The Zay are a small ethnic group of about 5,000 people in Ethiopia. They are also known as the Laki. They live on the islands of Lake Zway, south of Addis Ababa, and engage mainly in fishing. The Zay language belongs to the Southern branch of the Ethiopian Semitic language family and is closely related to the languages spoken by the neighboring Gurage ethnic group. The Zay belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Local tradition suggests that the Zay people comprise three streams of people that populated the islands of Lake Ziway between the early 14th and the mid-17th centuries. The Zay economy is mainly based on subsistence agriculture and traditional fishing. The Zay people cultivate maize, sorghum, finger millet, teff, pepper and barley, and raise cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and chicken. Island dwellers use papyrus boats for transport, while those on the shore use donkeys and horses.
Common health issues include malaria, schistosomiasis, diarrhoea and respiratory diseases. The Zay people generally have limited access to modern health care and primarily rely on medicinal plants, although (as elsewhere in the country) environmental and cultural factors threaten both medicinal plants and traditional medical knowledge.
- Giday, Mirutse (2001). "An ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used by the Zay people in Ethiopia". CBM:s skriftserie. 3: 81–99. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
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