Part of the Oromo tribe – Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group – the Borana are estimated to total 500,000, but because many live in remote areas it is hard to know exactly how many exist. Borana speak Oromifa. They are traditionally semi-nomadic pastoralists, who depend exclusively on their livestock for subsistence: Borana make their living by growing and selling cattle and crops, including teff and chatt (a tobacco-like drug). They make most of their domestic goods from wood or skin.
The women are independent and equal to men even with building and owning houses. A wife decides who will enter it, and if her husband comes back and finds another man’s spear stuck in the ground outside her house, he cannot go in.
There are only about 200 Christians among the 150,000 Borana in Ethiopia. Islam has only come to the Borana in the last 100 years. Many Borana have adopted a veneer of Islam over a powerful traditional monotheistic religion. They frequently pray to Waq, the benign god whom they believe "sends the rain and all good things.” The main feature of the Borana religion is not just the powerful veneration accorded to their chief religious leaders, but to the very real spiritual power of the Ayana, or spirits, which possess people and things.