An indigenous time-related framework for reconstructing the impact of disasters on ancient water systems in southern Ethiopia, 1560–1950

Tiki, Waktole; Gufu Oba, Peter & Tvedt, Terje (2013). An indigenous time-related framework for reconstructing the impact of disasters on ancient water systems in southern Ethiopia, 1560–1950 . Journal of Historical Geography.

Abstract

This article uses an indigenous time-related framework to reconstruct the impact of disasters associated with floods, epidemics, droughts and famine on the ancient tula well systems in southern Ethiopia. We interviewed oral historians, who used the gada timeline to reconstruct the impact of disasters in the tula region from about 1560 to 1950. The Borana gada timeline is based on a system of social organization and transfer of power (each gada lasts for eight years) between five patri-classes called gogessa by the community. The Borana are able to recall events corresponding to a 40-year cycle (i.e. 5 × 8) when the same gogessa returns to power. With the return to power by each gogessa, grouped into seven naming clusters called maqabas, each gogessa experiences event-repetition or dhaaccii, which served as a repository of social memory. The time chronology in gada context and its social structure (gogessa), cyclical names (maqabas), and event-repetition (dhaaccii) are all connected in a complex historical narrative to reconstruct environmental events. To corroborate the oral history of the impact of disasters on tula wells, we used regional climatic information as proxy data. The findings showed that the gada timeline and its maqabas and event-repetition of dhaaccii correlated with the collapse of the wells, and with pastoral economy and human demographics. The gada timeline and its historical memory closely reflected climatic proxy data in terms of regional level disaster events.

Water wars and water cooperation. An empirical critique of dominant schools of thought regarding water and geopolitics

2010: Water wars and water cooperation. An empirical critique of dominant schools of thought regarding water and geopolitics, in Terje Tvedt, Graham Chapman and Roar Hagen, (eds), History of Water Series II, Volume 3: Water and Geopolitics in the New World Order, IB Tauris, New York/London, 78-111.

Human Stewardship or Ruining Cultural Landscapes of the Ancient Tuba Wells, Southern Ethiopia

2010: Waktole, Tiki, Gufu, Oba, Tvedt, Terje: Human Stewardship or Ruining Cultural Landscapes of the Ancient Tuba Wells, Southern Ethiopia, Geographical Journal

This article uses the concepts of “human stewardship” and “ruined landscape” as a theoretical framework for analysing the community’s perception of landscape change in the ancient tula well system of Borana in southern Ethiopia. The ancient tula well system, the main permanent water source, has been in operation for more than five centuries and it closely links human activity and the environment. The welfare of the tula well system and the performance of the Borana pastoral system are directly related. Borana management of the tula wells uses concepts such as laaf aadaa seeraa and laaf bade to differentiate between ‘land managed by customary laws’ (hereafter human stewardship) and ‘lost’ or ‘ruined’ land (laaf bade). The cultural landscapes of the ancient wells have undergone changes from ecosystems featuring ‘human stewardship’ (before the 1960s), that is, laaf aadaa seeraa to ‘ruined landscapes’ (after the 1960s), that is, laaf bade. Our interest is in understanding how the Borana perceive the impact of land use changes from these two conceptual perspectives. In group discussions, key informant interviews and household surveys across five of the nine well clusters, we found that the society described the changed tula cultural landscape in terms of drivers of well dynamics (i.e. use and disuse), break up of land use zonations, patterns of human settlement (traditional versus peri-urban), expansion of crop cultivation, and changes in environmental quality. Using the two concepts, we analysed linkages between changing patterns of land use that transformed the system from laaf aadaa seeraa, which ensured human stewardship, to laaf bade, which resulted in ruined landscapes. From these we analysed environmental narratives that showed how the society differentiated the past human stewardship that ensured sustainable landscape management from the present ruining of tula well cultural landscapes.