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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

From Arkansas to Ethiopia

Jen Snow

Volunteer Richard Underhill traveled to Ethiopia last month, to share his knowledge with Ethiopian beekeepers. He had a great trip, which he recounts on his blog: 

Here’s an excerpt from his blog below. Thanks Richard!!

It is a long trip from Proctor, Arkansas to Bonga, Ethiopia. It’s 21 hours in the air at six hundred miles per hour, stopping at Atlanta, Amsterdam, Khartoum, and Addis Ababa. And then it’s almost two more days by truck, stopping regularly for goats, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is a cosmopolitan city. Ethiopians call it “The Capital of Africa.” The African Union meets in this colorful, flowered city. Diplomats, tourists, engineers, and business leaders are seen on the streets. The traffic in the city of four million is similar to that of American cities. Drivers negotiate busy intersections with their vehicle’s horn because there are no traffic signals. Traffic officers referee the larger intersections. Newcomers, like me, are surprised to see small herds of sheep, goats, or cattle on city streets. Driving out of the city, the sight of animals becomes the norm. The people of Ethiopia hold a strong connection to their animals. After leaving the capital city, one sees a continuous flow of humans and animals on foot along the roads. People walk with their donkeys laden with goods for the market, or they carry a plow by hand as they follow their oxen to the field to plow. Young boys herd drought-thinned cattle to rivers for water or to fields to forage. Near the small towns, two-wheeled horse carts called “garis” and three-wheeled “bajajs,” diesel-powered, enclosed rickshaws, serve as taxis. Buses carry passengers between towns, and large trucks carry sacks of coffee, grain, fuel, and goods to markets.
I knew that I had arrived in the land of Ethiopia’s forest honey when I saw the weathered sign on the side of the road. The sign proclaimed “The Town of Bees” in Amharic. Two traditional bee hives stand on the highlands above the Great Rift Valley with volcanoes in the background. The cylindrical hives are adorned with honey bees, modern bee hives, and honey. Endemic Limich plants top the hives.