Ethiopia glossary








student priest


Kurrisa (lowlands)




Section 1
What are the changes in the condition of production?
The changes in the climate and the fertility of the soil, the lack of irrigation, the rugged terrain, and the lack of improved seeds have brought about a reduction in food production.

How was their income affected because of the changes?
The reduction in food production has exposed the people to famine and the drought has resulted in the deterioration of the life of the people and the reduction of their income. The population has also increased very much. So we live a life of hand to mouth. A household could not produce more than its family’s needs. Even that is not enough to sustain it unless it is supplemented by another income generating work.

How many animals did you have in the past?
In the past, the land was productive, the population was small, the hills were good for grazing. So my parents had 25 goats, 15 sheep, five cattle and seven donkeys. Now these have decreased to two donkeys, three cattle, and five goats.

How has the management of grazing land changed?
The growth of the population has led to the conversion of grazing land to farms, just leaving small pieces for grazing. So the animals are not getting enough food and are exposed to disease and death.

What is the change in livestock diseases?
There was no drought in the past. Now the drought has created a scarcity of water and even that is not clean. This has resulted in livestock diseases. The shortage of grazing land means hunger and this in turn leads to livestock diseases.

What is the change in farming?
In the old days, before the population grew, a farmland was used for cultivating just one type of crop. Now you cultivate different crops on the same farm because of the shortage of land. Also because the terrain is rugged, the land suitable for farming is very limited.
Section 2
What is the change in land tenure?
The scarcity of land due to the large population has forced the youth to migrate and encounter hunger and death wherever they went. Land has become too scarce.

What about the market condition?
Since the population was small and there was plenty of land then, our country Ethiopia used to produce for the market coffee and oil seeds. Now land is in short supply and what is produced goes from hand to mouth. So prices have gone up. A tin of grain (0.5 kg) now costs two birr. This hardship has caused people to migrate and face hunger and death. The market condition has changed very much. The farmers do not wear good clothes because they have to buy the seeds for cultivation and yet do not produce enough food even for themselves.

What kind of development activities are carried out in your area?
Terraces are built to reduce soil erosion. Springs are developed and maintained regularly to solve the problem of drinking water. Schools are expanding in the rural areas and people are becoming literate. There is also medical care now and people are getting cures for their ailments.

How do you expect your area to change in the coming twenty years?
In the coming twenty years there will be less food produced and a higher population growth, thereby causing acute food shortages. Life will become harder than it is now. So we have to conserve our environment by building terraces to prevent soil erosion and control the population growth to improve our life.

What kind of useful social organisations are there around here?
We have Senbetie in which we feed the poor, beggars, so the Lord may help us. We have also Qire/Idir for the burial of the dead. We have Iqub, in which one regularly saves say five birr every week, and after saving this he can get up to 200 birr when his turn comes. These are the useful social institutions.

What is your participation in these?
I am too young for these now as I am dependent on my family, but I observe what they do.

What changes did these institutions show during the past years?
Iqub is not expanding because people have to use their money to buy seeds and food. Since they produce very little they cannot afford to save in the Iqub. In the past, one prepared four or five large pots of tella (locally brewed beer) for the Senbetie. Now they prepare just one large pot and one small pot of tella and participate in the Senbetie simply for the redemption of their soul. For the Qire too, one used to prepare the feast well. Now you feed the poor and the beggars with very little food because you lack the means.
Section 3
Are any of these social institutions disappearing?
None have disappeared, but they getting weaker.

What are the changes regarding marriage and divorce?
They marry early and give birth. This leads to population growth and shortage of land. Then the father abandons his children and migrates thereby exposing them to hunger and thirst.

What do you think is the cause of the change?
It may be because of food shortages or because he loves another women and leaves his home to live with her.

Is there any change in the relationship between parents and children?
Since land and food were plenty in the past, children used to grow up at the home of their parents. Now the food shortage has caused them to leave home in search of employment.

What is the attitude of people towards one another? How do they treat each other?
The highlanders come in contact with the lowlanders because of the farmland and firewood. The lowlanders are also artisans and they produce farm implements needed by the highlanders. The towns’ folk look down on the rural community with contempt because of the way they dress and their health condition. They call them carriers of the yoke. However, this shouldn’t have been so. It is the farmers who produce the food crops and the raw materials for the clothes they wear. This problem manifested itself now and then in the past. Now the farmers are in contact with the urban people because they get their goods and clothing from the cities.

Are crime and conflicts considered serious problems in the rural areas?
Crime, threatening to kill someone, is a result of over-feeding, but in our case the cause of crime is hunger. So there is a difference.

Are there changes in the role of men and women?
In the past years, the man was the breadwinner and he threatened to beat his wife. Now they are both government employees and earn their incomes. Besides they have received modern education. So there are no conflicts between them. Also women now hold positions of responsibility.

