Discover the Omo Valley Tribes of Southern Ethiopia Online
The Omo Valley Tribes have managed to retain their traditional lifestyle. This is apparently due to the fact that the harsh environment in which most of the tribes live is undesirable to outsiders. The Omo Valley is a cultural melting pot with at least 16 distinct tribes. Two of the four main African linguistic families are represented in the area: Nilo-Saharan; and Afro-Asiatic, with its Omotic (endemic to the South Omo) and Cushitic branches.
Cattle, goats and sheep are vital to most 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.
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The natural beauty of the Omo Valley is unsurpassed. The diverseness of the people, the languages, the traditions and the landscape (in a comparatively small area) is unequaled anywhere on this vast continent. The untainted attire and intrinsic majesty of the people living in an age-old traditional manner will touch the hearts of all who come here and the images will stain the visitors’ memory long after they return home.
The fascinating Omo Valley Tribes live isolated, extreme and particularly harsh lives. However, they decorate themselves lavishly and their colorful dress and beautification customs give them an identity and highlights their uniqueness. Their dress is often scant, commonly utilizing skins and other natural resources. However, for men and women alike, it is usual to be adorned with jewelry, beads, clay face and body painting, feathers, ear and lip plates, bodily scarification and other practices. Little is known about the origins of these customs but it is sufficient to say that appearance is a distinguishing factor for neighboring tribes; it is indeed extremely important to these exceptional people.
The Omo River
The Omo 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 socioeconomic 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.
South Omo Zone (Omo Valley)
Named after its geographical location and the famous Omo River, the South Omo Zone (Omo Valley) is a spectacularly beautiful area with diverse attractions, ecosystems, cultures and languages. The majority of the region is dry and inhospitable: 0.5 % is highland, 5 % is midland, 60 % is lowland and 34 % is desert. Despite this only 8.5 % of the populations are urban dwellers. At list 16 distinct ethnic groups (Omo Valley tribes) live in this unique zone which is the origin of Omo Valley Travel Ethiopia.
Traditional livestock production is based on herd diversification to make use of various plant species, and herd splitting to spread the livestock out in line with the available grazing resources and to prevent the spread of disease. There are periodic inter-ethnic conflicts within the zone (and across the borders) as Omo Valley tribes compete for natural resources, most frequently water and pasture. However, conflicts may also originate from deep-rooted cultural practices, such as heroism, asset building and collective revenge. The introduction of firearms has made inter ethnic fighting b/n the Omo Valley tribes far more dangerous.
We support conservation project at South Omo, and contribute our share for the sustainability of tourism in this remote and isolated region. We also follow principles of sustainable tourism and are determined to benefit the community from the smokeless industry.
Also known as Ulde, the Arbore are the southern neighbors of the Tsemay. They live in the hot plains north of Chew Bahir and are predominantly pastorals, which is the way of life by most of the Omo Valley tribes. Livestock have high economic and social value for the Arbore. They keep cattle, sheep and goats. Milking cows, calves, sheep and goats are kept in the vicinity of the settlement. Read more about the Arbore Tribe, Omo Valley Ethiopia
Omo Valley Tribes, Bodi Tribe
The Bodi are predominantly pastoral like most of the Omo Valley tribes, living directly north of the Mursi, with whom they share much of their way of life. Except for limited agricultural activity around the Omo River, the Bodi depend entirely on animal husbandry. Their culture is very much based on cattle. Like the Mursi, the Bodi’s classification of cattle is complex, with over 80 words used to denote different colors and hid patterns. More about Bodi Tribe, Omo Valley Ethiopia