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Geographic Climate of Basketo, Ethiopia

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Geography of Basketo
  3. Transport, trade and infrastructures
  4. Spiritual aspect of the area
    1. Church statistics
    2. Openness to the gospel
    3. Opportunities and threats of the geography to the expansion of the gospel
  5. Socio- cultural aspects
  • Influence of geography on the culture
  1. Conclusion and Recommendation


Basketo is an area (a Wereda) found in South Western part of Ethiopia under the administration of South Nations Nationalities and People group region (SNNPR), 562 Km from the capital Addis Ababa. The Wereda is not part of any administrative zone. It is an autonomous area known as Basketo Special Wereda. Basketo is bordered on the South and West by South Omo Zone; and on the North by the Gamo Gofa Zone. The administrative town is known as Laska. The Basketo people are an Omotic-speaking ethnic group whose homeland lies in the southern part of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR). Basketo Wereda (district) is named after the ethnic group. According to the 2007 Ethiopian National census, the ethnic group has 78,284 members.[1]

The linguistic neighbors of Basketo are Melo in the North, Gofa in the East, Dime and Bodi in the West and Aari and Gayil (Galila) in the South. (see figure 1) People in Gofa and Bulki refer both to the people and the language as ‘Mesketo’ but the native speakers identify themselves as ‘Basketo’ claiming that this was originally the name of a kind of sorghum which is typical of the area.[2]

Traditionally, the people of Basketo are organized as a segmentary clan society handed by a divine king called Kati. The people worship a sky-god called “Tsosi”. This Tsosi is believed to be a creator of everything and can be reached only through a mediators such as ancestors through a proper sacrifices. There is also earth-god who is worshipped as a goddess. She is called “Indak-Kacharonde”

Galila3bwThe economic activity of Basketo is based on Agriculture but most families keep livestock. The main crops grow in the area include: cash crops: coffee, spices of different types; Cereals: wheat, Barely, teff; and others like yams, sweet potatoes, banana etc are grown. In addition to the cereals, pulses and root crops, there are highly demanded markeTable crops such as coffee, Spices (affaramom, ginger, “tikur Azmud” and “Hel”), fruits and banana. Unique genetic resources are found in the Wereda such as: organic coffee, gum trees (incense and rubber) and forest honey. The livestock population and the availability of grazing lands are potential for the development of modern livestock production activities.[3]

In the past Basketo was part of the North Omo Zone and the 1994 national census counted its inhabitants as part of that zone. However, the Basketo people didn’t like it because they consider themselves different in many ways from those who are included in the zone. One of the significant factor of the it was the language difference. Despite the effort of the ruling party to emphasize the need to unite the smaller ethnic groups in order to bring consolidation and coordination to use the scarce government resources efficiently, the zone was divided into many smaller chunks. Then as a result of a lot of friction on the issue, Basketo was recognized as a special Wereda.

In 2004 Basketo, because of its rich in mineral soil and spacious farm land, it was selected as one of several Weredas for voluntary resettlement of farmers from overpopulated areas. Since then Basketo has become a home for Wolaytta, Haddiyya and Konso people. A total of 7,000 household and 28,000 total family members.[4]

II. The Geography of Basketo

Basketo lies in an altitude of 700-2200. It is situated in a plateau. The landscape of Basketo includes all types of land forms. This makes it favorable for the growth of any type of crop and the production of annual and perennial crops. The climate that ranges from dega (highland) up to Qolla (lowland) makes it possible for the Basketo people to have a variety of food and export crops. Rivers in Basketo include Ergino, Sirso, Berso and Usino. Some of these rivers can be used for irrigation in the low land of Basketo. Even though the amount of the underground water is very high, the water if full of iron mineral and not healthy to drink. Therefore there is a lack of clean drinking water despite of the rich water resource underground.

There are also valuable unexplored natural resources such as iron and gold in the area.[5] There are also dense forests and natural vegetations that covered a large part of the Wereda. However, after people from Hadiyya, Wolaytta and Konso resettled in the area a large part of the forest is destroyed for farm land, timber, fuel and building housing. Some of the resettled people cut trees for charcoal. Now this phenomena is creating a diverse effect on the climate and the existence of wild animals and bringing a long lasting problem contrary to what was expected by the government. Therefore, unless a solution is found soon, it will get worse and the Basketo people itself will be displaced from the area in the future.

