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Welcome to Mursi Online

When we launched Mursi Online in 2007, we said that its purpose was to correct the exoticised view of the Mursi found in guide books and travel articles. It would do this by providing accurate and reliable information about Mursi history, culture and environment and about the pressures and challenges facing them and their neighbours today. We are confident that the website has indeed become a much-used resource for those wishing to learn about Mursi life and culture. Much remains to be done, of course, to increase the range and depth of the information provided and we are working on this. The ‘new’ Mursi Online, for example, has a section on ‘Religion and Healing’. We have also added a section on ‘Change and Development', in recognition of the fact that the lives of the Mursi and their neighbours are going to be radically transformed over the next few years by the combined forces of state-sponsored development and global capitalism.

Since the 1960s, the extension of government control over the Lower Omo Valley has been marked by  the ‘enclosure’ of large areas of communally held  land. In the 1960s and 1970s two national parks were set up which, it was hoped, would in due course make the lower Omo into one of Africa's most popular tourist destinations. These hopes proved largely illusory, despite efforts to develop the parks with the help of EU funds in the 1990s and, more recently, through a public-private partnership agreement with a South African based conservation organisation, African Parks Foundation. Today, spurred on by its ambitious aim to achieve middle-income country status within the next ten to fifteen years, the government's plans for the lower Omo have shifted to large-scale commercial irrigation development, including a huge project now being implemented by the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation.  If these plans are realised, not only will the lower Omo become by far the largest irrigation complex in Ethiopia, but the resident population of agro-pastoralists will be transformed into wage labourers and sedentary cultivators. This will involve a resettlement programme which, although described as ‘voluntary’, will  be forced, in the sense that those affected will have no reasonable alternative but to comply.

There is overwhelming evidence, from Africa and around the world, that a scheme of this kind, however well intentioned, will not benefit the affected population unless it is accompanied, from the start, by a comprehensive programme of compensation, benefit sharing and livelihood reconstruction. Since no such programme has been put in place for the people of the Lower Omo, the future looks grim for the Mursi and  their neighbours. This website will try to ensure that their story is told and their voices are heard and respected.

David Turton
Editor, Mursi Online

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Donor balancing act on human rights in the Lower Omo Valley Donor balancing act on human rights in the Lower Omo Valley June 25, 2014
The Development Assistance Group (DAG), a body of 27 development agencies working in Ethiopia, has written to the Ethiopian Government about assessment visits it has made over the past two years to resettlement sites in the west, south and east of the country, including the Lower Omo valley. The letter manages a delicate balancing act.
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Mursi Exhibition at the Valencia Botanical Gardens Mursi Exhibition at the Valencia Botanical Gardens April 15, 2014
'Under the Shade of the Ragai Tree' (Al'Ombra del Ragai') is an exhibition at The Valencia Botanical Gardens (Jardí Botànic de Valencia) running from 3rd April to 2nd June.
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US bans financing for activities in Lower Omo  that ‘directly or indirectly involve forced evictions’. US bans financing for activities in Lower Omo that ‘directly or indirectly involve forced evictions’ Mar 22, 2014
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) have always claimed that there is no evidence of ‘systematic’ human rights abuses being carried out by the Ethiopian government in pursuit of its development plans in the Lower Omo.
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What Future for Lake Turkana? What Future for Lake Turkana? Mar 02, 2014
In a new paper entitled "What future for lake Turkana: the impact of hydropower and irrigation development on the world’s largest desert lake", the Nairobi based hydrologist and consulting engineer, Dr Sean Avery, considers the impacts on the lake of river basin development in the Omo Valley
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