7.01 Jon Abbink; Izabela Orlowska; Dirk Bustorf

Ethno-ecology, eco-cultural spaces and ethno-landscapes in Ethiopia


The conceptual divide between “nature” and “culture”, or the cultural and the bio-physical worlds, as it prevails in conventional modern thinking has deeply influenced worldviews on a global scale, including Ethiopia. In combination with a profit- or development-oriented utilitarian-technocratic attitude it contributed to causing ecological problems and to alienation of humans from the ecology they are part of. Eco-cultural perspectives and ethno-ecology try to overcome this divide by understanding ecology and culture as two dimensions of the same reality in which one cannot be understood without the other. 

This panel explores different forms of eco -cultural interaction and dynamics on different scales of intensity and reach:

1) eco-cultural spaces which function as symbolic interface between the human and the non-human (natural and often supernatural) spheres (e.g. sacred groves or trees, Church forest, etc.), or spaces where cultural values, such as beauty, memory, recreation, or environmental protection, determine specific rules of management (protected areas, parks, natural sanctuaries, etc.);

2) entire “ethno-landscapes”, i.e. landscapes shaped by ethnic or ethno-cultural groups that have made their mark on the natural physico-geographic conditions by long-term use and a systematic technology applied to and which give it a “recognizable” character, such as, e.g., the Konso on their terraced hills, the over-used plough agriculture fields of the North (with their lack of trees and vegetation), agro-pastoralists as custodians and shapers of the specific savannah landscape of the valleys in South and West Ethiopia, or Burji sacralized space (boohée Burji)?

On all scales important questions can be asked on the mutual interaction  between human activity (incl. generating meaning) and environmental factors. How are nature-culture relations culturally conceptualized? How is ecology shaped by the social interaction, religion, politics and history and accordant uses of places, spaces or landscapes? How does ecology determine cultural meanings and ways of usage (and vice versa ?) How is eco-knowledge culturally codified and internalized? How have humans contributed to either decline or sustainability of eco-cultural spaces and ethno-landscapes and their bio-diversity, and how could ‘traditional’ sustainability be enhanced in modernized economic settings? How do implicit or explicit, “traditional” forms of eco-management relate to demographic growth and modernization ventures that aim to optimize the perceived economic benefits of rural areas?

We invite papers based on empirical case-studies as well as theoretical interpretations and informed policy evaluations of the human-physical interactions and cultural concepts that have produced the fascinating variety of Ethiopian landscapes and of the attempts to modify or preserve them.


Prof. ABBINK Jon Space, place and conflict: cultural and political ecology approaches to changing ‘resource use’ in Southwest Ethiopia 
Dr. BUFFAVAND Lucie The bush and its wildlife in the cosmology of an agro-pastoral people of the Lower Omo Valley 
Dr. BUSTORF Dirk Integrating “sacred” eco-cultural spaces into environmental protection schemes, comparing cases in Kafa, Gurage/Silte and Amhara
Mr CHUNG Jin-ho Political Ecology of Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change in the Ethiopian highlands 
Mr GETACHEW SENISHAW Indigenous Ecological Knowledge System and Local Ecology Management in Midland Gedeo 
Dr. & Prof. KANEKO Morie & Masayoshi SHIGETA Formation and sharing of local knowledge on the production and consumption of fermented ensete (Ensete ventricosum, Musaceae) starch among the Aari people of Southwestern Ethiopia
Mr KANSITE GELLEBO KORRA The Moora of the Konso People in Southern Ethiopia: Functions and Changes 
Dr. ORŁOWSKA Izabela Ethiopian church forests: hubs of social and religious life and pockets of remaining biodiversity
Dr. YOHANNES GEBREMICHAEL Family farming for agro-ecology and food security: the case of the Konso community in Southern Ethiopia