Benishangul-Gumuz is a north-west Ethiopian state bordering Sudan in the west, with over 600,000 inhabitants, the vast majority of which live in rural areas.
The region is relatively small, covering 51,000 km2, with the capital city Assosa located 687km from Addis Ababa. It is divided into 3 administrative zones, 19 woredas and 33 kebeles. There are many ethnic groups and Amharic is the working language. Parts of the region are seasonally inaccessible by road or air.
As in the rest of Ethiopia, most people make a living through farming and cattle breeding. Major agricultural products include millet, sorghum, teff, coffee and mango. Other significant resources found in the region include gold, copper and marble, and their extraction is a significant industry attracting private investment in the region.
Benishangul-Gumuz has three major climatic zones: 75% lowland, 24% temperate and 1% highland. The Abay and Baro Akobo river basins, including the Dabus, Yabus, Dura, Julia and Bales rivers, are found in the region. In addition to these water resources, the region benefits from high levels of rainfall. Nonetheless, water and food insecurity and environmental degradation are significant problems.
Menge woreda lies in the western part of the Region, 56km from Assosa woreda. It is a fairly small lowland woreda, with an area of just over 1500km2, consisting of 22 administrative kebeles. Menge’s population is around 44,000, and the majority are muslim Berta people, an indigenous ethnic group.
96% of the population are dependent on agriculture, with traditional gold mining also an important activity. The woreda faces serious challenges in access to education, health and other basic services: 2006 figures show that Menge had 17 schools, including just one secondary school, and only eight health service institutions (one health centre, one clinic and six health posts). 50% of the urban population has access to potable water supplies, but the figure is only 38% in rural areas where the great majority of the population live.
Kurmuk woreda is situated in the far western side of the region. The centre of the woreda at Kutaworke/Horazab is 89 km from Assosa. Like Menge, the woreda is mainly lowland, covering a similar area of just over 1400km2, divided into 16 kebeles. However, its population is less than half that of Menge, at around 21,000 people (2006 estimate), of which most are Berta. Kurmuk is linked with Assosa by a main road. This road is an important route between Ethiopia and Sudan, and there are plans to surface it with asphalt. As in Menge, agriculture is the major economic activity followed by traditional gold mining.
Page last updated 1 Sep 2009
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