Set in the Konso region of Ethiopia, Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge combines a restaurant, farm, eco-lodge, and permaculture design training centre. It also offers a series of Cultural Immersion Programs, giving an in depth view of the fascinating local Konso culture through lectures, workshops, community based activities and trekking trails, all lead by Konso community members.
We at Strawberry Fields invite you to Konso, to participate in a project of many grand ambitions, a forum for progression, where the community of Konso meets the community of planet earth, to discuss, plan and share ideas and get down to work together, or just to relax, enjoy and discover something new about humanity.
We promote alternative livelihoods for the local community through facilitating community participation in tourism which has, until now, not been contributing to their well-being.
We also promote food security through training and implementing Permaculture. Our farm is the first working demonstration site for Permaculture in Ethiopia, producing fresh fruit and vegetables for our restaurant. Take a little time to explore our site with its wealth of information, on the background to the project, the people, culture and agriculture of Ethiopia, the fantastic Southern Nations Region, and of Konso itself.
We at SFEL invite you to come and participate! Come and reach out to the community of Konso, a unique people, perpetually cheerful, singularly proud of their fascinating culture and relentless in their toil to see the simple tasks of daily life achieved. Konso is a land of stunning beauty but harsh reality. Strawberry Fields offers you a chance to enjoy Konso and put something back at the same time, whether you are a development activist or just a tourist who wants contribute a little through your enjoyment; SFEL wishes to say “Ogado!” Welcome to the magical land of Konso!
The Konso are an Eastern Cushitic ethno-linguistic group. Their sharply enclosed traditional territories are in the arid highlands of South Western Ethiopia. They are bordered by the Oromo peoples, to whom they are culturally and linguistically related.
Unlike most Ethiopian peoples, the Konso live in large defensive villages, each governed by an autonomous council of elders and divided into smaller administrative neighbourhoods. The social status of all males, and of some females, is defined by a, generation-grading system symbolised by stelae erection.
Kinship is reckoned in nine exogamous, patrilineal clans and in lineages that are headed by chief priests and through which property is inherited. Craftsmen form a distinct social class of lower status than the majority agricultural class. Although polygamy is accepted, few men can afford more than one wife.
The economy of the Konso rests on an exceptionally intensive agriculture involving opportunistic irrigation and terracing of mountain slopes. Corn (maize) and numerous varieties of sorghum are the staple crops, and cotton and coffee are cash crops. To protect the fields the Konso maintain their cattle, sheep and goats in stalls and feed them by hand or supervise their grazing.
The Konso are notable for the erection of Wakas, memorial statues to a dead man. These stylised wooden carvings are arranged in groups, representing the man, his wives, and one who has killed an enemy or an animal such as a lion or a leopard is depicted with his vanquished adversaries.
Karat (widely known as Konso but also called Bekawile by some of the neighbouring inhabitants) is a town close to the Segen river in south western Ethiopia. It is the administrative centre of the Konso Special Wareda of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State.
Philip Briggs of the Bradt Guide to Ethiopia suggests that the present-day town “might prosaically be described as a traffic circle of comically vast dimensions, surrounded by a solitary petrol station and a scattering of local hotels”. However the population has doubled in the past ten years and the town is undergoing rapid infrastructure development.
Konso Special Wareda, like the rest of Ethiopia, is most definitely a land in transition. Climate change and increased integration into the global community coupled with overpopulation and access to information means that the traditional way of life is slowly, but surely changing. What follows is an introduction to Konso as it is now.
Area of Konso Special Wareda (KSW) 2974km2
Population of KSW 220000+
Distribution of population less than 5% in urban areas 96% in rural areas
Latitude 5°10’ – 5°40’N
Longitude 37°00’ – 37°40’E
Elevation 600m – 2200m
Karat town has a latitude and longitude of 5’15’ N and 37’30’E and an elevation of 1650 meters. In 2005, Karat had an estimated total population of 4,593 of whom 2,258 were males and 2,335 were females.
Peoples and Areas around Konso Special Wareda
North East Amaro
Konso country was created by volcanic activity through the ages, including the early Miocene that generated the predominant basalt massif but also from the Precambrian exemplified by the remains of stony granite hills dissected by deep valleys which contain large blocks of marble
The area also boasts sedimentary deposits, most notably the enigmatically eroded sandstone cliffs nicknamed New York and the Konso-Gardula, a paleo-anthropological site discovered in 1991. The main Ethiopian rift valley and the Great East African rift system both end at Konso. Beyond stretch the flatlands of the Omo valley.
