Monday, July 09, 2007

Gadaa System: A Traditional Conflict Resolution System Used in Oromia, Ethiopia

Water is so easy to take for granted. You go to the grocery store to buy drinking water, only to be confused over which of the 30 brands of water tastes the best. It's really hard to imagine someone picking up a gun to battle over water. But in Ethiopia, out of 1,119,683 sq km of land only 2,900 sq km (CIA 2003) is irrigated land. That is - if you round the way we were taught to round in elementary school math - 0% (actually 0.259%). So, most people living outside of the city (which is over 80% of the 76 million population) rely on rainfall and nearby bodies of water for drinking water, baths, washing clothes, feeding their land and animals, etc. This is a picture of a Boran woman (from the Borana zone of the Oromia State in Ethiopia). The Boran people rely on pastoralism over farming because of the ecological conditions of the area. Pastoralism (def.) is "the breeding and rearing of animals" (Geographical dictionary). "It also contains a mobile element, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and water (Wikipedia)." So, because water and pasture is limited, especially in extreme situations (dry season/polluted water), a system of law and conflict resolution has been used for decades.

The Gadaa System divides the men in the community into 5 main age groups in which each group has a role to play in maintaining the flocks, the water, the land and the peace (there are additional groups but they play a more symbolic role:

1. FOOLLEE (ages 9-16) - duty is to look after small stock around their area.
2. QONDAALA (ages 17-24) - duty is to take livestock away from their area and begin drawing water from wells.
3. KUUSAA (ages 25-32) - duty is politically significant; nucleus of Gadaa leaders emerge.
4. RAABAA DOORII (ages 33-40) - duty is an extension of Kuusaa grade; prepare for the assumption of full authority; important military services; conducts raids; protects Boran land and resources; men allowed to marry at this stage.
5. GADAA (LUBA) (ages 41-48) - duty is most politically active; most important of all stages; assumes power/office; visit all Borana regions, judge on serious disputes; this stage is marked by a leadership ceremony.

Those over the age 48 are considered the YUBAA; they are the old, wise men who take on an advisory role. Any boy under the age of 9 has only a symbolic role as a mediator between God and humans. Then there is the ABBAA GADAA who is the one leader of Gadaa; he is like the president of Boran. He is called to judge when there is conflict between area within the Borana zone. If there is a conflict between ethnic groups, then the Abbaa Gadaa will be called to make peace.

A few Customary Laws:

1. During wet seasons, only open water sources (rivers, national ponds, ponds) are used and wells are closed.
2. During dry seasons, herds are moved to ponds farther away and traditional wells are re-opened.
3. During the really dry seasons, when water is scarce, drinking frequency of cattle is gradually reduced to once a day, then to once every two days, and then once every three days.

The men in the RAABAA DOORII age group watch to make sure these laws are upheld. The most highly protected sources of water are hand-dug shallow ponds and wells.

Customary Law - traditional management of resources - are in danger of becoming inferior and almost insignificant in many areas. Central government and development projects are using the force of power to override customary law and make their own judgments on water and land use. Sometimes even taking land and bodies of water for their own projects; thereby, decreasing resources for the inhabitants and increasing competition for the limited resources. Industry pollutes the natural bodies of water, further frustrating resources for the rural people.

What's the solution to this problem? Traditional conflict resolution systems are not sufficient alone as rural societies are no longer pure of foreign influence - government, NGO development projects, commercial production and industry. So, how do we eliminate the need of conflict and guns?


Friday, July 06, 2007

What Man Created in the Beginning

Urbanization, Industry, Commercial production
Created by humans
Not for humans
More suitable for robots
Hence, the sudden employment of computerized service machines in local grocery stores, robot receptionist in Japan hotels, computer software programs to do your taxes, marketing, almost anything you want

In the beginning,
I imagine,
People considering population growth, environmental conditions, competition for resources and their own want for power and greatness
Gathering and proclaiming "let's build a big city, let's build a tall building their in the center, and let's create a big market"
I wonder if they imagined the world we live in today
Big glamorous cities filled of still unsatisfied people

The capitol city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, is crowded of such people
Unsatisfied, misplaced, misguided, forced into urbanization
Competing for the little resource available in the city - the birr
Forced to abandon the great resource in their rural homes - their land and the fruits of their land

Human nature has brought us into war with nature
Human nature has in desire of power, glory, and wealth created an uncontrollable monster -
A market and world dependent on computers, industry, and everything not human
And now we struggle for our daily bread, and we struggle for our daily happiness
Waiting for the end
When I imagine,
We will be destroyed by our own creations.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Made in Ethiopia

This time the Italians didn't do it. No, we can't blame it on the government. Don't even try to put this on capitalism. It is all our fault - my fault, your fault, we all fault. Ethiopians not valuing Ethiopians, Ethiopia, and everything made in Ethiopia.

Preparing to buy furniture to match your new expensive house, you don't automatically consider furniture manufactured in Ethiopia, by Ethiopians, with Ethiopian raw materials. And why would we? We've been told that everything made in Italy is the best quality. And Ethiopia...well, Ethiopia is a third world country with third world material. And for my house, I need something durable, with a guarantee, and something with a quality finishing that screams made in Italy. This is sadly the mentality of many Ethiopians. While Ethiopian manufacturing companies struggle to compete on an unfair market with the foreign wealthy companies; we Ethiopians spend our money, time, and mouth advertising against them. The competition is clearly unfair in terms of the amount of money most foreign companies have invested in equipment, advertising, and presentation. But we individual Ethiopian consumers are making the competition even more difficult for our Ethiopian producers/brothers because of our misconception of Ethiopia's ability and worth.

It is true – the finished products of some Italian companies are more pleasing to the eye (on the surface). It is also true – that Italian companies in general are more trustworthy in terms of replacing damaged pieces and providing legitimate warranty. But it is also true that Ethiopia is a poor developing country. So, I think it is our responsibility as Ethiopians (with the money and education capacity to make conscious decisions) to sacrifice a little bit (just a little bit) to help our own companies by 1) reversing the idea (in your own mind first and then in your friend's) that foreign products are simply better than local products 2) actually go look at the local producers, the material they use, their history and fairly consider them as an equal competitor 3) don't be blindly impressed by the wonderful slide shows, advertisements, and the nice expensive shop location (Dumbel Mall) used by foreign producers – if the money is available it is easy to have these things; instead, look at the material they use, their warranty, the price, etc.

There are people trying to make Ethiopia a better place – trying to increase local economic activity. Globalization is making their efforts seem pointless. It's up to us the consumers to help them and in turn, help our country stand on its own.