Hunting, Social Structure and Human–Nature Relationships in Lower Omo, Ethiopia: People and Wildlife at a Crossroads
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Hunting is often either portrayed as the ultimate means to enact a close connection between the human being and nature, or investigated in terms of its contribution to livelihoods. Through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, we explored the meaning of hunting in the lower Omo valley, Ethiopia, and found that large game hunting was best understood as an activity that served to establish and maintain human–human relationships. Hunting was important as it created the basis for long-term bond-relations between a hunter and his friend (‘misso’) and a hunter and his honorary elder sister (‘misha’) that could be drawn on in times of hardship. By contrast, interactions between hunter and wildlife were given hardly any attention by our participants. We discuss implications in relation to the stark decline in wildlife and the degradation of grazing land over the last decades, and the consequences of our findings for conservation and development activities.
KeywordsOmo valley Ethiopia Hunting Informal institutions Social capital Symbolic capital
The authors would like to thank all participants of the group discussions and interviews for their contributions, as well as our interpreters Manyahlew Girma, Berki Belayneh, Hora Gacha and Tilahun Kibret, Fetene Hailu for his help, and Deborah Randall for all her work at the start of this project. Liz Dinnie, Karen Laurenson, Zelealem T. Ashenafi, Justin Irvine and an anonymous reviewer provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, and Bill Slee and Charlie Mackie suggested useful literature. This work was conducted as part of the project “HUNT” (Hunting for Sustainability, http://fp7hunt.net/) and funded by the European Union’s Framework Programme 7 and Frankfurt Zoological Society.
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