The modern world edges into one of the cradles of humankind

But community-based tourism is helping to keep ancient traditions alive in Ethiopia’s Omo River region.

At the end of a long day, we walked up to the village of Korcho. Tropical boubou birds were singing their duets on the edge of a lake. Circular huts, made of sticks and crowned with grass roofs, lay scattered along a ridge. Boys were herding cattle toward the family stockades for the night.

Korcho is a village of the Kara people, one of the 16 ethnic groups said to inhabit Ethiopia’s Omo-Turkana Basin. Ethiopia may be known for its rich and varied mix of ethnicities, but the diversity in the lower Omo River Valley in the southwest of the country, home to more than 200,000 people, is unparalleled.

One of the cradles of humankind, the valley was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1980. Ancient stone tools unearthed there “offer evidence of the earliest known technical activities of prehistoric beings,” the UNESCO citation reads. The discovery of several hominid fossils has provided vital keys to an understanding of human evolution.

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