  1. Transport, trade and infrastructures

The Wereda has good potential for echo-tourism development. There are attractive land scenery and colorful cultures unique to the community. Unexplored but high economic value minerals such as gold and iron are available in the Wereda. Therefore, there is a good opportunity of attracting investors to the area. However, social services and existing infrastructure facilities are very weak. There are poor road networks connecting the kebeles with the Wereda capital and connecting Wereda to other neighboring Weredas. It has only 27 kilometers all weather road and 180 kilometers dry weather roads, for an average road density of 1803 km per square kilometers.[6]

Agriculture is the major economic and livelihood system of the Wereda and the geographical features of the land is very suitable for crop production. The area has all types of climate. Dega, Kolla and Weynadega. In these different climatic areas different types of crops are produced. However, as it is said above, the infrastructure problem especially the road problem is hindering the people from selling their products for a good price. There is a market problem because of the road. If the people of Basketo had a good all-season road, many exporters would come to the area and invest their money there and the area could have been a source of income not only for the Basketo people but also for the country. Because of market problem, the people of Basketo does not have the trend of doing a large farming. They farm on a very small land to feed just their family. A few people farm a little bit wider and bring it to the market. Nowadays, agricultural products are very expensive in Basketo compared to many similar remote areas. The reason for this is because the farmers do not do enough farming that can sustain the market.

The climate and drainage of the Wereda is conducive for the development of irrigation farms. The agricultural activities in the Wereda are mainly dependent on rainfall. As a result, the special Wereda was not able to produce sufficient food for consumption in the Wereda although the prevailing rivers would offer a good opportunity to enhance irrigated agriculture.

Telecommunication facilities are underdeveloped. This makes communication very hard with other areas for trade and investment opportunities. But recently the Wereda has become mobile telephone and semi-automatic fixed telephone user. This is a good beginning to attract people to the area and make trade effective.

On the other hand, the majority of the Wereda population depends on traditional energy sources, which have adverse impact on the environment. Mainly the poor infrastructure facilities have hampered the development of trade and industry in the Wereda. Education, health and potable water provisions are also inadequate in terms of quality and coverage.[7]

  1. Spiritual aspect of the area
    1. Church statistics

Basketo was first evangelized by evangelists came from the neighboring areas (Weredas) Wolaytta and Goffa around 1945. Now in Basketo there are about 4 different evangelical church denominations and more than 70 congregations and of them the majority is Kale-Heywet Church which has more than 50 congregations. There are also Ethiopian Orthodox churches in the area. They are about 8 congregations. A Catholic church is planting a church in the resettlement area.

  1. Openness to the gospel

The people of Basketo had been highly oppressed by witchcrafts, demonic worships and different costly sacrifices, they were highly burdened and many of them were looking for someone to rescue them. If they did not present an offering like money or animal which they were told to do so, they would suffer a loss of their children or their animals. They had no way to escape from the clasp of the devil. The area was full of witches and magicians.

Even though the Ethiopian Orthodox church existed there for many years before the evangelical churches were established in the area, the people did not stop consulting witchdoctors.

When the Land Lords from the Northern part of Ethiopia went to Basketo they introduced the Christian religion in the area. Many people of Basketo accepted Christianity forcefully. They were enforced to be baptized as a mass. However, since many of them did not willingly accepted it, they have no strong relation with God. They went to church to please their masters. Moreover, they did not receive any strong teaching about God by the priests. Most of the church’s services were conducted in Geez. Yet the people did not understand Amharic let alone Geez. This language gap widened the estrangement of Orthodox Christianity with the local people. Until recently all of the priests come from Amhara region. There was no local priest who is able to teach the people in their local language.

Since they did not understand Christianity, the faith was syncretized with their pagan practices. They go to church on Sundays and on the rest of the week they go to consult magicians and witchcrafts. For so many decades Christianity became a mix of pagan practices and some elements from Christianity. It was in this context that evangelical Christians came to the scene with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who accepted the true gospel began to get free from demonic operations and raise the children without any harm. As the people observed this great miracle they began to respond to the gospel. As a result many people came to Christ. Witchcrafts and magicians, who have been a major threat for the people, began to disappear. Nowadays more than 80% of the population is Christian.

  1. Opportunities and threats of the geography to the expansion of the gospel

The topography of Basketo is mountainous and valley. It is not easy to go from one place to the other by car. Infrastructure is not much developed in the area. Mostly the people walks on foot or very few people use horses or mules as a means of transportation. The people has very limited contact with other people groups mainly because of lack of modern transportation. This in turn has an adverse effect on the expansion of the gospel to the area and from the area to other neighboring areas. The Basketo church is now sending evangelists to different neighboring areas like Dime, Salamago Wereda, and other areas. However, transportation is a big issue in those areas. It is hard to visit these areas as often. Without a frequent travel and visit it is hard to provide the people with necessary spiritual growth materials and trainings. It is even hard to visit the evangelists working there and provide them with important materials whenever they need them. These area are very close to Basketo kilometer wise, but very far because of lack of transportation and the topography.

