Working Paper 148

Homeland, Boundary, Resource: the collision of place-making projects on the Lower Omo River, Ethiopia

Felix Girke

Department ‘Integration and Conflict’

Year of publication

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Working Paper 148

The construction of the Gibe III Dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia brings three place-making projects into view: for its agropastoralist inhabitants, the Omo Valley is a homeland constitutive of their identity and the basis of their survival; for the regional administration, the Omo Valley is expected to work as a boundary between feuding groups; and for the distant centre, the Omo Valley is an untapped and untamed resource that is of central importance for the development and electrification of the country. These three projects not only reveal fundamentally different views on people and land, but also clash in that their implementation is incommensurable. It is projected that the damming of the river will finally undermine the subsistence production of the local groups and force them to be dependent on aid. As this final place-making project proceeds, it erases the local people‟s efforts over the last centuries to retain autonomy and agency by cultivating the Ethiopian frontier, which is the Omo Valley.

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