174 Environmnetal Discourses in Borana Oromo: A Focus on Narratives

Thursday, 3 April 2014
Golden Ballroom (Town and Country Resort )
Teshome Tafesse, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, n/a, Ethiopia

Although most African nations now function and communicate within the context of global politics as literate cultures, many of their peoples still live within the paradigm of oral cultures (Ogbondah and Paul, 1999:03). Besides, in African context, information is not often passed in a straightforward manner but through narratives, songs, dances, rituals, proverbs and poems giving listeners the chance to decide to do something to change the situations they find themselves in (Adoyo, 2004 cited in Daudu, 2009:20). Moreover, discourses about environment, and the economic, social, religious and political processes that impact upon it, are by no means of concern solely to environmental anthropologists as the need to marry environmental perspectives with other disciplines appears distinctly pressing (Muhlhausler and Adrian, 2006:458).

This study explored the discourses of environmental narratives as an organized, viable, and dynamic social force basic to the creation and dissemination of environmental messages in Borana Oromo of the southern Ethiopia. Under this major objective, the study discovered environmental beliefs and values, investigated environmental knowledge, power and ideology, and identified environmental positions the community has situated itself in.

The study employed a qualitative approach in the analysis of data gathered through semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and extended participant and non-participant observations. The analysis was based on Fairclough's three-dimensional methodological approach of discourse analysis, which is helpful for elaborating empirically based theories. Based on the snowball data gathering technique, the researcher gathered data from key informants of Didara, Elwaya and Dubluk kebeles of Yaballo woreda, Borana zone. The researcher also lived with the community members of Elwaya kebele for an extended period, between February 2012 and August 2012, and gathered data through participant and non-participant observations.

The findings revealed dominant environmental beliefs and values, which are organized under discourses of environmental necessity and survival, scarcity and security, hopelessness, inclusion and exclusion, seniority, responsibility, and obedience and disobedience. The findings also unveiled that Borana narratives are embedded with environmental ideologies- interdependence and communalism, which are deep rooted in the social, cultural, religious and political context of the community. The findings, as part of the environmental discourses, also investigated aspects of the indigenous environmental knowledge of the Borana community. It is argued that the sets of knowledge such as season prediction and awareness of environmental crisis, implicated in the narratives, reflect segments of the practical environmental knowledge of the community. The findings also revealed that human-environment power relationships in the narratives are manifested in many ways including humans' possession of environmental knowledge and struggle to secure their lives (both materially and spiritually). The study also disclosed two dominant environmental positions-ecocentrism and restrained anthropocentrism that humans assume in their interactions with the natural environment in the community.

Based on the findings of the study, the researcher argues that the ways in which environmental issues are implicated in the narratives are quite complex and relational. The significance of the study, thus, principally lies on what makes sense locally concerning modern environmental communication. The study contributes to the field of environmental discourse analysis both theoretically and practically, and offers implications for environmental workers, policy designers, educators, and curriculum developers. The study also provides suggestions for further insights into the various representations of human engagement with the environment.

Key words belief, Borana, discourse, environment, ideology, indigenous knowledge, narrative, power, value

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