The Wolaita zone in SNNPR is characterised by a series of challenges which impact gravely on local livelihoods and which erode the ability of communities to withstand the frequent shocks and stresses with which they are faced. Infertile land, environmental degradation, erratic rainfall, poor access to services, landlessness, disease and insufficient access to safe water all contribute to a situation marked by extreme poverty and chronic food insecurity. Seasonal food shortages, usually during the hunger season from February to June occur on an almost annual basis. Repeated emergencies characterised by cyclical spikes in malnutrition jeopardise the ability of extremely poor people to cope with both the immediate and longer-term pressures brought about by the shifting realities of climate change and population growth.

Information on the size of the population in the area has become a very important input. The problem of population growth is not simply a problem of a number. It is a problem of human welfare and development. A population has a direct relationship with development. Planning and implementation of any development programs require on the size of the population, structure of the population, distribution of the population, population density, dependency ration and Demographic Dynamics in general. Even if the administrative change that has occurred since the Census does not permit calculating and comparing figures at different point of time, the figures are compiled from the 1999 E.C Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia.

According to the 1999 E.C census, the population of the region is estimated to grow at an average rate of 2.9% per annum. Based on this estimation, the projected regional population in 2000 E.C is about 15,494,636 of which 7,707,504 were males & 7,787,132 were females. This indicates that percentage share of females is relatively high. In addition to this, about 89.5 % of the population resides in rural areas and only 10.4 % in urban.

Ethnic identity is another important attribute of a population.  The region is a host of 56 ethnic groups living together with their own distinct language, cultures, beliefs, traditions, rituals, norms, values and social identities. These diversified ethnic groups belong to Omotic, Cushitic, Semetic, and Nilo Sahara super linguistic families. Out of these, Debub Omo has 16 distinct ethnic groups belonging to the four linguistic families. Benchi Maji has 6 distinct ethnic groups belonging to Omotic and Nilo Sahara linguistic families followed by Gamo Gofa (with five distinct ethnic groups which belong to one linguistic family i.e Omotic). Among Special Woreda, Derashe has 5 distinct ethnic groups which belong to Cushitic linguistic families.

Since the overwhelming majority of the regions population live in traditional setting, the demographic features are largely influenced by their already established cultural values. Consequently, almost all the parameters used to measure some of the demographic features tend to be higher. Based on the Demographic and Health Survey /DHS/ results of 2005 the region had 42.6/1000 birth rate, 107/1000 infant mortality rate, 157 child mortality rate, & 13.4 crude death rate.

Due to the persisting high infant and child mortality, the life expectancy of the population is the lowest in the world. The male and female life expectancy was estimated at 51.35 years and 53.45 years respectively.

Table 1.1. Demographic Characteristics of the Region \2005/

Agro-ecology, Population of woreda and kebeles, and Administrative division

Source- woreda  town Adminsstrhar office

Table 1.2 agro ecology zone by woreda/T/A by %  percentage

Source economic profile

Table 1.3 total population size 1998-2001 E.C

Source :- central statistical agency C.S.A census 1999 E.C projection

 

History of Wolaita

The people of Wolaita have a rich history. Wolaita (aka Wolayta) are known for their patriotism, rich culture and extremely modern music. The people of Wolaita had their own kingdom for thousands of years with kings (called Kawo) and a monarchical administration. The earlier name of the kingdom was ‘The Famous Kingdom of Damot’; – this included the south, south-east, south-west and part of the central region of the present Ethiopia. The famous King of this Kingdom was King (Kawo) Motolomi who is mentioned in the book as an invader of the north and the king to whom the mother of the Ethiopian saint (Tekla Haymanot) was surrendered. Most Wolaitas assume that Saint Tekle Haimanot was the son of this king. After the defeat which overcame the northern part of its territory, the kingdom was reduced to its present size and the name became the Kingdom of Wolaita.

It remained thus for hundreds of years until the expansion of Emperor Menelik II into the regions south of Shewa during the early 1890s. The war of conquest has been described by Bahru Zewde as ‘one of the bloodiest campaigns of the whole period of expansion’, and Wolaita oral tradition holds that 118,000 Wolaita and 90,000 Showan troops died in the fighting. Kawo (King), the last king of Wolaita, was defeated and Wolaita conquered in 1896. Wolaita was then incorporated into the Ethiopian Empire. However, Wolaita had a form of self-administrative status and was ruled by Governors directly accountable to the king until the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. The Derg afterwards restructured the country and included Wolaita as a part of the province of Sidamo.

