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«Ethiopian Village Studies (Designed and edited by Philippa Bevan and Alula Pankhurst) Turufe Kecheme Shashemene Woreda researched by Getachew Fule ...»

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Turufe Kechema

Ethiopian Village Studies

(Designed and edited by Philippa Bevan and Alula Pankhurst)

Turufe Kecheme

Shashemene Woreda

researched by

Getachew Fule and Mesfin Tadesse

(Field managers: Bereket Kebede and Shukri Ahmed)

June 1996

One of a series of 15 studies edited and produced jointly by the Department of

Sociology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia and the Centre for the Study of African

Economies, Oxford, UK and financed by the UK Overseas Development



All the reports in this series have been constructed from a number of sources:

• A background paper on aspects of the local culture in which the Peasant Association is located, based mainly on secondary sources;

• Some rapid assessment material collected in the PA by site managers and enumerators whose chief business was administering 3 rounds of a household economic survey which covered a whole year of economic activity;

• A field visit to the site by an anthropologist who took a draft village profile for correction and supplementation. In a few cases the profiles were not ready before the filed visit was done, but the same questions were followed up;

• A questionnaire completed by the enumerators at the end of the survey;

• A community economic survey administered by the site managers.

A large number of people has been involved in the construction of these profiles. Most important are the people in the villages who answered questions, raised issues we had not thought of, and provided hospitality for our fieldworkers. The site managers, enumerators, and anthropologists played a vital role, but are too numerous to mention by name here; the names of some are on the title pages of the profiles.

Etalem Melaku-Tjirongo and Joanne Moores constructed the majority of the first drafts of the profiles.

Sandra Fullerton Joireman provided important assistance in the preparation of the final drafts. Backup in terms of translating, editing, word processing, mapmaking and general support were provided by Tina Barnard, Ziggy Bevan, Girma Getahun, Haile Redai, Sarah Smith, and Ruth Tadesse. Our economist colleagues at Oxford (Shukri Ahmed, Stefan Dercon, and Pramila Krishnan) and Addis Ababa (particularly Bereket Kebede, Getinet Astatke, and Mekonnen Tadesse) provided ideas and conversation from economics which stimulated our thought processes. The administration in the Economics Department at Addis Ababa University was extremely supportive.

Profiles are available for the following villages:

Tigray: Geblen Gojjam: Yetmen

–  –  –

1. Locating the Site in Time and Space

Geography and Population



Social Structure


2. Seasonal Activities and Events

3. The Farm Economy








Common Property Resources


4. Off-farm Income Activities

Within the Community

Occupation Structure


5. Reproductive Activity

Household Management

Fuel and Lighting




Childbirth and Childcare





6. Consumption

Food and Other Day-to-Day Goods

Saving and Investment


Household Assets

Local Services

7. Local Institutions and Organizations








Age Grading, Life Cycle Changes and Rites of Passage

Friendship Contracts



Credit and Social Security

Community Decision-making

Local Organizations

Redistributive Mechanisms

8. Beliefs and Values



Explanations of Misfortune and Illness

Community Values

Political Beliefs and Attitudes

9. The Community

Community organization


Social Conflict

Poverty and Wealth

Social Mobility


Social Stratification


10. Relationships with Other Communities and the Wider Society

Clans and Tribes

Villages and Regions

Effects of Government Policies

Government Activities in the Community

NGO and Community Activities in the Community

The Future

Glossary, Acronyms

Turufe Kechema

1. Locating the Site in Time and Place Geography and Population Turufe Kecheme is a Peasant Association located in Shashemene Woreda in the Eastern Shewa zone of Oromiya Region. It includes two villages, Turufe and Wetera. In 1979 Turufe Kecheme was one of the 81 PAs in Shashemene woreda neighbouring Kuyara Kebele, Karrara Butte PA and Shasha Qorke PA in the north, Karrarra K'eye Filicha PA and Elemo Abiyu PA in the south, Hagugata Jallo PA in the west and Wetera Dansha and Wetera Sake in the east. The PA is about 12.5 km north east of the town of Shashemene (Halelu) in the area of the Great Lakes of Zwai, Langano, Abiyata and Shalla. It is situated at about 2,000m and is in a plain area with fertile soil suitable for agriculture. In the vicinity of the area there are large forests under the protection of the government and 3 rivers, one of which passes through the PA.

