This chapter deals with the meaning, scope, themes, and approaches of Geography. In addition, it discusses the location, shape, and size of Ethiopia and the Horn. It also introduces the tenets of basic map reading skills. Hence, this introductory part of the text paves the way for an understanding of the geographic issues presented in the succeeding chapters.
Objectives At the end of this chapter, the learners will be able to:
Comprehend the meaning and scope of Geography.
Explain the themes of Geography.
Explicate the implications of location, shape and size of Ethiopia and the Horn on the physical environment, socioeconomic and political aspects.
Acquire basic skills of map reading.
It is difficult to forward a definition acceptable to all geographers at all times and places because of the dynamic nature of the discipline and the changes in its scope and method of study. However, the following may be accepted as a working definition.
Geography is the scientific study of the Earth that describes and analyses spatial and temporal variations of physical, biological and human phenomena, and their interrelationships and dynamism over the surface of the Earth.
Geography has now acquired the status of science that explains the arrangements of various natural and cultural features on the Earth surface. Geography is a holistic and interdisciplinary field of study contributing to the understanding of the changing spatial structures from the past to the future. Thus, the scope of Geography is the surface of the Earth, which is the very thin zone that is the interface of the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, which provides the habitable zone in which humans are able to live.
Geography can be approached by considering two continuums: systematic and regional continuum. The systematic fields of Geography view particular categories of physical or human phenomena as distributed over the Earth while regional geography is concerned with the associations within regions of all or some of the elements and their interrelationships.
Geography has five basic themes namely location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region.
Location is defined as a particular place or position. Location can be of two types: absolute location and relative location. In the former case, the location of a place is defined by its latitude and longitude or its exact address.
Place refers to the physical and human aspects of a location. This theme of geography is associated with toponym (the name of a place), site (the description of the features of the place), and situation (the environmental conditions of the place). Each place in the world has its unique characteristics expressed in terms of landforms, hydrology, biogeography, pedology (the study of soils), characteristics and size of its human population, and the distinct human cultures. The concept of “place” aids geographers to compare and contrast two places on Earth.
Humans have always been on continual interaction with their natural environment. No other species that has lived on our planet has a profound effect on the environment as humans. Thus, human-environment interaction involves three distinct aspects: dependency, adaptation, and modification. Dependency refers to the ways in which humans are dependent on nature for a living. Adaptation relates to how humans modify themselves, their lifestyles and their behavior to live in a new environment with new challenges. Modification allowed humans to “conquer” the world for their comfortable living.
Movement entails to the translocation of human beings, their goods, and their ideas from one end of the planet to another. The physical movement of people allowed the human race to inhabit all the continents and islands of the world. Another aspect of movement is the transport of goods from one place on the Earth to another. The third dimension of movement is the flow of ideas that allows the unification of the human civilization and promotes its growth and prosperity.
A region is a geographic area having distinctive characteristics that distinguishes itself from adjacent unit(s) of space. It could be a formal region that is characterized by homogeneity in terms of a certain phenomenon (soil, temperature, rainfall, or other cultural elements like language, religion, and economy).
The Horn of Africa, a region of eastern Africa, is a narrow tip that protrudes into the northern Indian Ocean, separating it from the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost extension of African land defined as the region that is home to the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, whose cultures have been linked throughout their long history. In terms of size, Ethiopia is the largest of all the Horn of African countries, while Djibouti is the smallest. The Horn contains such diverse areas as the highlands of the Ethiopian Plateau, the Ogaden desert, and the Eritrean and Somali coasts.
Sudan to the west and northwest
South Sudan to southwest
Djibouti to the east
Somalia to the east and southeast
Eritrea to the north and Northeast
Kenya to the south
In relation to water bodies & land masses
In the Horn of Africa
Southwest of the Arabian Peninsula
South of Europe
Northwest of the Indian Ocean
In the Nile Basin
The implications of the location of Ethiopia are described as follows:
As a result, Ethiopia has been exposed for external invasions in a number of times; though the country resisted foreign intervention and remains free of external domination.
Ethiopia with a total area of approximately 1,106,000 square kilometers is the 8th largest country in Africa and 25th in the World. It extends about 1,639 kilometers East-West, and 1,577 kilometers North-South. About 0.7% of the country is covered by water bodies.
The size of Ethiopia also affects both the natural and human environment of the country.
Countries of the World have different kinds of shape that can be divided into five main categories: compact, fragmented, elongated, perforated, and protruded. These shapes have implications on defence, administration and economic integration within a country. Whether some kind of shape is advantageous to a country or not, however, depends on many other factors.
There are various ways of measuring shape of countries. These measures are known as the indices of compactness. These indices measure the deviation of the shape of a country from a circular shape, which is the most compact shape. Since there is no country with absolutely circular shape, those approximating a circular shape are said to be more compact.
There are four most commonly used measures of compactness. These are:
The ratio of area of country to its boundary length: Area-Boundary ratio. The higher the A/B ratio, the greater the degree of
The ratio of boundary length of a country to the circumference of a circle having the same area as the country itself: Boundary-Circumference ratio. It measures how far the boundary of a country approximates the circumference of a circle of its own size. Therefore, the nearer the ratio to 1 the more compact the country
The ratio of the area of the country to the circumference of the smallest inscribing circle: Area-Circumference ratio. It compares the area of the country with the circumference of a circle that passes touching the extreme points on the boundary of the country. The higher the A/C ratio, the greater the degree of
The ratio of the actual area of a country to the smallest possible inscribing circle: Area- Area (A/A‟) ratio. The area of the inscribing circle is the area of the smallest possible circle whose circumference passes through the extreme points on the boundary. Half- length of the longest distance between two extreme points gives radius of the inscribing circle. The nearer the ratio to 1, the more compact the country
Table : Ethiopia’s shape compared to its Neighbors in the Horn
A map is a two-dimensional scaled representation of part or whole of the Earth surface on a flat body such as piece of paper, black board, wood or cloth. Map reading encompasses a systematic identification of natural features and manmade features. Natural features include mountains, plateaus, hills, valleys, river, ocean, rocks, plain etc. On the other hand, manmade features include roads, railway, buildings, dam etc.
There are many types of maps according to their purpose and functions. For the purpose of this course, topographical and statistical maps are considered.
Topographical maps: Topographic maps depict one or more natural and cultural features of an area. They could be small, medium or large scale depending on the size of the area, purpose of a map, scale of a map, date of compilation, and nature of the land.
Special purpose (thematic) maps: These are maps, which show distribution of different aspects such as temperature, rainfall, settlement, vegetation.
Marginal information is shown on a map to enable the reading and interpretation of the geographical information of an area represented. This includes:
In developing map reading abilities and skills, certain basic principles must be applied by the map-reader to translate map symbols into landscape images. Map Readers must have ideas about the symbol and also the real World (landscapes). Every map symbol must be visualized by the reader to read a map. The first symbols introduced should be those, which refer to landscape features of which the reader already has some images.
Secondly, knowledge of directions is an important principle in reading maps. One of the basic functions of maps is to help us to orient ourselves and to locate places on the earth. Unless a reader knows the basic directions, he or she may not use a map effectively. Before locating features using a map, north (the north arrow) should be determined.
Maps are covered in a series of lines that make up a grid. The lines have numbers accompanying them that allow you to accurately pinpoint your location on a map. Once you have located where you are, the grid system makes it simple to give an accurate description of your location. This description, which will be a series of numbers, is known as a grid reference.