The pastoralist people of the Afar: How to preserve their culture

In Ethiopia, many families of the Afar people roam the savannah as nomads. But overgrazing and climate change are taking their toll on the traditional life of the herders.


Afar-Volk_Menschen-für-MenschenNowhere is it hotter than in north-eastern Ethiopia. Time and again, the vegetation dries up. The ground is covered in dust.


Stolze junge Männer vom Volk der AfarThis is where the Afar live. In the past, they were considered a combative people.  Today, young men compete with each other only with their hairstyles.


Junge Afar-Frau mit traditionellem SchmuckThe girls also adorn themselves with elaborate hairstyles. Most of them have never been to school, because the Afar live as nomads.


Tierkadaver: Totes Rind in der WüsteThe herder families move through savannahs and semi-deserts. Climate change intensifies the droughts – often the cattle starve and die of thirst.


Afar-Kind neben ZiegenherdeThe Awash River and its tributaries are the lifelines. But crocodiles lurk in the water. Sometimes people are killed.


Mutter vom Volk der Afar mit GesichtstätowierungGeja Muhammed lives with her family in the Subuli area by the Arso River. Tattoos decorate her face. The incisors are filed pointy – a sign of beauty for the Afar.


Das Afar-Volk lebt in runden HüttenThe huts made of branches, plastic sheets and grass mats can be packed and rebuilt in another location. Camels and goats are the only valuable possessions.


Hirtenvolk der Afar: Junge in der ZiegenherdePractice makes perfect: from childhood, people’s lives are linked to cattle.


Mädchen spielt mit ZiegeEven the young children help to herd the goats. They separate the mothers from their fawns and bring them to separate fences.


Mädchen sammelt Ziegen einBecause the fawns are not supposed to drink all the milk of their mothers. The milk is needed for the people.


Afar-Familie mit ZiegenherdeWhen almost all the goats died in the recent drought, Geja Muhammed’s family was threatened with hardship and hunger.
Afar-Junge mit MacheteMenschen für Menschen built a dam and canals on the Arso river.


Wasserkanal in SubuliThe savannah can be irrigated. Agriculture becomes possible.


Bauer vom Volk der Afar auf seinem fruchtbaren AckerGeja Muhammed’s family received a piece of land and training. Her husband cultivates the field as a part-time farmer.


Geerntete Maiskolben“Now we feel safe,” he says. “We don’t have to be afraid of another drought.”


Afar-Frau treibt die Ziegenherde zusammenThe herd has recovered. The family has about 40 goats. They don’t know the number for sure, they say.


Afar-Hirtin trägt eine Lamm“Afar don’t count their animals,” says Geja. If you count them, according to popular belief, you run the risk of losing the animals again.


Mädchen mit junger ZiegeThanks to livestock and agriculture, the Afar children of Subuli now have the chance to develop healthy.


About the project