The Gambella economy depends largely on farming, fishing, animal rearing and mineral resources. Farming is in a subsistence base among the Indigenous in all woredas of the region including the regional capital. However, foreign own farms such as Karuturi Global is for commercial purposes.
Although there are pros and cons in regard to the benefits and disadvantages of the foreign own farms, one thing is clear. A significant number of the Indigenous people are being employed in these farms.
For instance, a great number of inhabitants from Itang and Jokow wereda works in a foreign own farm situated at Itang wereda in Tele Kebele. This has had a positve effect for the region because the employee of that company would not have any job to do had it not been the prsesence of that farm. Another benefit is that the price is being reduced down to a level where the local customers could afford. A 100 kgs of maize usually costs 850 birr ($45 US). However, with the presence of these farms, the price of a 100 kgs of maize has been reduced to 550 Birr ($28 US).
Indigeneous Gambellians on their part are doing their best to ensure that farming is important for economical growth of the region. With the help of many projects in the agricultural sector, many farmers in Gambella are urged by the goverment to grow crops in order to be self sufficient.
Most farmers in Gambella grow maize but few grow sorghum along the Gilo and Baro rivers. Farmers sell some of their produces and transport them to urban markets in exchange for money
Livestock management in Gambella is predominantly practised in Akobo, Jikawo, Lare, Mattaar, and Wanthoa weredas. In addition some farmers in Gog, Jor and Abobo weredas rear cattle.
Farmers in Gambella used to have cattle in huge number but recently the cattle have number among many farmers in the region have gradually been declining due to a number of factors. Scarcity of resources such as drought and lack of grazing fields has been an issue on one hand and on the other, many farmers have given up living in villages for regional towns across the Gambella weredas. The demand of Gambella cattles by highlanders as far as from Metu, Gore and Dembidolo has also been a contributory factor which led to to the decline of cattles in Gambella.
Another important factor are the Mure cattle rustlers of South Sudan who crosses border to Ethiopia and violently confiscate cattle while indiscriminately killing owners whther they resists or not.
In term of mineral resource, Gambella is rich in minerals some of which are yet to be extracted. An open pit and alluvial gold mine have been in existence for decades in Dimma wereda. The Dimma gold mines continue to provide invaluable income to the people of Gambella as well as miners from Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s State.
In addition, an oil field in Gambella has recently been discovered and this has boosted the future growth of regional economy and placed Gambella in the best position to compete with other rapidly growing Ethiopian regions.
In term of water resources, Gambella is rich in water with three major rivers; Akobo, Baro and Gilo Rivers in addition to numerous tributaries and lakes. As a result of these rivers, fishing has become a vital source of income to many people in Gambella. The Lake Tata in Gog attracts many fisher men in Gambella.