In 1991 the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) restructured the country into ethnically-based Regions, and Wolaita became the centre of Region 9. Later, Wolaita was included in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), consisting of the former regions 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11) as part of the Simien Omo Zone. The regional government claimed that the Wolaita were so closely related to the other Omotic-speaking peoples of that zone that there was no justification for a separate Wolaita zone. Wolaita leaders, however, stressed that their people had a distinct language and culture and demanded a zone for themselves. In 1998, the regional government attempted to introduce an artificially constructed language, based on the various local North Omotic languages and dialects, as the new language of education and administration for Simien Omo Zone. This triggered violent protests by Wolaita students, teachers and civil servants, which led to the withdrawal of the new language. In November 2000, Wolaita restructured as Zone.

Wolaita people play a significant role in the politics and economy of Ethiopia. They are known for their humble personalities and friendly approaches.

The Region (Wolaita Zone)

The Wolaita zone is one of the thirteen zones of the Southern regions of Ethiopia covering an area of 4471.3 km2. For the administrative purpose it is divided into twelve woredas (districts) namely; Boloso Bombe, Boloso Sore, Damot Gale, Damot Weydie, Damot Pulasa, Damot Sore, Diguna Fango, Humbo, Kindo Koysha, Kido Didaye, Offa, and Sodo Zuria. Topographically the zone lies on an elevation ranging from 1,200 to 2,950 meters above sea level. The total population of the zone is estimated about 1,721,339 with a density of 385 inhabitants per square kilometer. The zone has three agro-ecological zones. Dega (3%) Weyna Dega (57.96%) and Kolla (40%). The annual average temperature of the zone is 15.10C and the mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,200 to 1,300 mm. Regarding the land utilization data, 261,000 hectares (ha) is used for cultivation, 5318 ha for grazing, 8261 ha. Bushland and the remaining 35382.5 ha is a cultivable land.

Wolayta Sodo town is the administrative center of the zone. It is among the 18 growth- pole town selected in the region. It is located at a distance of 383 km. south of Addis Ababa and 157 km away from Awassa town. Enjoying a Weyna Dega climate topographically, the town lies at an altitude of 1483 meters above sea level and has a sloppy topography. Sodo town is among the few tows in the region endowed with good infrastructure access, for instance, road network, hydroelectric power & cleaned pipe water supply, modern telephone, Banking, educational and health facilities. The town has a gravelled road network connection with its neighbouring towns, fundamental for transportation access. The main high, way that stretches from Addis to Jinka town passes across Sodo town. The shortest tarmac road path up to Sodo town has a total length of about 330 km. To promote the involvement of the private sector in industry initiatives, an industrial zone with an area of 40 hectares is prepared in Sodo town. To promote the involvement of the private sector in industrial initiatives, an industrial zone with an area of 40 hectares is prepared in Sodo town.

Wolaita Sodo University (WSU) is one of the second generation public higher institutions in Ethiopia, located in Wolaita Sodo town, 315 km away from Addis Ababa. The university was inaugurated on March 24th  2007 GC. Although a relatively new University, WSU has grown exponentially over that last decade. It currently hosts more than 28000 students and over 3000 staff members on its three sprawling campuses- Gandaba Campus, Otona Campus & Tercha Campus. Since its inception, WSU has been committed to providing quality undergraduate, graduate and other speciality programmes that support its students to attain their fullest potential intellectually, ethically and morally. The University comprises of six colleges and four schools that host more than 52 undergraduate and 34 graduate programmes including PhD programmes. Along with high-quality education, WSU’s core mission also involves mainstreaming research and community services.

Over the last decade, it has established six multi-disciplinary research centres and successfully hosted several high-level research projects. Laying claim to the global mindset, the University also actively partners with other leading higher institutions and industry stakeholders globally to provide international opportunities to its students and faculty. [source: Brief History of Wolaita Sodo University, Damota, 2010, Vol.9.]