Indigenous Social Protection Mechanism: The Practices and Challenges of Buusaa-gonofaa in the Borana Oromo, Southern Ethiopia

This study explored the essence, characteristics, mode of operation, and challenges of Buusaa-gonofaa, the Indigenous social protection mechanism among the Borana Oromo in Ethiopia. Data were collected through key informants, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs), and observations. The study participants were actors in the Buusaa-gonofaa social protection system. These included the custodians of Oromo wisdom and the beneficiaries and providers of Buusaa-gonofaa. Participants were purposively selected. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data. The findings indicate that Buusaa-gonofaa is a long-lasting, multifaceted approach to addressing the social problems of the Borana pastoralists and their neighbours. It solves community problems, sustains social unity, promotes peace, and develops a social bond between the Borana and their neighbours. However, Buusaa-gonofaa has faced challenges from external and internal factors since recently. These include perennial drought, ethnic conflict, population growth, alcoholism, and community leaders’ loss of power to execute Buusaa-gonofaa as they used to. Finally, it is recommended that the government and other stakeholders that focus on social protection consider Buusaa-gonofaa as an example of a home-grown system that can serve as a benchmark to develop an effective system of social protection.