Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR)

SNNPR is another large region in Ethiopia, accounting for more than 10% of the country’s surface area. The population is estimated at nearly 18 million; around a fifth of the country’s population (Central Statistical Agency, 2006). It is overwhelmingly rural, with only 8% living in urban areas. The region is divided into 13 administrative zones, 133 woredas and 3512 kebeles, and its capital is Awassa.

SNNPR contains a huge variety of ethnic groups – as many as 56 different groups with their own distinct languages, cultures, beliefs, traditions, rituals and social identities living together. These varied ethnic groups are categorised under the Cushitic, Omotic, Nilo-Saharan and Semitic language families and a variety of religious backgrounds. The working language of the region is Amharic. SNNPR is best known as a leisure destination, with its diverse and beautiful scenery.


SNNPR has significant water bodies including Omo Gibe, Genale Dawa and Rift Valley lakes. SNNPR encompasses both densely-populated, intensively-cultivated agricultural highlands (including high levels of coffee production) and pastoral lowland areas. These very different environments present different challenges for water resource management.

A traditional, subsistence farming system is the main livelihood in the region, especially in the highland areas, with farmers managing both crops and livestock. Because of its diverse agro-ecologies, climates, soil types and cultural practices, the region is the home to many varieties of food crops, in particular enset, maize, root crops, wheat and teff. Other important crops are fruits, vegetables and coffee. Up to 45% of all Ethiopia’s coffee for export comes from SNNPR, second only to Oromia.

Potential source for water supply in both urban and rural areas of SNNPR relies heavily on groundwater abstracted from springs and shallow or deep-ground aquifers. Although the degree of availability in terms of close range, cost and quality varies in different locations, generally potential for water supply sources is mostly there. The challenge is how to locate a reliable water source that is accessible for communities at minimal cost.

Alaba Special Woreda

Alaba is one of the eight special woredas, which means they have special administrative status and are directly accountable to the regional state structures. There are 81 kebeles in Alaba, of which only two are urban. With a population of a quarter of a million, 87% is rural and 54% is said to be economically active. The dominant ethnic group is Alaba, followed by Silte, and the large majority of the population are Muslim, followed by Orthodox Christian, Protestant Christian and traditional beliefs. Agriculture is the backbone of the woreda and mixed farming is the principal farming system.

Mirab Abaya

Mirab Abaya woreda is in Gamogofa Zone, and has a land area of about 1,600km2 and a total population of 69,036, with 43 people per square kilometre. More than 90 percent of the population live in rural areas. A mixed farming system is dominant, with maize, sorghum, wheat, barley, cotton, enset and banana as key crops. Cattle, goats and poultry are the main forms of livestock. Beekeeping is also an economic activity, with both traditional and modern beehives in use.

Page last updated 1 Sep 2009