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Elderly Care and Social Support Systems among the Gedeo of Southern Ethiopia: Socio-cultural Contexts, Forms, Dynamics and Challenges

by Fekadu Israel Alambo and Hawltie Abera


This qualitative study aims at disclosing the dynamics of care and social support systems for the older adults among rural Gedeo communities. The study revealed that the long-standing social values, norms, and belief systems of the ethnic group have always prescribed families, extended families, and neighbors to respect and take care of their older members. Nonetheless, poverty in rural households, the diffusion of urban values, and the incipient erosion of longstanding rural values, as well as the tendency of rural youth to abandon agriculture are challenging the capacity of community members to ensure sustained availability of adequate informal care for older adults. Though its coverage is limited to certain rural parts considered to be the most food insecure, the recently introduced Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) was reported to have bolstered and supplemented the challenged informal care. The article suggests that a holistic approach should be pursued to scale up the capabilities of rural households thereby to ensure the sustained availability of informal care for older adults. The situation of vulnerable older adults inhabiting seemingly food secure Kebeles/Woredas [administrative divisions] requires PSNP to re-evaluate its “geographic targeting mechanism.” Furthermore, the exploitative relationship between the beneficiaries of PSNP and the local moneylenders needs close follow-up at a grassroots level.

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Fekadu Israel Alambo is a lecturer, Department of Sociology, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. His most recent works are in the areas of carbon sequestration projects and local peoples’ livelihoods, rural and peri-urban livelihoods, pastoral and agro-pastoral communities’ development, farming systems, and food security.

Hawltie Abera Yimam is a lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Gondar, Ethiopia. He works on the informal economy, gender issues, and sociology of education.