Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Hunting For Honey
I am in the truest sense of the word a bibliophile. Out of everything I own my greatest love is reserved for my books. Today when I was in the local book store in Saint Closet I saw "Hunting for honey" by Eric Valli on the shelf.
Apparently in Nepal there was once a lowland forest in the foothills of the Himalayas where in several groups of nomadic people lived. With advent of DDT and the subsequent removal of malaria from the swampy forests people have cleared these jungles and built farms. The last vestiges of the traditional Rajji culture hang on with there being roughly 3000 Raji left.
The Raji were semi nomadic and scheduled their year between harvesting honey and fishing when the bees migrated.
They shimmy up these very large trees carrying smoking torches to collect honey.
This is a glorious book with some amazing photography of people in trees festooned with bee hives; ten or twenty hives to a tree. It seems they just sort of hang there. The largest tree in the book had 500 hives. My Apologies for the flash pictures.
Like all indigenous communities they are coping with extremely high levels of mortality, alcoholism, and being dispossessed of their ancestral homelands. Giving nomads farmland is not compensation or as one of the elders in the book put it "The earth used to give us what we needed now we are told we need to fight with the earth to get what we need to feed our children when before one days work fed us for four days time". Its a culture that will probably go extinct inside a generation or two.
I'm terribly excited by this book.