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[Paper Spotlight] Learning to Survive Ecological Risks among the Sidama of Southwestern Ethiopia

A new paper by Samuel Dira and Barry Hewlett entitled Learning to Survive Ecological Risks among the Sidama of Southwestern Ethiopia published in the Journal of Ecological Anthropology explores how Sidama farmer teenagers learn to mitigate environmental risk.

Abstract: Sidama farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture and experience a highly variable natural environment. Recurrent drought, erratic rainfall, and crop and livestock loss are common in mid and lowland areas, but local people are not passive victims of the changing environment: they use accumulated knowledge and skills to respond to and buffer ecological changes. Based on freelists and in-depth interviews with 70 adults and 50 adolescents, this paper describes how the Sidama conceive of ecological risks, survive difficult times, and learn to be resilient. The results indicate that food shortage and drought are salient risk factors. While local people think the future is unpredictable, they have diverse and complex knowledge about saving, trading and farming that help them cope with environmental challenges. Fifty adolescents interviewed reported that they learned diverse survival strategies from parents, fellow adolescents, and other adults. Interviews with adolescents and adults indicate that the Sidama use multiple methods, including teaching, to transmit cultural knowledge and skills about how to survive ecological risks.


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