Before Oromia was colonized, the Oromians built a self-sufficient economy based on agriculture, large ranching practices, handicrafts, and small industry responsible for steel production. With the arrival in the late 1860s a large number of colonial settlers, this cooperative economy was supplemented by a non-Oromo enclave devoted to retail business, an activity that went against the Waaqeffannaa doctrine back then.
After Oromia lost its independence the exportable resources of the state were exploited to an increasing extent by the settler forces, which closely worked with global corporations and enterprises controlled by Western countries. As the settler military bases located all over Oromia turned into garrison towns and cities, Oromians were pushed further and further far out to the periphery and continued practicing agriculture, ranching cattle and supplied these garrison towns and cities with milk, meat, animal skin and wool, which the settlers exported and earned hard currencies from these products.
Oromia also produced commercial crops such as sugar beets, coffee, oil seeds, Sugar cane and all kinds of edible food products such as wheat, barley, xaafii, sorghum, corn, millet, fiber crops such as cotton, root crops, potatoes, yam, warqee, hancoote, etc., pulses, peas, beans, chick-peas, lentils, oil crops such as nugii, flax, etc., fruit trees such as orange, mango, avocado, banana, lemon, pine Apple, peach, etc., spices such as onion, garlic, coriander, ginger, and a variety of vegetables such as okra are all sources of hard currency revenues.
In addition to the gold mines spread all over southern and western Oromia, precious stones that are currently exploited by the occupying force from Abyssinia generates billions of dollar revenue every year. The gold mines of Adola, Laga Dambi, Najjo, Assosa and Birbir river valley in western Oromia are the major sources of revenue as well. Platinum, sulfur, iron-ore, silver and salt deposits are found in south and south north Oromia. The Central Oromia based concrete products and large plants satisfy the construction demands of the empire while the flower farms and large manufacturing plants generate most of the Ethiopian Empire’s exported items.
Oromia’s economy is highly diversified. The agricultural and mining sectors are supplemented by light and heavy industries, finance, transportation, and tourism industries. Finfinnee, the capital city of the empire, is Oromia’s center of finance and trade, and many large local and international enterprises have offices there.
The colonialists and their supporters call this city by a colonial name called Addis Ababa. Although a number of foreign farms in Oromia have declined following Oromians defiance against the Tigre colonial occupation, agricultural productivity has been increasing with the growing trend of the state's population. Most importantly, small farming remains absolutely necessary when it comes to the feeding of the empire's population as well as satisfying export demands.
Generally speaking, almost three fourths of Oromia's farm income come from livestock products and farming, and the remainder comes from field crops and fruits. Forests cover nearly one-seventh of Oromia’s landmass, but only about one-fifth of the forestland is used commercially.
Resources and power
Oromia is a major supplier of hydroelectric energy the same way it is a major producer of gold and coffee. Salt was once the only mineral extracted in quantity from the red sea, but many salt industries now operate in Carrattii of Bale. Other significant mineral products are Mogor cement, sand and gravel, crushed stone, lime, phosphate rock, and gemstones of Sanqallee and the like.
Universities and Colleges
The largest of Oromia’s universities is the University of Finfinnee and it has a reputation for outstanding graduate and professional schools of medicine, law, and pharmacology. Haroo Mayaa, Jimmaa, Wallaggaa, Ambo, Bulee Horaa, Maddaa Walaabuu and many other universities and colleges have achieved great status in the fields of agriculture, forestry, education, engineering science, and the fine arts. Private universities and colleges such as the Rift Valley College have been pioneers in online learning, bringing educational opportunities to residents of urban and rural communities.
Potentially, Oromia is one of the richest countries in Africa. Agriculture is the backbone of its economy. Still employing archaic methods, subsistence agriculture is the means of livelihood for more than 90% of the population. There are a variety of farm animals and crop plants. Farm animals include cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, mules, horses, camels and chicken. The Cushitic speaking communities of this region, perhaps Nubians, are credited with the domestication of donkey and were the first to breed mules, an offspring of a cross between a donkey and a mare. The Oromo are expert in animal husbandry through their long tradition as herdsmen. For some, cattle-rearing (pastoralism) is still the main occupation.
