Omo River boat trip adventure with us. The Omo River is one of Ethiopia’s largest rivers. It flows south for over seven hundred kilometers from the Shewan highlands to the northern end of Lake Turkana. Some of the tribes live alongside the Omo River and depend on it for their livelihood. They have developed complex socio-economic and ecological practices intricately adapted to the harsh and often unpredictable conditions of the region’s semi-arid climate.

The annual flooding of the Omo River guarantees food security for some of the tribes along its banks, especially as rainfall is low and erratic. They depend on it to practice ‘flood-retreat cultivation’ using the rich silt left along the river banks by the receding waters. Having reached its maximum level, the river recedes rapidly during September and October, which is when people start preparing the recently flooded area for flood-retreat cultivation. Some also practice rain fed shifting cultivation, growing sorghum, maize, and tobacco. Some tribes, particularly the Kwegu and Kara, hunt game and fish.

Cattle, goats and sheep are vital to most Omo River Valley tribes’ livelihood, producing blood, milk, meat and hides. Cattle are highly valued and used in payment for ‘bride wealth’ (dowry). They are an important defense against starvation when the rains and crops fail. In certain seasons, families, particularly young adult males, travel to temporary camps to provide new grazing for herds, surviving on milk and blood from their cattle. Donkey and poultry are also livestock for most tribes. Bee keeping is widely practiced and honey is used as a household food and to generate income. Milk is mainly for household consumption. Butter, however, is sold in markets and used as face, hair and body cream, as well as in various rituals.