food security

culture and customs
family life
justice and crime
social institutions
social relationships
spiritual beliefs
traditional skills

introducing the area


 quotes about land
 key testimonies featuring land

hut in valley in EthiopiaSeveral narrators refer to the land being settled and cultivated by their predecessors and passed down the family line through the generations. A feudal system evolved, and by the time of Haile Sellassie (1928-35 and 1941-74) most of the land was under the control of a small number of landowners. The tenants were allowed to keep one-fifth of their produce and handed over the rest to the landlords.

After the fall of Haile Sellassie the provisional military government - the Derg - instituted land reform: several narrators refer to the land being "measured with ropes" and divided into small plots of equal size. It seems that most people, at least at first, welcomed the fact that redistribution was based on equal status; in practice the reform seems to have failed, although the extent to which its positive effects have been compromised by recurrent drought is hard to disentangle: "So the people are grateful, but there is not enough land and the rains do not come regularly" (Ethiopia 19). One narrator (Ethiopia 17) maintains that redistribution was not entirely equitable and that the committees responsible for it gave more land to their friends and relatives than to other people. Another (Ethiopia 2) says that townspeople like herself were given no land.

quotes about land

Ehtiopian farmers digging in fields"In the old days, that is before there were too many people, our grandfathers and forefathers went and cultivated any [unoccupied] land. When my grandfathers died, I claimed the land in their names and cultivated it. When I died, my children inherited it and cultivated it. Thus the land was called 'so-and-so's land' and passed on from one generation to another."
Ayichesh, F/28, head of household, Ethiopia 1

"In the old days, one bore such titles of nobility as Grazmach and Qegnazmach and held land. The land was cultivated by tenants who also performed menial labour for the landlords. The noblemen even used to prevent other people from setting foot on their land. The present government redistributed land in such a way that everyone received an equal amount of land regardless of status."
Yaregal, M/41, farmer trained in bee-keeping, Ethiopia 19

"The land has been fragmented and reduced to two or three plots of land. We are anxious that there will be another round of land redistribution which might reduce the size of our holding to perhaps one or two plots of land."
Haji Zekiy, M/57, Qadi (Muslim religious leader), Ethiopia 9

key testimonies featuring land

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   1   Ayichesh   female/28   head of household   Gala Dejen (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   11   Azenu   female/45   farmer/ female head of household   Meqerqeriat (lowlands)  
Summary Transcript   13   Mesay   male/28   farmer   Meqerretcha/Denkenna (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   14   Itiye   female/58   traditional midwife   Gebeya Meda (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   15   Muliye   male/37   farmer   (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   17   Melku   male/67   priest   Guranboba Monastery (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   18   Belachew   male/68   farmer and blacksmith   Geregera (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   19   Yaregal   male/41   farmer trained in beekeeping   Warkaye  
Summary Transcript   2   Negussie   female/45   market trader   Filaqit, Woina Dega (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   20   Melese   male/45   farmer   Denkena,Wodih Mado Mar Feriche (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   21   Mario   male/40   farmer   Filaqit town (midlands)