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An Enromentalist In The Village
“We’ll get our firewood and wood from the hills.” John asked a group of women what they were going to use now that the trees in their fields were dying. John pointed out to them that the hills they were pointing at were dwarfed by sparse bushes. But they had replied that they would bring their firewood and wood from the Masai forest on the other side of the hill. He said with blind confidence. He was not aware of the “dwindling resource debates and conferences” taking up more space and time in national and international forums. John realizes that he is not winning, but he tells them that even beyond the hills the trees are going to be finished. Still they didn’t move. They were now bored to death by the looks on their faces! They found him strange.
John visited this part of the country, Mulot Division, Narok District, Kenya. The area was once covered with lush greenery, made up of trees of various sizes. The Amalo River, a major tributary of the Mara River that flows through the world-famous Maasai National Game Reserve, has steady streams and rivers flowing through the hills. Farmers used to grow maize and harvest bumper crops. Maasai cows and bulls roam and graze in lush and evergreen grasslands. Today, John had come to attend the inauguration of a permanent home built by a progressive boy from the village who was John’s cousin. John had visited his cousin several times to help prepare for the big day. One day, he had planted some valuable trees and shrubs in the new house compound. And he even helped with some of the landscaping. Then came the day of the open house. John arrived very early in the morning to find the trees and bushes he had planted killed by goats. Goats still roam free in this part of the world. John was disheartened and helpless to see what he had sown lying on the wasteland. He then spoke to a group of men and women and asked them why people did not take care of their goats to prevent them from cutting down the trees. Their conversation was long and boring. John breathed a sigh of relief when his cousin told him he was going to fence the compound with wire-mesh and barbed wire, then replant trees and shrubs.
John’s encounter with the thorns in Rongena village made him realize the great work of any community and national forestry program. People in many developing countries have not acknowledged that they are facing numerous problems caused by deforestation and environmental degradation. Perhaps, they don’t even pause to think about it! It will take a long time and a lot of strategic planning, implementation and sacrifice before the majority of nature lovers and environmentalists can prove that it was not strange and green creatures from Mars, but humans who came out to save nature and humanity from self-destruction.
After he failed to get men and women to save and plant trees, John thought about what trees and nature lovers could do. He considered all possibilities to help sensitize and mobilize communities to conserve and cultivate trees for utility, environmental protection and aesthetic value. He had an idea in his mind to set an example to the trees and nature lovers. They can dedicate an open area of their farm to planting trees, making sure they fence it properly. He recalls that back home in the neighboring Bomet district, he spent many years beautifying his compound and the farm he shared with his parents and siblings. They had planted ornamental trees and shrubs. And a good number of people within a fifty kilometer square tried to replicate what he had achieved. So anyone in Rongena can do the same so that others can copy. People seem to be motivated by curiosity and conclude that there must be reasons for planting trees, especially ornamental ones.
A few weeks after John returned home from attending his cousin’s house opening, several of his cousins and friends called to request trees and shrubs to be planted in the open house compound. Maybe there is a ray of light in the darkness! Actions speak louder than words! Perhaps, Muot Division was to regain its past glory – forested hills and riverbanks, and even the creation of beautiful parks owned by landlords, schools and local authorities.
It is not only the uneducated and rustic people who destroy the trees, but the stubborn and apathetic educated people are expected to give leadership. And this situation is generally made worse by poverty and the dualism of developed countries. Some of Africa’s leaders are skeptical and have reacted with anger and self-destruction to the developed countries’ agenda. The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, decided to carve out a beautiful and breath-taking Mabira forest and give it to an Asian to plant sugarcane, responding to protests against it by saying that trees and forests are luxuries. With such desperation, grassroots communities must take the initiative and create mini-forests in their neighborhoods to offset ambitious government programs.
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