  1. Socio- cultural aspects

The Influence of geography on the culture, language and intermarriage

Basketo, as it is topographically and infrastructure wise not easily accessible, first of all, the culture is not highly influenced with other cultures. The people still holds on to its older cultural values very strongly. Intermarriage between Basketo and other people group is also very limited. More than 96% of the population lives in Basketo. Therefore marriage happens almost exclusively among themselves.

Secondly, The geographical setting of Basketo makes hard for the people to communicate with other people very easily. The population is highly monolingual because of its less contact with speakers of other languages. Of course the neighboring areas like Galila and Melo people come to Basketo on market days and the Basketo traders go to these area on their market days. However, they spent there not more than half day. Therefore, except those who are frequent travelers, regular residents in that area and the bordering people, they do not have a lot of time to learn languages. Because of lack of transportation to those area, except some business people and those who have cousins there to visit, most people do not usually travel to these areas. Moreover it is not widely spoken by other people group outside the Basketo area. The people have a very limited contact with other language groups as it is mentioned. Many of them do not speak more than one language. Basketo is the main and the only language for all types of communication.

Children at home and outside with their friends speak Basketo. In the market places and in the government offices the people use Basketo. Only those children who go to school learn Amharic as a second language. Therefore I can say that geography has in some ways a positive influence for the growth of the language. It may be seen as negative if one is concerned about the benefits of multilingualism. However, multilingualism can be gained from schools as students learn Amharic and English as a subject and as they interact with their teachers and some non-native people they encounter in the schools. For those who are more concerned about language maintenance and culture preservation, the geography of Basketo has a very positive contribution so far. From now on if infrastructure in improved, the influence can be minimal because Basketo language is given as one subject in all elementary students.

The difficulty in accessibility of the area has a lot of implication on the culture change, language maintenance and change and intermarriage.

As it is said above, the people is mostly monolingual and language shift does not seem possible in the near future. This is mainly because of the geography of the area.

However new technologies and basic infrastructures play a big role for the expansion of God’s kingdom. Basketo is now reached with the gospel. However the church of Basketo needs to take the gospel to its neighboring areas. The church is sending evangelists to other areas. However, accessibility of those areas is still an issue for a rapid expansion of the gospel to a wider area and effective ministry.

  1. Conclusion and Recommendation

Basketo is a land where we can find all the favorable climactic and geographical features that are necessary for the well being of human life. Its topography and landscape has given it its beauty of attraction. Basketo has never been drought stricken so far mainly because of its wonderful climactic features. However, the lack of infrastructures such as all weather roads that connects Basketo with the neighboring areas makes it difficult for the economical growth of the area as well as the expansion of the gospel.

Basketo has all the natural gifts that can be a tourist attraction and investment opportunities. However, the challenge of the remoteness and topographic problems have not been dealt with the government. The geographical features of Basketo are God’s gift. We should not take the accessibility problem as impossibility. If infrastructures are made available all the challenges will be solved. But despite the fact that the area is one of the major potential areas of spice and food crop producer, the government did not take that part of the country very seriously.

The church has the upper hand in the area, as it constitutes more than 90% of the population, but did not use the opportunity to influence the government. Our recommendation is that: first, the church should work with the government very closely to solve infrastructure problems. When this problem is solved it will serve the needs of both the government and the church. Basic infrastructures are very essential for the expansion of the gospel to that part of the country. Most of the neighboring areas are not reached with the gospel and we think that Basketo can play a major role in sending evangelists.

Secondly, the church also needs to guard the natural resources of the area by teaching its people and working closely with the government and development organizations. The church also needs to involve in natural conservation and development works in order to tackle the changing climate because of the deforestation going on in the new resettlement areas.


Amha, Azeb. African languages and cultures 8. “CASE IN BASKETO” Taylor and Francis Ltd. 1995 // accessed April 25, 2012.

SNNPR Bureau of Finance and economic development. “Detailed statistics on roads”// (accessed 15 September 2009)

SNNPR investment bureau. “Guide 2000” SNNPR resource potential and investment opportunities. // accessed on April 20, 2012.

Jordan, Linda. Gayil servey report. (Unpublished), 2007.

DPPA. “Resettlement 2004” Disaster prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA) // (accessed 26 November 2006)

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia // accessed on April 20, 2012.


[1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia accessed on April 20, 2012.

[2] Azeb Amha. African languages and cultures. “CASE IN BASKETO” p. 8,1995 pp.

[3] “Guide 2000” SNNPR resource potential and investment opportunities. p.52

[4] “Resettlement 2004” Disaster prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA) (accessed 26 November 2006)

[5] Guide 2000. P. 52

[6] “Detailed statistics on roads” SNNPR Bureau of Finance and economic development website (accessed 15 September 2009)

[7] “Guide 2000” SNNPR resource potential and investment opportunities. pp. 52-53

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