The cultural importance of sheep and goats in Ethiopia
(13 Feb 2015) LEAD IN :
Ethiopia boasts the largest population of goats and sheep in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The animals are an integral part of Ethiopian cuisine, culture and tradition. But getting a live animal home from market can be a uniquely Ethiopian challenge.
And while people in Asia are preparing to celebrate the lunar year of the sheep (also year of the goat), Ethiopians are preparing a pre-lenten feast of their favourite meat.
Goat meat stew is a favourite dish in Ethiopia and the country has the largest herd of goats and sheep in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It's estimated there are around 25.5 million sheep and 25 million goats according to the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa.
Sheep and goats are the major livestock earning export for the country with around nine abattoirs exporting to the Middle East.
For some farmers, goats and sheep are like their saving accounts and their insurance policies; whenever they need immediate cash, they sell a few goats or sheep to cover their costs.
Sheep and goats have cultural value for the dominant Christian population as well as for Ethiopian Muslims. Christians will often slaughter sheep and goats, especially after the long fasting season around Easter and for the Muslims around Eid.
And when Ethiopians are not fasting, they enjoy goat and sheep more than any other meat.
"The way sheep and goats are marketed in Ethiopia is maybe different from other countries. It's not like we buy meat from the supermarket rather we buy live sheep or goats and slaughter in our home, that is our culture. For example if you have a guest you buy a sheep and slaughter. It's showing respect for him and also it's for the festival, everybody is slaughtering sheep at home and if you don't slaughter a sheep at home you will feel disappointed," explains Solomon Gizaw a livestock expert at the International Livestock Research Institute.
At the Kera livestock market in Addis Ababa, a crashed truck rests with the animals in the feed lot.
Witnesses say no-one was injured and the animals don't seem to mind the visitor.
Transport in Ethiopia can be difficult, and just getting your animal home from market alive can present a unique challenge.
Jamal Mohamed Ahimed, a sheep seller at the Kera livestock market says: "People who have cars take their animal home in a car, those who live far might transport their animal in a taxi. Those who live nearby can walk the animal home and sometimes the butcher will come with them to slaughter the animal in their home."
Bahuru Tadesse, a customer of Jamal's, says: "I bought this sheep for 1000birr ($50USD) to enjoy before we are about to start fasting again for lent."
"In our culture we slaughter animals at home. For example my mother is visiting from the countryside so I bought a sheep to welcome her in our home," he adds.
Tadesse and his son walk their newly purchased sheep to the nearest taxi rank and load the animal in the trunk.
And while Ethiopians still have a strong tradition of bringing live animals home to be slaughtered, this may be about to change.
"Slaughtering sheep at home may be important from the cultural perspective but from the hygiene perspective it is not recommended. So the municipality would like to discourage slaughtering at home but rather at abattoirs and also buy slaughtered sheep carcass form supermarkets so I think that's going to be a trend," says Gizaw.
Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork
You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/e41646e888bd57ecfff46e5815125d68