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Friday, February 8, 2013


Central Technical Unit, Directorate General for Cooperation and Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, via S. Contarini 25,00194
Rome - Italy
Land degradation in the tropics is strongly associated with human population growth. The latter phenomenon is quite marked in humid areas and in the temperate highlands (Jahnke 1982). Notably in the plateaux of Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, several pastoral systems have gradually evolved into mixed farming, in order to cope with such pressure (Ruthenberg, 1980). Land is more intensively utilized as population density increases since mixed systems are more efficient than specialized crop or livestock systems (McIntire et al.,1992). In fact, livestock crop integration allows:
  • to diversify production,
  • to distribute labour and harvest better throughout the year as well as distribute tasks among the different components of the household (HH),
  • to recycle waste products within the system, preventing nutrient losses,
  • to minimize the risk and the effects of livestock and crop pests;
  • to improve indigenous husbandry techniques and knowledge, hence
  • to intensify and control more efficiently input - output flows, increasing productivity and minimizing risks.
Livestock provide not only draught power, manure, milk, meat and by-products. As in traditional pastoral societies, they have cash buffer and insurance functions. The former function also supports the use of inputs in crop cultivation which in turn generates higher on-farm productivity for both crops and livestock (Brumby, 1986).

To read more: http://www.fao.org/WAIRDOCS/LEAD/X6143E/X6143E00.HTM

Ethiopia, Sidama, Boltuma (Single Origin Espresso)

Availability: In stock


As espresso, this coffee is sweet and clean, with notes of lavender and a soft, elegant finish.


This coffee from the Sidama province displays the attributes we love about Ethiopian coffees. Much of the coffee in Sidama is cultivated using the garden coffee system -- coffee is grown near homesteads where it is planted in low densities, ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 plants per hectare, and fertilized predominantly with organic nutrients. Harvesting periods in Sidama vary from September to December, depending on rainfall and altitude, and most harvesting is done by family labor. Freshly hand-picked cherries are sorted before de-pulping and are sold to the primary cooperatives for wet processing. The fresh cherries are then washed and allowed to ferment naturally. The fermented coffee is washed with clean running water, soaked, and then dried to retain about 11.5% moisture. In this process the coffee is moved continuously on the drying beds to ensure even drying. As espresso, this coffee is sweet and clean, with notes of lavender and a soft, elegant finish.

Sidama Region
Ethiopian Heirloom
1900 masl



Dr. Wolassa L. Kumo
I An Overview of the Sidama History

One of the ancient Kushites, the Sidama people live in the southern part of the present day Ethiopia,with notable geographical features such as lake Awassa in the North and lake Abaya in the South. The Great East African Rift Valley dissects the Sidama land into two: western lowlands and eastern highlands.

During the course of the great popular migration around the first century AD from North and East Africa to the South of the continent, some Sidamas were left behind and were later scattered into different parts of the sub region. According to the Sidama oral history, during this course of popular migration, the first group of Sidamas reached as far South as the Dawa river, in the present day Ethio-Kenyan boarder before returning back to their present land.

During this period, the Sidama people were separated into 5 sub groups. These are: the Major Sidama group, Alaba, Tambaro, Qewena and Marako. The latter four Sidama sub groups currently live in the western vicinity of the present day Sidama land, out side of the major Sidama province. The current estimated population of the major Sidama and its sub groups is about 8 million people.

Total area of the Sidama land including the lands of the sub groups is estimated to be about 50,000 km sq. The major Sidama land is an extremely densely populated are with about over 460 people per sq. km. The capital city of the Major Sidama land, Awassa, is located 275 kms south of Addis Ababa. Land features range from low lands of about 1500 m a.s.l in the Great East Africa Rift Valley that cuts through lakes Awassa and Abaya up to 3000 m a.s.l in the eastern Sidama high lands of Arbegona, Bansa and Arroressa districts. The Sidama land is one of the most ever green and fertile lands in Africa. As a result, for centuries, the Sidama people led one of the most stable and self sufficient lives as an independent nation state in the north eastern Africa until the nation was annexed to the present day Ethiopia by king Minelik II in 1891. Before the annexation, the Sidama people lived in indigenous egalitarian and democratic social, economic, political and cultural systems.

II. The Sidama Indigenous Political System

The Sidama nation was administered by the Moote system. Moote is the system of administration where Mootichcha who is equivalent to a King, is nominated by the family and near relatives for the position. The nominated Moote (the King) is presented to a Fichche, the Sidama New Year ceremony, for Qeexala or popular demonstration. Qeexala serves both as approval and mass media to communicate the decision of the coronation to the general public. Then, the Mootichcha (the King) starts to carry out his duties and responsibilities. The Mootichcha is the head of political and administrative structure. The Mootichcha is assisted by Ga´ro, akin to king´s assistant, and hence next to the former in politico-administrative authority.

Fichche is the most celebrated Sidama cultural holiday which represents the Sidama New Year. The Fichche is based on the lunar system. Sidama elders (astrologists) observe the movement of the stars in the sky and decide the date for the New Year and the Fichche celebration. The Sidama New Year is therefore unique in that it does not have a fixed date. It rotates every year following the movements of the stars. Sidama has 13 months a year. And each of the months is divided equally into 28 days while the 13th month has 29 days. This is because the Sidama week has only 4 days and hence each month has 7 weeks instead of the conventional 4 weeks. The names of the 4 days in Sidama week are called: Dikko, Deela, Qawadoo and Qawalanka to be followed by Dikko completing the cycle of a 4-day week.

