Introduction / History
The Alaba people of Ethiopia live on the central highlands of Ethiopia, some 250-300 km southwest of Addis Abeba to which it is connected by the asphalt Shashemane-Soddo Road. The land is flat and dry with savannah type vegetation. Maize, teff and red pepper are the main crops cultivated.
The Bilate River borders the Alaba country on the west side towards the Kambaata people. The languages of both these people groups are closely related to Highland East Cushitic languages. The Alaba has been administrated under the Kambaata for years although at the moment Alaba is a special administrative area by itself.
There are considerable differences between the center, Kulito, and the vast rural areas. 1) Kulito with 25,000 inhabitants and a big busy market, has a mixed population of which a minority speak Alaba. In the rural area only the Alaba language is used. 2) Kulito has a few Protestant churches and quite a noticeable Orthodox population. The rural area is totally Muslim. 3) In the countryside the literacy rate is very low, whereas Kulito is more literate. The Alabas are traditionally self-confident and very resistant to outside influence. This has kept them from modern developments and education. Now this seems to be changing and the statistics from 2002-2003 show that there are 36 schools in the Alaba area with some 26,000 students.
The life style of the Alabas is very modest. Practically all the houses in the rural area are round-shaped, thatch roofed houses, made of wood and mud. They are without ceilings and have mud floors. Livestock spend the night in them together with people. Most of the people get their drinking water from rivers and ponds by carrying it long distances. More than half of the urban houses are without electricity. Firewood and tree leaves are used for cooking. The Alaba administrators express their biggest needs to be schools and clinics for more villages, and wells for villages that are without drinking water.
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