There are 449 households in Turufe Kecheme PA, 410 of whom are male-headed and 39 femaleheaded. The total population is estimated to be 2674. There are some households not registered with the PA but their number is not known.

ClimateThe meher rains fall between June and the middle of September. This rain irrigates the meher crops which are produced in December and January. The belg rain falls from March to the end of April and irrigates the belg crop which is produced in June, July and sometimes August. The coldest time in the PA is in July and August and sometimes in October. The hotter time is from January (29°C) to May (31°C). During the rainy season the PA is not cut off from the nearest towns (Kuyara and Shashemene).

There are no problems caused by heat but some respondents remember crops, especially wheat, being destroyed by cold which reduced the quantity of the harvest.


The people are primarily subsistence level agriculturalists producing cereals (wheat, barley, tef, maize, dagusa, millet), pulses (horse beans), oil seeds (linseed), and vegetables (potatoes, onions). They also grow enset, chat and coffee. The main crops they produce for consumption and cash are potatoes, maize, wheat, barley and tef. The PA supplies potatoes and maize to Addis Ababa through merchants both from Addis Ababa and around Kuyera.

Off-farm activities in the PA include honey production and transporting crops to markets. The villagers also go to the markets to buy or sell crops, cattle and livestock.

Social Structure

In the area where Turufe Kecheme is, particularly Shashemene town, there are numerous migrants.

According to farmers' estimates the main ethnic groups in Turufe Kecheme now include Oromo about 80 %, Tigrayans about 10%, Amhara about 4%, Wolayitta about 6%. There were ethnic conflicts after the overthrow of Mengistu (May 1991) and many of the Kembatas were forced to leave the area by the local Oromos. Of a total of 413 households who were then members of the PA 117 were Kembata before they left. Of the 87 households who were living in Village One 53 were left and of 30 living in Village Two 27 were left. Of those who left some went back to Kembata and some were in a relief camp near Shashemene. The aid stopped last year and the Kembatas left the camp either to work as daily labourers around Shashemene, or they went back to their region. The land they left behind was occupied by landless peasants, ex-soldiers, and some peasants who needed extra land in the PA. All of these were Oromo farmers, except for one Eritrean elder: the remaining ethnic groups had no opportunity to get the Kembata's land because it was the Oromo who drove the Kembata out in order to get land.

Oromiffa is the main language spoken. Other languages include Tigrigna, Amharic and Wolayitta.

Most of the people in the PA speak Amharic. According to local informants there are few intermarriages between the different ethnic groups. Oromos intermarry with Amharas and Wolayittas

1Getachew Fule and Mesfin Tadesse

but not with Tigrayans. Tigrayans intermarry with Amharas but not with Wolayittas; and Amharas do not intermarry with Wolayittas. The major religions are Islam (about 80%), Orthodox Christian (about 15%), and Protestants (about 5%), but there have been no religious conflicts.

The native Arssi Oromo and the settlers from different ethnic groups in the PA mix with each other socially. Except for the idir for ox which they form on ethnic bases to help each other on the occasions of loss or damage to their respective oxen, any member of the PA can join in idir for mourning. All Christian members of the PA celebrate the Ethiopian New Year (Meskerem 1st) and Mesqel (Meskerem

17) festivals irrespective of ethnic differentiation and the same is true for the Muslims during Mowlid (the birth of Prophet Mohammed) and Arafa (Id Al Fatir) festivals. The Christians are predominantly Amharas and Tigrayans while the Muslims are predominantly Arssi Oromos. The community greet each other during the festivals of the respective groups in accordance with their kinship relationship.

