Denneke immediately appears like a wise man. His age is uncertain but he looks still strong, with deep dark eyes in which hard life wrote many years of experience. He lives, with his huge family (two wives and about 15 children) in a green part of Ethiopia, about 400 km South of Addis Ababa, in Dawro Konta Zone and he is one of the most respectfull beekeepers of the area.
Before showing us his apiaries, he and his relatives welcome us in a simple hut, offering traditional bread, their own honey and naturally, Ethiopian coffee!
He says that he learned how to keep bees when he was very young, without teachers, by himself, looking at them in wilderness and growing his skills step by step, starting from faience beehives and later utilizing traditional kafò, made of wood or bamboo.
He knows how to get wild bees, how to attract them and how to deal with them. Today he has got more than hundred hives and he started to use Kenyan Top Bar and Langstroth hives.
His son, Deresse, follows his father's steps and, thank's also to an Italian ngo (Terra del Terzo Mondo), they are combining together tradition and modernity, making beekeeping more profitable.

They proudly show us their home apiaries, very well kept, where ancient and actual beekeeping are carefully mixed and they also explain the main techniques to rear African bees. Materials, strategies, tricks, traditional believes, new and unknown problems...many issues are discussed and experience shared: it is clear that we all are students, that we all learn from each other, all involved and united by the shared love and respect for bees.

When darkness comes, it is time to start to work with bees and we move, with Deresse and his friend Admasu, to a new apiary which belongs to the recent formed association of local beekeepers. Tonight we will shift the bees from a traditional kafò to a modern hive, a symbolic passage from past to future.
The night is warm, pretty dark, shined only by the lights of a small fire and torches. There are four of us wearing protective clothes and many others staying pretty far away, protected by the darkness.
When the woodden kafò is open, the natural combs are exposed and lightened and the bees surround us with understandable violence. It is like discovering an ancient world, we feel like explorers who give a sight to something belonging to the nature but that we have almost seems now clear what the nest means for the superorganism of bees, the importance of the combs in their biology, the interdipendence among life and structure. It is now clear that the perfection of the world of bees lives in an apparent and mostly unknown disarray.
The hive shows us its secrets as a big shell, the structures that we usually know are the same but appear different. The order we are used to seems subverted: no square angles, more inequality, like the difference between a lion in cage or in wilderness.

Admasu and Derrese are skilled, they carefully cut the combs, they gently remove the bees and they pass the combs to the people aside who tide them with vegetal strings to the frames of a Langstroth hive. The combs in hands give us a strange feeling: they are delicate but strong, it is like holding a fish alive, with the sensation that it might suddenly jump off.

Within one hour, combs are collected, fixed and settled and the bees placed in their new hive; at that point we realized that the bees had already stopped attacking us, a kind of truce was signed and we could also unwear our gloves.
The old hive, empty and damaged, is replaced by the new one but tradition is not denied, it is kept as an added value because in a rural and uncertain environment it could be considered with attention and respect.

The following day we visited the "Chicho Hayo Beekeepers Cooperative", where honey is collected, packed and sold, and where wax is not wasted anymore but gathered by the traditional beekeepers: Deresse himself told us that earlier he was wasting the wax but now it represents an additional source of income.
People came to meet us with interest and attention and we had nice exchanging moments to share experience, to discuss sensitive issues like bees decline, production constraints, new and reappearing diseases and to realize that even in apparently remote areas the problems are almost the same. The environment pollution, the increase of intensive agriculture and chemicals utilization reduced the distance between them and us, we felt like one people, us and the bees, as a bastion against the mistakes of the progress that does not keep in consideration the natural heritage which we should really take care of.
Gianluca Pressi