Tagged: Rural

The Battle Between Ethiopian Boys and Monkeys


CU9I0613
The cliffs and plateaus of the Agame massif.

One of the unexpected experiences of my trip to Ethiopia’s Tigray region was witnessing the daily conflict between local boys and gelada monkeys.

Endemic to Ethiopia, gelada monkeys are especially plentiful in the country’s central northern mountains. While some of these areas are protected “natural” lands, a significant portion of the habitat is primarily agricultural. I visited one such area with Brian Ashby and Susannah Ribstein: the Erar community of Tigray’s Agame mountains. In the massif, plateaus are cultivated for barley, chickpeas, lentils, linseed, wheat, and other crops. Because geladas are scavengers, the monkeys often take advantage of these fields and their easy nutrition.

As one might expect, the farmers aren’t thrilled by the monkeys eating their crops. The solution is hiring local boys to protect the fields. From dawn to dusk, the boys scan the plateau for gelada harems who might raid the crops and then scare the monkeys away. In exchange, the boys will be paid 5kg of the crops raised by each farmer in their territory. For example, one of the three boys with a domain on the small plateau we visited took home 5kgs of linseed, lentils, barley, and wheat last year.

The following photographs are a glimpse of the back and forth between the monkeys and boys.

Special thanks to Kiros Zeray for the background and translation.


CU9I0686
Geladas climb the cliff to access one of the fields on the plateau.

CU9I0898
Once up top, the geladas eat the crops — in this case, small sprouts and seeds.

IMG_5803
One boy surveys his territory from a self-built stone pedestal.

IMG_5885 IMG_5904
The boys also patrol with slingshots and scan the cliff edges.

CU9I0708.00_00_13_14.Still001c copy
When the boys see the geladas, they yell and hurl rocks at the monkeys, chasing them to the cliff edges.

CU9I0884
The monkeys retreat below the plateau.

CU9I0866
Some of the monkeys continue to taunt the boys from the ledge. The valley floor may be as much as 500 meters below.

IMG_5869
Because the geladas don’t venture into the fields in the dark, the boys relax once the monkeys settle into their cliffside caves for the evening.

IMG_5846
Two of the boys look down to their village before returning for the night. They and the monkeys will return in the morning.

Transitions Between Here and There

My interest in the transformation of the built environment started with watching the razing of central Indiana farmsteads for suburban expansion in the early 1990s. These buildings, like the one below, became the subjects of my first landscape photographs.

Hamilton County, Indiana, 1994
Hamilton County, Indiana, 1994

While I typically work in urban areas now, I make an effort to spend time in the rural and transitional areas between Indianapolis and Chicago whenever I have occasion to leave the city.

Many of the same issues affect these areas as they did when I was learning about them in the early 1990s, but the region is more complex than it was then. Even with the recent recession, the rural edges are still pressured by suburban expansion, but a variety of other economic and geographic pressures demonstrate the changing rural landscape.

The area is dotted with vestiges of commerce, from familiar billboards and grain elevators to new forms of industry, including wind turbines and industrial agriculture property. Together, they introduce new pressures on longstanding concerns about exurban development while providing some hope against outmigration in truly rural communities.

With those brief thoughts as background, here are a few of my favorite photographs of the places between my former and current homes.

Indiana Hub Center Remington

Agribusiness at Night 3

Christmas Eve

Eagle Creek Cemetery

Stand

A New Rural Landscape

Otterbein Town Square

Sheridan, Christmas Eve

The Fowler Theatre

Basketball in Lebanon, Indiana

Transition: Suburban Development and Farm

Kyburz Auto Center Stage, Wind Turbines

Twin Kiss

Grain Elevator, Mobile Home

At Night