Labata Fantalle works in Fantalle woreda, which is located in East Shoa, Oromia Region, Ethiopia a distance of about 200 km east from Addis Ababa, the Capital City. Fantalle woreda is situated within the Great Rift Valley.
Traditionally, the livelihood of the Karrayu is characterized as ‘transhumance Pastoralism’ which involves seasonal movement following a regular migratory pattern between dry and wet season grazing areas, with permanent settlements in each area. This way of life is considered particularly suitable for such arid areas and enables community members to be highly adaptive to fluctuating conditions.
Herding and a high degree of mobility, according to the season, enables the effective use of resources. The Karrayyu keep mixed herds, cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys, which utilise a wide variety of fodder types. Their animals are essential to their survival and provide them with food, traction power and income. Traditionally products derived from their herds constituted a major source of their diet, mainly milk, butter and meat. This meant that they were highly self-sufficient. Income generated from sales of live animals and their products is used to purchase food grains, clothing and other necessary items from local markets in the area.
In recent times their traditional system has been curtailed and can no longer function adequately due to lack of access to traditional grazing grounds and water points. This is mainly as a result of the construction of commercial irrigated agriculture along the banks of the Awash River and the establishment of the Awash National Park. The area within which they can now move has become very limited, a healthy herd could cross their territory in any one direction in just one or two days.
The loss of land also means they can no longer access their main water sources and pastoralist community membershave been pushed onto the driest parts of the territory. The land they have left it severely degraded due to overgrazing, loss of vegetative cover leading to bush encroachment and soil erosion. The impact of land alientation and the resulting curtailment of mobility has dramatic consequences in loss of livestock and increasing vulnerability to food insecurity and famine. The majority of Karrayyu households now face food insecurity throughout the year, relying on food aid to survive.
Changes in the local climate have also impacted on them. The area is sem-arid with an estimated average annual rainfall of 543 mm. The rainfall in the area usually occurs during two distinct, short and long, rainy seasons. However, the rainfall pattern has changed in recent times with recurrent drought becoming a dominant factor. The community used to experience drought every seven years, known as ‘Bona Safti’ in the Oromo language (Afaan Oromo), but now they experience drought every two to three. The community are also observing rising temperatures.
The Karrayyuu share their border with a number of different groups: the Arsi Oromo, Tulama Oromo, Itu Oromo, the Argoba and the Afar. Due to loss of land, environmental degradation and changes in climate the area is under increasing pressure and basic resources are now a source of conflict. Karrayyu relations with the Afar and Argoba are tense. Conflict over grazing, watering resources and boundary claims has intensified and many people die every year as a result. In some areas rangelands have been abandoned in fear of conflict, resulting in under utilization of available resources.
The rural areas inhabited by these pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities are among the least developed parts of the country. Infrastructure is poorly developed and there are limited basic facilities such as road network, marketing facilities, schools, health care facilities and other social amenities. In particular there are serious problems in terms of access to water, the majority of water sources available to community members pose health risks. In addition, there are a range of health problems, and livestock diseases, which result in the loss of both animal and human life.
Despite the difficulties of the area pastoralism and agro-pastoralism are still the main livelihood systems of the localcommunity. Karrayyu community members are shifting towards crop cultivation but, due to low rainfall and lack of knowledge and resources, farming is largely unsuccessful. There are 18 Kebeles in the district, 8 of which practise exclusively pastoralist livelihoods, the rest are semi-pastoralists who depend on mixed farming. Pastoralists constitute an estimated 60% of the total population in the district.
The Karrayyu are understandably concerned about their future. The rapid rate of changes make it difficult for community members to adapt. Labata Fantalle therefore, plays a vital role in assisting the Karrayyu community.