What are some of the endangered tribes

Dam endangers the traditional way of life of Ethiopian tribes

In the lower Omo Valley in southwest Ethiopia, more than 200,000 people live in villages along the mighty Omo, which meanders over 800 kilometers through the highlands and finally flows into Lake Turkana. The world's largest desert lake is located on the border with Kenya.

The region is one of the last original areas of Africa that was never conquered by European colonialists. Body painting and scarification rituals attract tourists here in search of that authentic kind of African experience that has disappeared everywhere else on the continent.

And there, too, it could soon be drowned in the Omo. In 2008 the construction of the Gigel Gibe III project began. This turned the lives of farmers, cattle herders and fishermen who rely on the natural Omo river to make a living. Now they face acute food shortages and government-sponsored modernization that encroaches on the land of their tribes.

At 240 meters, the dam is the highest in Africa. The hydropower plant has doubled the amount of electricity Ethiopia produces. The project, which went into operation in October 2015, slows the Omo River and put an end to the twice-yearly flooding of the banks - and thus also the nutrient-rich river deposits on the pasture and farmland along the river. This also made the entire region more vulnerable to droughts. The herders were forced to move to other areas where they could find usable pastureland. Local agriculture is going through difficult times.

Periods of drought made the situation even worse. The dam also affects the water level in Lake Turkana and damages the local fishing grounds.

When construction was completed, the Ethiopian government leased large areas of the tribal lands to foreign companies that operated artificially irrigated sugar cane and cotton plantations. Four sugar refineries should start production this year. Some tribes are being relocated.

The plantations and businesses have employed some of the villagers along the Omo. Most of the workers, however, do not come from the valley.

Fausto Podavini photographed the above gallery over a period of five years from 2011 to 2016.