Ethiopian Food

Ethiopian Food

Ethiopian food is traditionally composed of vegetables and spicy meat dishes served in the form of a thick stew, called wat, and served on top of a large sourdough flatbread, called injera. Ethiopian food is consumed with only the right hand - using pieces of the flatbread to scoop the main and side dishes.

Ethiopia Southern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Orthodox Christian

The Weather

  • Some people in the state’s capital city of Awasa earn money by selling produce and other items at open-air markets. Ethiopia Men Selling Produce
  • These Compassion-assisted youths are improving their future employment potential by learning computer skills. Ethiopia Children at Computers
  • The resource room at this Compassion-assisted center is a great place for children to do their homework and find educational materials that their schools might not have. Ethiopia Boys Reading in Library
  • The Compassion curriculum gives center tutors confidence that they are providing the lessons that children need most. Ethiopia Children in the Classroom
  • Compassion-assisted children are taught how to build a lifelong relationship with God through prayer. Ethiopia Boy Praying
  • Few homes in the rural south have even the basic amenities of electricity, running water, or toilet facilities. Ethiopia Small Round Hut

Overview: Southern Ethiopia

Ethiopia is divided into nine regional states based on the locations of the dominant ethnic groups. The state located in the southwest is named “Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples,” reflecting the region’s wide ethnic diversity. This state covers 10 percent of the country and is home to about a fifth of Ethiopia’s total population (about 18 million people). It is the country’s most rural state with almost 90 percent of its people living in the countryside.

The southern region includes at least 45 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own local language, customs and traditions. The region’s working language is Amharic, the official and most widely spoken language in Ethiopia.

More than half of the residents are Protestant Christians. Another 20 percent follow Ethiopia’s traditional religion, Orthodox Christianity. Islam also has a presence in the region, practiced by 14 percent of the people.

Small-scale agriculture is the economic spine of the southern region. Rain falls year-round in this region, where annual precipitation can reach 80 inches. More than 40 percent of Ethiopia’s coffee, the country’s primary export, is grown here.

Most people in Ethiopia’s southern region earn a meager living by small-scale farming. Coffee is one of the most important crops grown here, and the beverage plays an important role in social life throughout the country. Visitors to a home are typically treated to an elaborate coffee ceremony in which coffee beans are roasted over a brazier, ground with a mortar and pestle, boiled in a special clay pot, strained through a horsehair filter, and served in small cups without handles.


Culture Corner


Try this simple Ethiopian dish.


  • 2 oz. butter (4 tbsp.)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ lb. round steak, ground


In a 9-inch skillet, melt butter. Add cayenne pepper, chili powder, and salt. Stir thoroughly. Add ground steak. Mix thoroughly and serve. Ethiopian tradition is to eat this dish with the meat raw. If you prefer, you can cook the meat. Sauté it over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.


Life in Southern Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s state named “Southern Nations, Nationalities’ and Peoples’ Regional State” is located in the country’s southwest. The state covers 10 percent of Ethiopia and includes 21 percent of the total population.

Home to dozens of different ethnic groups, this region is a melting pot of cultures. Each group has their own language, but the official working language of the state is Amharic. Most people follow Protestant or Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. A significant Muslim population also exists in the region.

About 90 percent of the state’s families live in rural areas, working as small-scale farmers. The primary cash crop grown here is coffee, and this state is responsible for about 40 percent of Ethiopia’s annual coffee production. Typically, homes here are small, simple constructions made from locally available materials.

Children at Home

Most rural families in Ethiopia’s southern region live in traditional round or rectangular huts, made of materials readily available in the local environment. Homes typically have walls made of wood, with thatched roofs. Most homes have no electricity, running water, and toilet facilities. Huts are being replaced with more solid concrete homes in some areas. Most households in the region have four to five family members.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Ethiopia

The southern region is plagued by food insecurity. In some areas, most families are able to produce enough food to meet their needs for only six months out of the year. In addition, the infant mortality rate here is higher than the national average.

Also, as throughout Ethiopia, lack of access to safe water is a problem in this region. The government has made addressing the issue a priority; however, many people still lack this basic necessity.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children in southern Ethiopia face many challenges. Frequent food shortages mean chronic malnutrition for more than a quarter of the region’s children. Lack of access to safe water also is a widespread problem. The education situation is poor, with only 63 percent of primary school-age and 11 percent of secondary-age children attending school. Many children drop out of school to work. Across the region, more than half of children ages 12 to 14 work to help support their families.


Schools and Education Education in Ethiopia

The school year in the southern region begins in September and ends in June. Most primary schools here have two daily four-hour shifts, with half the enrolled children attending in the morning and half in the afternoon. Even with the shift schedule, classes are still overcrowded, with up to 75 students per teacher. And sadly, in this region, only a little more than half of men and under a quarter of women are able to read or write.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

At Compassion child development centers in Ethiopia’s southern region, children receive the help and learning opportunities they need to grow and thrive. Along with nutritious meals for proper physical development, they also receive medical assistance and hygiene training to stay healthy. They are encouraged to stay in school, and tutoring makes up for education deficiencies. Most important, they learn how much they are loved and valued by God.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion believes that God’s mandate to care for the poor was given to the church. That’s why in Ethiopia, as in every country where we minister, Compassion serves primarily as an instrument of support and empowerment for local churches. Our goal is to enable churches to be what God meant for them to be in serving their communities’ people in need.

Local church staff members intimately understand the needs of the children in their communities. They know the best ways to meet those needs. In fact, in many communities where churches operate our program, people don’t know the name “Compassion.” What they see is a caring, dynamic ministry of the local church for their children.

How Compassion Works in Ethiopia Compassion in Ethiopia

Compassion’s work in Ethiopia began in 1993. Currently, more than 85,200 children participate in 373 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Ethiopia’s children with a long-term program of physical, educational, social and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Partnership Facilitators are an important link between Compassion and the individual church partners that implement our program. In Ethiopia, each Partnership Facilitator oversees several local churches that operate Compassion-assisted child development centers.

Facilitators play a critical role in empowering local church partners to be the best they can be at meeting the needs of their communities’ children. Ethiopians themselves, Partnership Facilitators understand the local reality of the churches they serve and are best able to represent the churches’ needs and challenges to the national Compassion office.

Ethiopia’s Partnership Facilitators are a team of workers selflessly dedicated to their demanding jobs. And they have a passion for seeing their country’s children in need released from poverty, in Jesus’ name.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children who don’t have adequate nutrition, clean water, or sanitation facilities in the southern region.
  • Pray that the rural families who depend on agriculture will have abundant harvests.
  • Pray that children will stay in school and be excited about learning.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.