Thursday, September 1, 2011

Omo River Valley Tribes in Danger

Today I thought I would be moving on with the discussion of hair trends but of course I did not know what I was getting into when I posted the video on Wednesday about the beautiful tribes of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.

During my research about hair and beauty trends in Africa I came upon a photographer who had done some really beautiful pictures of the tribes there. The photos were so beautiful that I was going to write to him for permission to post on my blog.  I put that on my to-do list and went on with my search.  While searching on youtube --  lo and behold, there was a video featuring those same amazing photographs. So, I posted it so that you could see it as well.

This morning I could not get those tribes out of my mind so I went to my good friend "the google" to dig a bit deeper for more information for myself and to share with you,

I was deeply saddened to discover that progress has come to the Omo Valley. And not in a good way! There is an aggressive effort underway to build a hydroelectric dam in the region (scheduled for completion in 2012) which will destroy their way of life. These tribes have lived on this land for many, many years.

To many of the tribes along the lower Omo, livestock is the embodiment of wealth and prestige. Yet their livelihood is dependent on planting crops of sorghum, maize, and beans using what's known as "flood-retreat agriculture." This type of farming is dependent on the annual flooding cycle, which deposits a layer of nutrient-rich silt beside the river, making the land productive for another year.

Tribes such as the Bodi, Karo, Muguji, Mursi, and Nyangatom have farmed this way for generations, and their culture revolves around the natural pulsations of the Omo.

The annual rise and fall of the Omo waters is, in effect, the ancient heartbeat of the valley that has dictated the economic and social values of the almost 200,000 tribal members. All this will change dramatically in the coming years due to the construction of the massive Gibe 3 hydroelectric dam a few hundred kilometers upriver.

There is particular concern over the Gibe III dam being built on the Omo river (video), the largest infrastructure project in Ethiopian history. Campaigners say it threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in the South Omo region and around Lake Turkana in Kenya. 

The Lower Omo Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is home to agro-pastoralists from eight distinct indigenous groups who depend on the Omo river's annual flood to support riverbank cultivation and grazing lands for livestock.

Launching a new five-year development plan in August last year, the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, vowed to complete the dam "at any cost" and lashed out at Survival International and other critics, saying, "They don't want to see developed Africa; they want us to remain undeveloped and backward to serve their tourists as a museum … These people talk about the hazard of building dams after they have already completed building dams in their country."

The purpose of my website is to bring attention to some of the issues existing in Africa that you may not have been aware of. If you think this is a worthwhile cause and are interested in helping preserve the land for the people of the Omo Valley you can go to the website and read about the efforts and also sign the petition (I did)

Also here is a link to the List of Dam-Threatened World Heritage Sites.

The list describes several World Heritage Sites under threat of existing or proposed dams. It's not a comprehensive list of all dam-affected Sites, but a first step towards documenting the global threat that many World Heritage Sites currently face. 

We live such an isolated and sheltered existence here in the US so maybe you have never even thought of the detrimental effects of dams. We must begin to understand that we are part of a global community.

click here to view a short video on the effects of dams. It's called "We All Live Downstream"

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