The tree for living: a socio - cultural account of enset
Dr Elizabeth Ewart recently secured a grant for US$80,000 from The Christensen Fund to work together with Dr Wolde Tadesse on a project based in southern Ethiopia. This grant follows on from John Fell Fund seed funding obtained in 2016.The central aim is to produce an ethnographic account of the socio-cultural significance of enset (ensete ventricosum), which is a key staple crop cultivated in the highlands of Ethiopia. Enset provides food and other materials to several million Ethiopians and their animals. Across the highlands, rural and many urban homesteads are visually characterized by the tall, dark green, shiny enset groves that normally surround the main house and serve as visual markers for the well-being of the household. The resilience of the crop along with the durability of food products derived from enset have led to some people calling it the 'tree against hunger'. However, ethnographic research with local communities shows that the importance of enset goes well beyond the staving off of hunger and is rather understood as a ‘tree for living well’. Enset is thus not just nutritionally but also culturally central to local understandings of wellbeing.