However, informants did not indicate any festival or ceremony which people from different ethnic group in the PA celebrate together. The community is not coherent to the extent that it shares customs, values, and beliefs. The Tigrayans and the Amharas in the community claim that they are closer together in their customs, values and beliefs than other ethnic groups in the community.

Festivals are held at different times by different religious groups. Almost all of the Oromos are Muslims, Wolayittas and Kembatas are Protestants, Tigrayans and Amharas are Orthodox Christians and different ethnic groups follow their own religion which prevents them from celebrating festivals together. Even Tigrayans and Amharas do not celebrate festivals and mehber together. It is not only religion that leads different ethnic groups not to celebrate festivals together, but also the present political conditions have an impact. Tigrayans feel superior to other ethnic groups, while the Oromos want the other groups to leave the area so they can own all the farm land. Wolayittas and Amharas consider themselves to be hardworking people and feel that it is only since they came to the area that the Oromos learned how to plough land and make themselves wealthy. Such conflicts cause the groups to dislike each other and not celebrate festivals together.


The people in Turufe Kecheme are part of the Southern Oromo group of Arssi who live on both sides of the Wabishebale river, particularly in the Arssi, Bale, and Eastern Shewa zones of the Orimiya region. It is believed that the Arssi Oromo number more than 2.5 million people. They suffered from the protracted struggle between the Christian kingdom and the Oromo which climaxed in the conquest of the Emperor Menelik at the end of the 19th century. Between the 16th and 19th centuries the Oromo migrated over most of Ethiopia conquering various groups already living in the areas. The Oromo have experienced inter-tribal fighting within the Arssi group and with other Oromo groups such as the Jille, Borana, and Karayu, particularly over competition for grazing lands.

After the conquest of Menelik and the intrusion of the agriculturalist Amharas in the area, the mostly pastoralist Oromos became mixed farmers and sedentary agriculturalists using ploughs. Three quarters of their fertile land was appropriated by Ethiopian Government employees, soldiers, nobles, and ecclesiastics who were settlers. The Arssi Oromo became gebar (tenants) who were obliged to pay a portion of their produce to the settlers. Their communal form of landownership was replaced by a feudal type. The incorporation into Menilik's empire also ended their egalitarian gada political and administrative structure based on age grades. This was led by a council (Abba Bokus) whose membership was changed every 8 years. Gada religious ceremonies were allowed up to the 1930s.

Traditional Oromo gada political institutions and occasions do not take place now in the PA in the same way as they used to. During the period of the Derg, however, a secret organization was formed representing the different clans and lineages of Arssi Oromo in the area. After the EPRDF came to power this secret local organization named "Local Leaders for Arbitration" was officially encouraged by representatives of government and the political party (OPDO) even though it has not yet been recognized as a legal entity. Some traditions in the gada system are important now in resolving disputes concerning murder, marriage, divorce, and sometimes land claims through the Shanacha (traditional 2 Turufe Kechema elders). No other gada practices are practised in the PA.

A group of elders in the community remembered the following important events:

1. Rukisa (c 1850 EC: 1857): a period when the Oromo in the area ate horse and donkey meat as a result of famine. Rukisa means hunger in Oromiffa among the Arssi. The elders claim the famine took place owing to the loss of cattle due to a disease which caused diarrhoea. During that period the Arssi Oromo were pastoralists.

2. In 1881EC (1888) - the area was generally inhabited by lions. They still exist in the places called Chabi, Agge, and Jame.

3. 1928 (E.C) (1935) - The elders remembered the Italian occupation. The Amharas and local Arssi balabat (landlords) in the area fought against them.

4. 1936 (E.C) (1943) - Haile Selassie returned.

5. 1943 (E.C) (1950) - Completion of Addis Ababa to Shashemene tarred road.

6. 1950 (E.C) (1957) - Shenqute's Famine, locally known as Rukissa Qallo (the thin famine); took place as a result of food shortage. During this time the Arssi Oromo were predominantly pastoralists but not now.

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