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978 90 5727 039 0


208 pages


Kassa Negussie Getachew : Among the Pastoral Afar in Ethiopia

Tradition, Continuity and Socio-Economic Change



The Afar are a pastoral people with a fearless reputation, who have roamed the Middle Awash Valley in northern Ethiopia for centuries. This book asks how they cope with the introduction of irrigated cultivation in the lowlands and the displacement of their communities from these lands, policies initiated by a coercive state that regards them as 'backward'?


By documenting the history, social structure and ecology of the Afar region, Dr. Getachew is able to show that devastating droughts are a normal state of affairs in the semi-arid lands of Ethiopia, while the factors that prevent pastoralists from coping adequately with these droughts are not. Government policies have resulted in land alienation, wage labour, resource conflicts and a form of sedentary pastoralism which overuses certain range areas while underutilizing others. Pastoralists are not the conservative, backward people governments and developments specialists think they are. They undergo tremendous changes, adapting and learning at the same time as maintaining what is crucial to their identity.

This study challenges a range of stereotypes about pastoralists' social life, pastoral economy, resource use and tenure, livestock raising, and ecology in the semi-arid lands of northeastern Africa. An outstanding study into the problems pastoral people face when resource conflicts threaten their sources of livelihood.



""The Afar are a particularly intriguing people, about whom little has been written because of their remoteness and the instability of their area. As Getachew Kassa's guest and supervisor, I had the rare privilege of seeing first-hand the flare of an anthropologist who had managed fluently into the community he was studying to an unusual degree, winning a wide range of friends and confidants. This gave Getatchew a firm grasp of the complexity of Afar society at a time of economic development and political turmoil; and I then had the further privilege of being close to him while he unravelled his mass of material to complete his doctorate in London, where he was always concerned for issues affecting the Afar and the integrity of his data. Through this book, by an author who is an expert on pastoralism in Ethiopia in his own right, the Afar should become firmly established in the ethnographic repertoire." Professor Paul Spencer - School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

"The Afar have been mostly pictured by European travellers as romantically conservative, but fierce, warrior herdsmen who have conserved their austere traditional way of life in their harsh desert homelands. Getatchew, on the other hand, writes as an Ethiopian who settled down among them and used his trained eyes to observe and record the minutiae of daily life and the changes which are taking place. So, rather than romantic old tales, Getatchew gives us information on changing modes of stock management; irrigation, local dispute, settlement; the new milk and chat trade; the creation of small towns and the development of a pastoral/urban symbiosis. In short Getatchew tells us about the developing here and now." Dr. Paul Baxter - Previously Senior Lecture in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester."


Dr. Getachew (Ph.D. Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics) teaches at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.

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