What is the attitude of the community towards the disabled?
In the old days, if one lost his parents he would stay in that home until his death. Now such orphans go to the cities, beg for clothes and teach themselves. More over, the community is helping the weak ones to get redemption.

What distinguishes the people of Meket from others?
The terrain is rugged and people do not use modern farm implements or selected seeds. This makes them different.
Section 4
So what really makes Meket different?
The population growth and the lack of modern farming methods has exposed the people of Meket to hunger.

If you had an option, would you like to live somewhere else?
I don’t want to live in another place. I don’t want to separate from my parents. I earlier referred to the people who were forced to migrate by hardship. I like my place here.

Which aspect of your culture do you give more respect to?
Religion and Epiphany.

What do you consider as a major change in your culture?
In terms of clothing it is Epiphany. Parents bought clothes to their children for Epiphany. Farmers sing and celebrate Epiphany. Priests too sing and dance for Epiphany. So I favour the Church.

What is it in your culture which is disappearing , but which you give more attention to?
In the old days farmers used to play the game of gitte in which they sharpen a piece of wood and pretend to be piercing the devil; they used to say at this time that the Lord was crucified, but He has now been redeemed. With the expansion of the towns this game has disappeared.

How did you acquire your present knowledge?
I learnt at the church school by carrying my bag for scrounging bread and my stick for protecting myself against dogs and other beasts. I also studied day and night.

Which knowledge gives you the most pride?
I am proud of my religious education. I am hoping to make my living by using my traditional church education.

Do you know anyone in your village who has received a good modern education?
There are a few people who have such education although they did not complete their studies.

So what do you think of their education?
I appreciate it. Those who are uneducated do not know how to make their calculations in the market place, but the educated ones have this skill.

In that case, don’t you think it is worth getting modern education?
It is good to learn it, but you must learn both. I would like to get both the church and modern education.
Section 5
What about educating your own children?
I have no children, but since the land is unproductive, modern education can help you get employment with the government and with your salary you can live a better life. So it is good to send one’s children to a modern school. Nowadays, the uneducated and those who did not send their children to school are leading a life of hardship. Therefore one has to learn very well.

How do you learn about events outside your village?
When someone dies a crier will be sent and he will announce to the villagers the death of the person. Secondly shepherds meet while tending the livestock and they spread any news to the villagers. When everyone hears, the funeral can be conducted well.

What kind of information is most useful to you?
Learning of the death of someone and a very modern way of doing something or changes related to it.

Is there anyone who has a radio in your village?
There is a scarcity of money; therefore, there is no radio in this village.

How much do you travel outside your village?
I travel only for a few hours to get my education and to celebrate a holiday at a church.

What kind of impact did the construction of the Chinese road have on your life?
Firstly, the bishops can now travel for a few hours by car and come here to teach us. Secondly if a student wants to go to a distant place to get education he can travel by car within a few hours and do so. One can also bring here in a short time useful goods from more civilised places or speedily bring solutions to our problems.

What is the condition of community health like?
In the past they did not cleanly keep any food that was left over and as a result they had health problems. Now the town has grown and it has a hospital. If 100 people died in the past, I think not more than 10 people die now from health problems.

What do you do when you fall ill?
I immediately go to the hospital for a medical examination.

Have sexually transmitted diseases decreased or increased?
Diseases such as gonorrhoea and syphilis have decreased. However, AIDS, which has no medicine and is spreading throughout the world is increasing here too.

How did this disease come about?
This came about by having an extramarital sexual relation with another woman and by contacts with truck drivers.
Section 6
Is there a change in the size of the family members?
Yes, there is. For example, the size of the family used to be small in the old days, but it has increased now. The reasons for this are early marriage and begetting five or six more children outside one’s marriage. This in turn has caused a population explosion.

When did famine or drought occur in your area?
I was too young then, but I have heard my family say that there was famine in 1984. However, for me there is still famine even now. The crop production has decreased. Since my birth, I remember that people have been consumers and thus exposed to hunger.

What makes famine different from food deficiency?
The difference is that famine kills people within a short period of time. However, when there is food deficiency, one can consume half a bread in the morning and another half in the evening. In this way the person can survive until there is an improvement in the food supply.

How did you and your family manage during the famine?
We ate half our meal in the morning another half in the evening. Sometimes we just had nothing for the day. We also begged from those who had some food. We received food handouts from the government and consumed that very economically.

Is there any change in food consumption?
Although there was less hygiene then, people consumed plenty of raw milk, fruits from their gardens, and grain from their granary. Now they consume one or tow tins of grain bought from the market and are hence exposed to famine. There was plenty of surplus food in the past.