Identity at Risk: The Case of Zay Community on the Islands of Lake Ziway

  • Birhanu Midakso
  • Gutema Imana
Keywords: Culture; Identity; Migration; Risk; Zay community


Identity is a dynamic concept that changes following the
changes in the social and physical environments. It is one of the things
that people value. The study examines the challenges and risks posed to
the identity of Zay community of Lake Ziway islands. For this study,
descriptive cross-sectional qualitative research design was used and a
thematic approach to data analysis was employed. Data were gathered
using key informant interview, in-depth interview, focus group
discussions, and non-participatory observation. Data were sorted out,
categorized, and analyzed thematically. The findings of the study revealed
that the identity of Zay community is presently at a greater risk of
extinction as an ethnic group due to socio-economic, environmental, and
political factors. It was discovered that continued migration of Zay
community members to the nearby and faraway places mainly for
economic survival, among others, takes the lion‘s share in endangering
their identity. Migration exposed them to intermixing with other ethnic
groups, particularly the Oromo. Those who left home due to migration to
other places were not only influenced by others‘ cultures but also in turn
influenced those left behind at home. Migration of its members in large
number contributed not only to the diminishing number of Zay
community on the islands but also to the erosion of its culture and
traditions. To save the identity of the community from gradual extinction,
the study suggests the need for social, economic, cultural, and
environmental protection and legal recognition for the community by all
concerned stakeholders.

Keywords: Culture; Identity; Migration; Risk; Zay community