The Moote and Ga´ro rule in consultation with the council of people´s representatives known as the Songo. The Songo is similar to the modern day parliament. There was a great parliamentary democracy in the Songo. Agenda for discussion was forwarded by every member of the Songo and decisions were made by the members and forwarded to the Moote for approval. The Songo did not have written constitution. It was guided by the oral constitution which was handed over by generations and was learnt by all involved by heart. Moote was involved in over all political and administrative issues of the society including defence, provision of justice, and the like.

The defence side of the administration is handled by Gaadana or war leader. The Luwa system which involves both administrative and cultural aspects of the Sidama society was mainly responsible for the defence activities of the society. Luwa is administered by an age grade system where each grade rotates every 8 years. There are five rotating grades in the Luwa system: These are: Darara, Fullassa, Hirobora, Wawassa and Mogissa. The Malga clan in Awassa district adds Binancha as the sixth grade.

In the Luwa system, recruits stay outside of their homes for about 5 months. During this period, the recruits carry out military training and training on war songs like Geerarsha which is a counterpart of Geerarsa of the Oromo people, another Kushitic group. Luwa is ruled by a democratic principle and its leader is known as Gadaana (different from Gaadana-war leader). The deputy of Gadaana is known as Ja´lawa. Under Ja´lawa comes Murrichcha (division leader) who during wartime leads Murassa an equivalent of a military division. The Sidama indigenous defence system was therefore fairly well advanced. This was because of the threat of constant conflict with the neighbouring tribes for more cultivable and grazing lands.

III. The Sidama socio-economic culture

The cultural affairs of the Sidama society is handled by the Woma system. The Woma system has its own council known as the Womu Songo. Woma acts like a cultural and religious leader. He usually performs Kakalo (sacrifices) and other cultural and religious rituals including marriage and circumcision.

There were also other independent socio economic institutions which reflect a unique and egalitarian culture of the Sidama society. Among such institutions the most notable one is Seera. The Sidama Seera system is divided into two: the first refers to the broad concept of Seera as a social constitution which governs the Sidama social life based on the Sidama moral code of halale (the ultimate truth). John Hammer, an American anthropologist who studied the Sidama society extensively, stated that the Sidama moral code halale, provides the basis for distinguishing "good" and "evil" and in the broadest sense the term refers to ´the true way of life´ (Hammer 2002). If an individual in a community is involved in wrongdoing but refuses to admit it or pay the prescribed fine, this may result in ostracism (Seera) where the recalcitrant becomes non-person as people refuse to work, eat or associate with him (Hammer 2002). Although there were no written procedures and enforcement mechanisms for Seera, individuals abide by it because of the fear of breaking the halale and being referred to God, by the elders, as a consequence.

The second concept of Seera refers to the narrower sub constitution created to facilitate cooperation among the community members in construction of houses. This type of Seera is usually referred to as Minu Seera (constitution for house construction). This is similar to the modern day constitution of building society´s but is more powerful because it is linked to the broader concept of Seera that is linked to the societal moral code of halale.

Another related Sidama social sub constitution is called Jirte. Jirte refers to the mechanism of community cooperation during death and other ceremonies. In Sidama, community members living in near by villages form one Jirte system. The Jirte system is comprised of 4-6 villages and is usually formed based on lineages. If a person dies, community members share the burden of looking after mourners until the mourning ends. The mourning usually takes one week. However, non Christian community members could organize remourning ceremonies based on the social status of the deceased. If a community member does not obey the Jirte system, he can be fined based on the principles of the larger Seera system. Jirte is a typical example of the present day voluntary community based organizations (CBOs).

The Sidama society also had unique systems of economic cooperation. The most notable of these are: (a) Dee-rotating labour contribution for farming, (b) Kotta- producers´ cooperatives, and (c) Shufo-rotating butter credit exclusively for women.

Dee is a voluntary arrangement to contribute labour during the farming season instead of farming on one´s plot individually. The labour pooling system usually involves manual digging of plots but can include oxen farming if all of the members have oxen and are willing to cooperate to rotate the farming. The labour pooling system starts with the elders in the groups and goes down to the youngest member. However, if any one in the system needs an urgent assistance, the members will skip the age based system of rotation. Dee is unique Sidama economic cooperation for which modern counterpart cannot be found easily.

The Sidama society also had what one may call an early form of cooperative movement called Kotta. Kotta is a voluntary farmers´ (producers´) cooperative and hence common ownership of given crops on a given plot of land. The Kotta can be limited to one year or can continue for several years and is purely voluntary economic arrangement. The output of the crops is shared among the Kotta members according to their contributions. The Sidama society had, thereof, had a model cooperative system in Kotta that could serve as an example of successful voluntary producers´ cooperatives.

The Shufo, rotating butter credit for women, is different from other economic arrangements in that it involves (a) commodity credit and (b) it is carried out exclusively by women. In Sidama society women could not own any property except butter. Therefore, when they are in a financial problem or have social occasions for which they need larger amount of butter, the other women living in the village can bring certain amount of the commodity and hand over to the needy women after taking the measurement of the size of the butter contributed by each woman. Another interesting feature of Shufo is that, not all women know how to measure the butter and keep the size of the butter each woman contributed in their memories for so many rounds. It needs exceptional talent to keep the size of each measurement in memory because none of the women involved are literate and can read and right. This was how the Sidama women fought both poverty and economic marginalization by men.

During those days land in Sidama was mostly owned privately. Every household had access to land and was able to produce enough for its needs. Land outside of the private ownership was owned communally and was called the Danawa land. The Danawas were administered by the local Songos and were distributed to newly married men and new comers based on their needs. Communal lands in Sidama were properly conserved.

In that way the Sidama society was able to maintain sustainable socio-economic and socio-political system for centuries. After the annexing into the bigger Ethiopia in 1891 most of these systems were disrupted.

Part II will continue