The highland areas of Birbirsa, Tagalto and Gumayde overlook to the north and northeast the low-lying Chamo basin. To the east are the volcanic plugs of the Segen valley.
The Fasha highlands overlook to the south the Segen valley and Lake Stephanie (Chew Bahir) and to the west and northwest the main lowland areas of the Weyto basin and Gidole.
Perennial Rivers and Major Watersheds
Delbena (Segendode), Yanda, Segen and Weyto
Of Yanda (Gatto, Fujujo, Kaile, Torko, Lultu, Swarite)
Of Segen (see Korra Garra – Konso Water and Gods)
Traditional Water Boundaries
South and East border Segen
North East Border Gato
North Border Lake Chamo
West Border Weyto
4 seasons (2 wet and 2 dry)
The Konso area has the highest degree of uncertainty regarding rainfall due to its position at the southern extremity of the highlands. The problem is not an absence but an abundant discharge in a short time, hence the use of terracing to collect maximum rainfall and discharge the excess.
There is a difference in the lifestyles and experiences of villages in the higher and lower parts of the Konso highlands due to rainfall
Mean annual rainfall = 551mm
But varies dramatically from 282mm – 881mm
Temperature ranges from 11° – 36°C
The area is covered with scrubby vegetation, largely comprising broadleaved species. The most common small trees and shrubs are Combretum spp. and Terminalia spp. There are also several species of Acacia. The most disturbed areas have only bushes and often get covered with aggressive climbers like Pterollobium stellatum. On exposed rocky areas there are clumps of Aloe spp. Bushland and thickets are found on the lower parts of the Konso hills and in patches in the Segen valley. Acacia and Commiphora spp. are common, along with some Grewia spp.
Where they have not been cleared, the banks of the Segen and other rivers have luxuriant riverine vegetation with tall trees of Ficus sycamorus, Tamarindus indica, Mimusops kummel and Garcinia buchananii, and many small trees and shrubs, all of which can be festooned with climbers, particularly cucurbits and the intriguing legume, Clitoria ternatea. There are also a variety of Cordia species present.
There are many kinds of animals in Ethiopia (wild and non-wild) of which about 43% are found in SNNPR. Among these ” Swain’s heartbeast ” is endemic . This endemic animal is residing at “Nech Sar” and ” Maze” national parks of the south region.
In addition it has been recorded in different studies that SNNPR is rich in its birds. More than 47% of the birds of the country are found in this region. And 6 of them are endemic
However, in the core Konso area there are very few large mammal species left. Predators including lions and jackals can be found on the very edges of Konso territory and small antelope, dikdik, hedgehogs, gophers, snails, snakes, frogs, beetles.
The area supports at least 120 species of birdlife, many of which are Somali-Masai biome species. The northern side of the Segen river is the type- and only locality for Mirafra pulpa (Friedman’s Lark) in Ethiopia. The species has not been recorded since it was first collected in 1912. Other species of interest are Gypaetus barbatus (Bearded Vulture), Melierax metabates (Dark Chanting Goshawk), Lonchura griseicapilla (Grey Headed Silverbill), which has a distribution limited to the south of the country, and Serinus reichardi (Reichard’s Seedeater).
The Konso are one of the last remaining people, who continue to produce, use, and discard stone tools for their own use on a regular basis. they are the only remaining stone tool-using culture, where women predominantly make and use stone-tools for hideworking.
The significance of flaked stone-tool variation has been a source of great archaeological interest for over 100 years, and as a result there are multiple explanations (style, function, behavioural ecology, social agency, etc.) for this diversity. Archaeologists concerned with broadening our understanding of stone tools in the ancient past, have found studies of modern populations, such as the Konso, producing and using stone tools invaluable.
Human fossils and other remains are abundant in the Konso-Gardula archaeological area in the southern part of the Main Ethiopian Rift, discovered by the Palaeo-anthropological Inventory of Ethiopia. The sediments correspond to Acheulean culture, and have been isotope dated to approximately 1.3 to 1.9 million years ago.
Homo erectus was contemporary with these people, and both probably dispersed into Eurasia before the global ice movements which occurred between 0.9 and 0.7 million years ago. The discovery of new Australopithecus boisei specimens in Konso has extended the known geographical range of A. boisei. It is now clear that A. boisei coexisted with Homo erectus in a mainly dry grassland environment.