Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teff for Injera

As we traveled northward, the forests thinned and farms abounded in Ethiopia’s open plains. As we left the forests, we encountered less monkeys and baboons on the road, but larger herds of livestock. Our truck stopped repeatedly for cattle being driven to water in the rivers. Crossing the Omo River gorge, we encountered numerous volcanoes. Today’s photo shows a typical farm with a thatched roof, stick and mud daub house located near the base of a volcano. The entire family shares the single-room house with cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. Young boys direct the cattle herd’s movements with a stick like a conductor directing an orchestra. The cattle obey their master with whom they live night and day. Stacks of teff recently harvested by hand with a short sickle sit on the ground. Family members, including children, toss the teff into the air to separate the fine seed. Teff is the staple crop used to make the fermented bread known as injera that is eaten at every meal.

As we continued on our drive to Nazareth, Wubishet and I discussed how Ethiopia’s honey bees tend to abscond, or abandon their hives, much more frequently than do the honey bees of beekeepers in the more temperate climate of the United States. Wubishet described seasonal management of the hives in which beekeepers increase the volume of the hives prior to major nectar flows to accommodate the colonies’ honey storage capacity. I explained that some believe that tropical bees, like those in Ethiopia, don’t hoard honey, but instead abscond and move to the mountains during the dry season. Wubishet said that that description of tropical bee behavior is not correct. I told him that honey bees will abscond if their hive becomes completely undesirable. He explained that at times the comb melts in the equatorial heat, truly making for an unfit nest. We stopped at Walesa for a meal of traditional fasting food: injera with an assortment of beans, peas, lentils, and peppers.

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