Because of Oromia’s favorable climate and rich soil, many types of crops are cultivated and normally there is little need for irrigation. Normally one and sometimes two crops can be harvested annually from the same field. Among the major food crops are cereals (wheat, barley, teff, sorghum, corn, millet, etc.), fiber crops (cotton), root crops (potato, sweet potato, yam, inset, anchote, etc.), pulses (peas, beans, chick-peas, lentils, etc.), oil crops (nugi, flax, etc.), fruit trees (orange, mango, avocado, banana, lemon, pineapple, peach, etc.), spices (onion, garlic, coriander, ginger, etc. – coriander and ginger also grow wild) and a variety of vegetables like okra, which is indigenous to Oromia.
Many varieties of these important crops occur naturally in Oromia. These diverse crop plants are very valuable natural resources. Oromo farmers have contributed to world agriculture by cultivating and developing some of the world’s crop plants and in this way have discovered new domesticated varieties. The main cash crops are coffee and chat (a stimulant shrub). Coffee, a major cash earner for many countries, has its origin in the forests of Oromia and neighboring areas. Specifically, Kaffa and Limmu are considered centers of origin for coffee. It is from here that coffee spread to other parts of the globe. Coffee was one of the export items of the Gibestates. Wallagga and llubbabor regions of Oromia exported coffee to the Sudan through the inland port of Gambella on the Baro river and border towns of Kurmuk, Gissan, etc. Hararge, because of its favorable location for communication with the outside markets through the Red Sea, has been producing one of the finest coffees for export. Coffee has remained the chief export item, representing more than 60% of the foreign earnings of successive Ethiopian colonial regimes.
The country is also rich in wild animals and plants. Many different species are found in the waters and forests of Oromia: different kinds of fish, hippopotami, and crocodiles. Land animals include lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo, giraffe, wild ass, zebra, Columbus monkey and elephant. There are a number of wild animals that are found solely in Oromia, such as nyaala, bush-buck (special type), fox (from Baale), etc.
Various types of birds, many of them unique, are found around lakes and elsewhere. These creatures are a source of attraction for tourists and natural scientists alike. The forests of Oromia are a source of excellent timber. Although the major portion of the forests has been destroyed since its occupation, some still remain in the south and west. However, this is threatened by mismanagement, particularly through the fast expanding mega commercial farms and resettlement programs. At the time of colonization a large part of Oromia was covered with forest. This has been reduced to the present 5-7%. In addition to timber trees, medicinal plants and trees producing different kinds of gums, grow in abundance. Myrrh, frankincense and gum Arabic are gathered from the wild trees. Forests, besides being a source of timber, medicine and gum, are useful in the conservation of water and soil, and as shelter for wildlife. They also have an important aesthetic value.
Oromia has important mineral deposits. The gold mines at Adola and Laga Dambi in the Sidamoand around Nejjo, Assosa and Birbir river valley in Wallagga regions, which were the major sources of revenue for Menilek and Haile Selassie, are being exploited using modern machinery. Other important minerals found in Oromia are platinum, sulfur, iron-ore, silver and salt.
As early as 1900 Menilek granted concessions to a Swiss company to mine gold, silver and other minerals inNejjo, Wallagga region. Later the Germans took over. English, Russian and Italian companies extracted gold and platinum at Yubdo and neighboring areas in the same region. It is known that large deposits of natural gas and oil exist in Baale and Hararge regions. The Ethiopian government announced as 1986 the discovery of a new deposit of natural gas in Baale.
The hundreds of hot springs scattered over Oromia are also of economic importance. Thousands of people, including foreigners, visit these springs for their medicinal and recreational values. They are great potential sources of thermal energy. Rivers, streams and springs are plentiful. The rivers have many falls that could be used to generate electric power with little effort. The extent of this electric power could easily satisfy the power needs of Oromia and several neighboring countries.