Karo Tribe – Ethiopia

My name is Jane Jacobson and I hope to raise $20,000 to buy a generator and water pump for an endangered tribe in southern Ethiopia.

The Karo are the very smallest of the 80 pastoral tribes of Ethiopia and shrinking in numbers. There are only between 1000 and 1200 souls remaining, and are famous for their unique culture of body painting. I visited them in January and was saddened by their plight.

Well known for over 500 years, (with their ancestors on the banks of the Omo river dating back to Neolithic times,) the Karo are now unable to irrigate their fields except by carrying water up a steep 700 m (1/2 mile) path.


Because the Ethiopian government, desperate for cash, has built the “much needed” Gibe dam along the Omo River, generating hydroelectric power to sell to Kenya, affecting everyone along the river.

The Karo, like their ancient Egyptian kin to the north, traditionally practiced “flood retreat agriculture,” using the silt left by floodwaters that occurs during the monsoon season to fertilize their crops. Because of the dam, that flooding pattern has entirely ceased.

They cultivate sorghum, corn, beans and pumpkins. Sorghum is a staple used to cook porridge, and when mixed with milk or water, is fermented to produce local beer for ceremonies. They are Pastoralists, living completely off the land and off the grid; a proud and honorable people.

This is Gareso Beliko, the chief of the Karo and most respected man of the village. They are very excited about our project and humbly appreciative that anyone would care about their welfare.

The government pays little attention to the tribes. We live in a judgmental world and think that primitive people are not as worthy or intelligent as we are, sadly. The tribes have strong family ethics and everyone has a vital role to play in the group. They are kind and noble.


A generator: which can pump water up the cliff and irrigate the terraced grain and vegetable fields, supply fresh water for drinking and bathing, and provide electric power as well. Their very survival depends on water access. The generator is extremely quiet, 13,000 kilowatts, and has a switch to pump water up from the river or create a modest amount of electricity.

I am partnering with Yohanes Melese, owner of Remarkable Ethiopia Tours, who will be on the ground with all the follow-up. Our goal is to raise the funds by November and install the pump as soon as possible thereafter. If we raise it sooner, so much the better!