Department of Anthropology

Jifor, SNNPR, Ethiopia

The Chabu are forager-horticulturalists indigenous to the highland forest areas of three administrative states of southwestern Ethiopia (Oromo, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region [SNNPR], and Gambela). They have an approximate population of 2,500 people. Recent genetic and linguistic work suggests that the Chabu are genetically distinct from neighboring ethnic groups and are linguistic isolates. Currently, the Chabu are not officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group at the national governmental level. The Chabu suggest that their music, language, and status as the autochthonous inhabitants of the area distinguish them from the Majang, their cultivating neighbors.

The Chabu maintain an egalitarian social structure and are divided into approximately 13 patrilineal clans, each with an associated totem. They continue to subsist on hunted meat using dogs and traps and gathered wild yams. Traditionally the Chabu heavily consumed collected honey, however, today honey is primarily an economic product. The Chabu also engage in simple horticulture primarily cultivating maize, domesticated yams, beans, and some fruit.

Current WSU-based research projects focus on ethnographic description and demography, social learning and cultural transmission, and processes of leadership and followership.

The Chabu forager-horticulturalists video playlist

Selected bibliography:

Dira, S. J., & Hewlett, B. S. (2017). The Chabu hunter-gatherers of the highland forests of Southwestern Ethiopia. Hunter Gatherer Research, 3(2).

Hewlett BL, (2016) Innovation, processes of social learning and modes of cultural transmission amongst the Chabu adolescent forager-farmers of Ethiopia. In Social learning and innovation in contemporary hunter-gatherers (pp. 203-215). Springer.

Dira, S. J., & Hewlett, B. S. (2016). Learning to spear hunt among Ethiopian Chabu adolescent hunter-gatherers. In Social learning and innovation in contemporary hunter-gatherers (pp. 71-81). Springer.

Dira S. J. (2016) Cultural Resilience Among Sidama agropastoralists and Chabu forager-farmers. Dissertation. Washington State University.

Taye, K. T. (2015). Documentation and Grammatical Description of Chabu. Thesis. Addis Ababa Universtiy.

Research projects

Click markers for more info. Archaeological: Ethnographic: