Tribes Of Omo Valley
Nyangatom (Bumi) Tribe
There are two distinct groups within the Nyangatom tribe; the eastern group near the banks of the Omo River who have developed agricultural systems and permanent settlements, and the western group near the Kibish Basin who focus mainly on herding, although some cultivation is also carried out. The population of this tribe in total is roughly 7,000.
The Banna tribe are a semi-nomadic pastoral population of around 10,000 living near the Kenyan border. Their history is linked to that of the Hamar tribe as well, leading to a similar language and culture. Their livelihoods are centred around breeding cattle, sheep, and goats, and during the dry season they also collect and sell wild honey at local tribal markets.
Kara (Karo) Tribe
The Kara are a semi-nomadic tribe, and one of the smallest ethnic groups in the Omo Valley with a population between 1,000 and 3,000. They are found on the eastern shore of the Omo River and are related to the Hamar tribe. It is thought that previously the Kara and Hamar were part of the same tribe, which then separated in search for better lands. Due to this history, the Omotic language of the Kara people is linguistically very similar to that of the Hamar, and they share many cultural traditions.
The Daasanach tribe are found in the most southern part of the Omo Valley and have a population of around 20,000. They live at the point where the Omo River delta enters Lake Turkana, in fact their name means ‘People of the Delta’.
The lower class of the tribe are called Dies, and are the people who have lost their cattle and hence their livelihoods. Rather than living with the rest of the tribe, they live near Lake Turkana and find food by fishing or hunting crocodiles.
The Hamar tribe live in an area east of the Omo River and have villages in Turmi and Dimeka. Their huts are made up of wood, straw, and mud with sloping roofs.
One of the most recognisable features of the Hamar women is their hair. They fix their hair in short, dense ringlets and mix in butterfat and red ochre to give it a characteristic dark red colour. Colourful bracelets are also worn around their waists and arms, in addition to shells adorning the edges of their goatskin dresses.
The Bodi tribe are neighbours with the Mursi tribe, and the two groups frequently trade. They are pastoralist people who place a lot of importance on cattle and do not typically take part in cultivation practices, preferring instead to trade for maize and other agricultural products at tribal markets. They are nomadic communities, moving to prevent depletion of the land and to find new grazing areas for their cattle. Due to the importance of cattle in their lives, the main diet of the Bodi is also centred on cattle.
The Mursi are one of the better-known tribes of the Omo Valley, with a population of around 8,000. They are described as being a traditionally migratory community, although in reality they only move from the banks of the Omo in the dry season to the grasslands during the rainy season.
The Suri are a traditionally pastoral tribe on the west bank of the Omo River, with a culture centred around cattle. However, in recent times the Suri are relatively settled and also carry out agriculture and cultivation of grains. Cattle bring status to Suri people, and are a direct measure of a person’s wealth. Their tribe’s population is roughly 7,500 in total, with individual villages ranging from 40 to 2,500 people.