History of ‘A City In The Forest’
Long before Dilla’s emergence as town the area served as a trade route that used to connect shoa to south Ethiopia. The rest part of today’ Dilla was a forest zone and home of wild beasts. But around the beginning of the 2oth century, a small settlement emerged around the site of todays telecommunication office where a local governor (korro) named Dejazmach Bedecha Udo constructed his residence. Around Bedecha’s residence some houses of his servants and tax collectors together with a small market (qochi) developed.
After the mid-1920s Dillas’ importance as a market center grew specially for its coffee market. Resulting in an influx of merchants to the area. The area also got the attention of the state as the customs post and took two additional duties, as check point of salve trading and ammunitions movements’ and was frequently visited by officials.
On the eve of Italian invasion (two decades after Dilla’s foundation) there were two concentrated settlements in today’s city of Dilla around Bedecha’s residence and around the city of the customs post. The latter with its lucrative trade activities and competition of people had a relatively urban like feature than the former. During Italian occupation Dilla transformed in to a viable urban center. Among the transformation process was the building of corrugated iron sheet roof houses, an opening of a small clinic and emergence of new settlements around Qoffee, Aboye church area (kambo sefer) etc.
During this period, the town was able to expand towards the Andegna menged, lagedara River, Getemie sefer, etc.The town had also, by the standard of the period, significant number of population. It was estimated that around 800 people inhibited the area. The Italians had a plan of making Dilla an administrative center of three provinces (Sidama, Gamo Gofa and Bale) under their Oromo-Sidama administrative division
After the evacuation of the Italians, the introduction of municipal service had began in 1942 and reconstruction was attempted. In the same year the first modern school was opened by the state which is Atse Dawit elementary school.
In 1945, Dilla was made the state of Gedeo Awraja, one of the six Awrajas under the then Sidama province. This marked the opening of different governmental offices and the coming of workers with their families to the town.
The town got its first medical services in 1946 by the help of the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM).In 1956, a Junior School was established which was elevated to a secondary school in 1975.Electric light was introduced by the state in 1966 but there had been electricity service for some by privately owned generators since 1949.Pipe water was introduced in 1966 and the city got telephone services in 1959.The commercial Bank of Ethiopia opened its branch in the city in 1966. This helped in the development of coffee trade and in the construction of relatively better buildings by those who wanted to secure loan from the bank.
The Ethio-kenya high way besides its construction to the development of commercial activities in the city, become the cause of the opening of filing stations which were non-existent in most towns of the country during this period. This was made by Total company in 1955 and shell company in 1956.
After the 1942 introduction of municipal service until 1974 the town administration was conducted by dividing the town in to sefers, and nominating sefer shums, The following are some of the sefers in Dilla which are in existent to this day Legedara sefer, Silite sefer, Worji sefer, Getema sefer, kambo sefer, Qoffee sefer, Nurena sefer, Babylon sefer, (Quchira sefer).
The Ethiopian urban Development policy was formulated to address the socio-economic problems of the Ethiopian urban centers by fostering rapid and sustainable development and ensuring democracy and good governance. The city administration of Dilla is trying to ensure sustainable development, democracy and good governance. Now the city is divided in to 3 sub cities 9 kebeles and 36 menders. Badacha, Sessa and Haro Wollabu are the three sub cites and has a population of 80,000.