Entry Title: " Omo River Tribes in Ethiopia"
Alison Jones
, United States

Entry Description:

In 2004 Alison Jones created No Water No Life¬ģ to document the freshwater crisis in Ethiopia?s Omo River Basin and 5 other North American and African watersheds. The project combines photography and science to publicize threats to vital freshwater resources, consequences to stakeholders and possible sustainable management solutions. On the Lower Omo River, Karo and Hamar tribal communities depend on that perennial source of fresh water for their very existence. The river enables them to endure severe droughts that cause widespread famine elsewhere. In the dry season the Omo drops 60 feet, allowing local tribes to practice traditional flood-recession agriculture, as did Egyptians along the Nile for thousands of years until the Aswan Dam was installed. Now Omo Valley agricultural methods of the Karo and Hamar are also threatened by hydro-dams being built upstream. As well, livestock overgrazing and removal of vegetation in order to provide fuel and to open fields for crops has dramatically degraded the local ecology and added heavy sediment loads into the Omo. Their health suffers due to lack of clean fresh water for sanitation, washing and human and livestock consumption. Consequences of disruptive Westernizing effects from the construction of an international highway/bridge from oil-rich Sudan to Kenya?s ports and an oil exploration deal will include increased immigration of foreign populations and over-extraction of the Omo?s fresh water resource, negatively impacting basin cultures and ecosystems.

About the Artist:

CONSERVATION THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY My photography began in Africa in 1985. Since, Iíve created fine art prints, stock images and photo essays in books and magazines and received an Honorary Masters Degree in Photography from Brooks Institute. I lecture, coach photography and lead expeditions. My frequent photographic trips to Africa are often on assignment for nonprofits fighting poverty, disease, and threatened resources and biodiversity. A student of community-based conservation, I focus on endangered wildlife, struggling communities and threatened landscapes. Atop Kilimanjaro I saw glaciers that will melt away by 2015. In villages, slums and hospitals, Iíve witnessed the fight against diseases caused by polluted and dwindling water supplies. On Ethiopiaís Omo River, Iíve seen some of Africaís most remote tribes eke out a subsistence existence on dusty riverbanks. The Human Footprint Iíve flown as a copilot over 2000 miles of waterways, photographing rivers as vital ribbons of life. As an aerial witness to the human footprint, Iíve seen watersheds being deforested and lakes disappearing. Lake Chad is 1/20th of its size in 1970. Kenya has lost 50% of its forests in the last 25 years. The disappearance of wilderness and those suffering as a result have deeply touched me. Community-Based Conservation Since 2000, Iíve been involved in the establishment of Kenyaís Mara Conservancy. Its management approach, serving Maasai landowners, is a model many are now copying. Studying forest ecology at Columbia University, I created a 100-page ďProposed Management Plan for Ethiopiaís Nech Sar National Park.Ē Both parks are vulnerable to the competition for land between wildlife and expanding human populations, a struggle Iíve observed all over Africa and complicated now by climate change issues. For years Iíve watched the annual migration of wildebeest to the Mara River, which supports over 2 million animals and 12 million Kenyans and Tanzanians. Yet, in the last two dry seasons the Mara River has almost disappeared, a phenomenon never before observed, and this winter, it had the highest floods recorded in 50 years. Water: The Most Essential Resource My great concern is the vulnerability of our clean freshwater resources. Today 1.5 billion people live without safe drinking water. UN predictions of wars over water are already a reality in arid areas of Africa and the mid East. For participants on safaris Iíve, I produced a No Water No Lifeģ journal with statistics, photos and possible solutions. No Water No Life is now a nonprofit, documentary project combining the powers of photography, science and stakeholder knowledge to focus public attention on watershed degradation and management solutions by. Photography: A Tool for Conservation Photography can turn around poverty-stricken, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive scenarios. As a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, I am part of a network of scientists, conservationists, and photographers using visual imagery to bridge the gaps between a Ph. D. ecologist and a nomadic goat herder, between a Louisiana city and an African village. Photography can help motivate the protection of the resources that sustain us.