the Tsaara people

An estimated 35,000 Tsaara people live in southwest Ethiopia in the region Kaffa (our word "coffee" is said to derive from that). They build their wooden huts in a hilly, very fertile forest area, extending to both sides of a river flowing into the Omo river (after which the family of Omotic languages was named). Tsaara people are farmers, living on corn, sorghum, beans, the Ethiopian t'eff grain, various vegetables, and meat of their livestock (cows, sheep, and goats). They are excellent beekeepers, trading their raw, highly nutritious honey on local markets. Coffee, growing wild in their rampant forests, is also used for trading.

Infrastructure for transportation to and from the Tsaara area is very limited. Only the western region is accessible after half a day driving by landrover. To reach the main village in the eastern region, requires a 6 hour hike on a foot path through a hilly jungle area. There is not even a medical station; 1 out of 4 children die during delivery as a result of the lack of midwifery care.

On the other hand, every Tsaara village has a primary school. Unfortunately, teaching materials are only in Amharic, the official Ethiopian language, which is a foreign language to young Tsaara children.

what has been done

In 2016 and 2017 we developed an alphabet, and collected traditional Tsaara stories. In March 2018 our team designed a first reading book for adults. This was presented to church and government officials in June 2018. During a festive symposium, they approved of the orthography to be used for printing materials. Since then, reading materials have been introduced, tested, and are now being taught in nine different Tsaara villages.

what has to be done

  • There is a call for more reading classes in all villages, so more teachers have to be trained.
  • Amharic primary school curriculum materials need to be translated to Tsaara. We want to support Tsaara primary school teachers throughout the translation process.

Adult and teenage reading classes

  • Designing a simple school grammar would help children understand their language rules.
  • Additonally, a dictionary is being asked for as a guideline for spelling.
  • We want to use print additional reading materials.