock. Disease – in the past people moved livestock around to avoid infection: “Now it doesn’t make any difference where we take them and the disease is not easily cured by modern medicine.” Crops grown – white teff in the past; now brawny teff and fesh.
|Decrease in number of land plots per household. Irrigation: “The number of people using it has increased while the size of irrigable land per farmer has decreased so much that it is not as productive as it used to be”; very little irrigation practised now. Proliferation of pests – attributed in the Koran to adultery and theft; loss of pea and lentil crops. Anxiety about possible further land redistribution. Market conditions under Haile Sellassie, the Derg and the EPRDF – now plenty of money around but it buys very little.
|Development of the area – health clinic; useful credit facility set up by SOS.
Muslim festivals – Arefa and Mewlid explained. Tertim – daily worship in the mosque and communal breakfast.
Role as Qadi; participation in the Qire. New scheme of cultivating land for the benefit of the mosque.
Marriage and divorce – some men now marrying and then abandoning family; insistence on man divorcing wife before he leaves so that she can remarry. Fall in age of marriage.
|Keeping concubines – forbidden by Islam. Family relations – children show less respect towards parents and no longer ask parents’ consent for marriage.
Muslims and Christians – now “work and live together and love each other like children of the same parents”; formerly, Christians used to tell Muslims they didn’t belong there.
|Cultural prejudice against artisans: “People say they eat other people and so we fear them.”
Men and women – some reduction in women’s workload; head of family can be male or female.
Quarrels, reconciliation through elders, payment of compensation. Support of blind men and beggars – food plus money (requirement of Islam). Characteristic of Meket community: “Women here have equal rights with the men.”
|Importance of religion; recent practice of dressing up for religious holidays; Arefa feast and feeding the poor. Own experience of learning – farming and weaving taught by relatives; literacy (self-taught); no modern education. Importance of education.
|Learning about events from the radio. Own travels – Addis, Asmara, Gonder, Mecca, Medina. Usefulness of Chinese road.
Disease – epidemics of malaria; spraying of lowland areas with DDT by government (1964) and disappearance of disease until 1997.
|STDs – treatment by injection. AIDS – only in the towns; prevention by “abstaining from women”. Population growth: “The diseases have decreased and people are just begetting too many children”; need for birth control.
|Drought and famine. In 1966 drought, narrator was part of a delegation that went to Addis and appealed for government assistance. 1985: some people migrated; others, including the narrator, relied on government assistance (food handouts). Changes in food consumption habits – food more plentiful in past.