The Konso people are mixed agriculturalists, experts at terracing and use animal dung as fertiliser. They are extremely hard working and the main crops are sorghum, maize, coffee and beans.
This is probably the first region of Ethiopia where you will notice that the coffee beans are shunned in favour of the leaves; this is something that the peoples of the Omo Valley do. The Konso dry the leaves and mix them with sunflower seeds and spices to form the local equivalent of instant coffee!
Their distinct dress, now phasing out, is a tiered skirt and occasionally you will still see some women with uncovered breasts.
The Konso settlement is typically sited on the top of a hill surrounded by stone walls, with few exits and entrances, making the village easily defensible. Inside the settlement, there are individual family compounds, each surrounded by a stone wall and with a gateway covered and supported by thick wooden struts. In each settlement there is a mora or communal house, which is a tall building with an open-sided ground floor supported by juniper trunks, and a sharply angled thatched roof covering a wooden ceiling. The ground floor is a shady place where men, boys and girls (but not women) can relax, play, gossip and discuss communal issues. Traditionally, the upstairs is where boys from the age of 12 sleep until they get married. Girls and women are not allowed to sleep in the mora.
The famous Konso waga, carved wooden statues used as grave markers, are traditionally erected above the grave of any important Konso man or warrior. The main statue will be surrounded by smaller carved statues of his wives and defeated foes. This practice has largely disappeared due to theft and damage. However, there are some fine examples collected by the regional tourist office, which are definitely worth visiting.
Konso has two markets, which are typically buzzing and full of colour and excitement. As there is a good road from Arba Minch through Konso to Jinka, trade is good here as lorries can bring their goods to sell.