Indigenous peoples in Ethiopia

The groups meeting the criteria for identification of indigenous peoples in Ethiopia include the pastoralists and hunter/gatherer communities including the forest dwelling Majang (Majengir), who live in the Gambela region.

The Pastoralists

Pastoralism in Ethiopia constitutes a unique and important way of life for close to 15 million (around 15%) of the country’s total estimated population of 95 million. 

Pastoralist peoples live in around seven of the country’s nine regions, inhabiting almost the entire lowlands, which constitute around 61% of the country’s landmass. They own 40% of the livestock population in the country.

The Diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Ethiopia

The pastoral population is heterogeneous in its ethnic composition and social structure, having some larger ethnic groups such as the:

  • Afar
  • Oromo
  • Somalis

Constituting a total population of well over four million pastoral people. The rest are Omotic pastoral groups such as the:

  • Hamer
  • Dassenech
  • Nygagaton
  • Erbore
  • Nuer

As well as other groups living in the western lowlands.

The Situation of the Indigenous Peoples in Ethiopia

The political and and economic situation of indigeonous peoples in Ethiopia is a tenuous one. 

The pastoralist in Ethiopia face a fragile existence, mainly characterized by unpredictable and unstable climatic conditions, such as recurring droughts and floods.

At the socio-political level, the Ethiopian government's policy of villagization has seen many pastoralist communities moved off of their traditional grazing lands, and indigenous peoples' access to healthcare provision and to primary and secondary education remains highly inadequate.

They are also affected by persistent food insecurity, conflict, inadequate services and infrastructure and they are among the poorest of the poor in terms of disposable incomes, access to social services and general welfare.

Access to health care and primary and secondary education is very low compared with other areas (mid- and highlands) of the country.

Besides these threats, in recent years, the lands on which many of these pastoralist peoples and communities live, have become the subject of high demand from foreign investors.

Legislation Concerning Indigenous Peoples

There is no national legislation in Ethiopia mentioning or protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Ethiopia has not ratified ILO Convention 169 and was absent during the voting on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Ethiopia to learn about major developments and events during 2015.