By Wr. Beatrice Wairimu
Picture this; being set for a nature walk, destination, Kalahari Desert. You will require additional litres of drinking water, sunglasses, and some head coverings to avoid the scorching sun, right? Then comes a hiking expedition in the majestic Mount Kenya. What makes the two settings different? Color green! Other than offering shade, aesthetic and quality air, the green environment pacifies and offers tranquility. The vegetation (trees, plants, shrubs, lianas, climbers or even grass) builds a microclimate in the surrounding due to the opening up of the clouds in gratitude of filling them up. You wonder at the shift from the filthy air inhaled while traversing cities filled with cars oozing smoke and factories releasing their black thick wastes to mother nature, to a breathing taking relaxation of fresh air which you linger to and wish to make this eternity. The transition from the scorching nine hours of sunshine, to natural shade, as you interact with the ladybirds, butterflies, birds and the likes makes this place more habitable. The scene is just epic. But wait! “Have I been awoken from a nightmare?” You ask yourself as you step from the rich fertile dark soils to trenches of hard cracked earth yearning for quenching from the near-death thirst. As you try to come to reality and thoughts crisscross your mind, you’re lost. Can’t trace the route back to the city. But it’s a tech world. You reach out your smartphone for google map and take the GPS. Damn it! The battery dies even before you could navigate the memorized password in almost every app.
Aaaah! Get everything pap, instant solutions to almost everything- the Kenya we want. Your heart throbs as ululation struggle to escape the dental alignment in the sight of “phone charging at sh. 10”, (thanks to the rural electrification) from a local malimali kibanda where you could get almost everything that escapes your mind when you go shopping right from a needle to matchboxes. “These guys get it. I wonder why such entrepreneurial spirits in such remote areas don’t get opportunities to run our economy in the big city. Half of our problems could be solved by now.” The pacification speech is cut short as the strides you take to the “savior” could outdo those of a splinter. Because the time is ticking, no time for pleasantries as you go straight to the point “naweza charge simu hapa?” (can I charge my phone from here?). We ni mgeni hapa? (Are you a visitor in the area?), comes the reply. Ndio, nimetoka ile ng’ambo ingine (yes, I am from the other side). “Okay, ndio maana huelewi. Hapa, stima zapimwa kama dawa, twapata toka saa moja usiku hadi saa moja asubuhi. Niliskia kwa habari kwamba hamna maji ya kutosha kwa bomba linalofanikisha nguvu za umeme. Hali imekuwa hivi kwa miezi miwili sasa na kwamba itaendelea mpaka mwezi wa kumi tunapotarajia mvua. (that’s why you cannot get it. Electricity is being rationed like dosage from 7pm to 7am. I heard from the news that water from the dam that generates power has receded. It has been like this for two months and it shall continue until the tenth month when rains are expected.)
This fact hits hard as you lean your weary body against the dancing post. Your lips are dry, and the trembling legs cannot support the perspired body. You need to quench your thirst as you trickle down the last drops of water you had. You are in need of more, and you usher the shop owner. In amazement, he offers only two gulps, which do not make the situation any better. Before you ask, the newfound acquaintance saves your breath. “The taps have been dry for three weeks in a row, only scoops of sand can be found in the once flooding rivers. We have to bear with the water rationing as well.”
The reality dawns. Mother Nature is fighting us. Our once forested land is now a concrete jungle. Kenya needs over 7 billion trees to meet the 10% minimum. Africa and the world have lost over 80% of their original forests. “I have to be counted in suppressing this gap,” your moment of epiphany. As you follow the route directed by the shop-owner to your destination, you figure out the next big plan- the Kenya we want. “We do not have to wait until the last tree has died and the last river has dried up for us to act. What if felling a tree became a taboo like it is with the Agikuyu in felling a Mugumo tree. What if I plant trees equivalent to my age, give plant as a gift, mark every event with a tree, plant a tree on the roadside, in schools, in my compound, in my place of work, in the farm, in that hospital, in that place of worship, have grass instead of concrete, and that climber or flower potted inside the house or office? We can do better Kenya. We can handle the planting of trees with the same excitement we have of buying plots of land. We can do better!”
Plant, grow and preserve trees to support life on earth both for us and as a heritage to future generations.
Beatrice is an advocate of environmental sustainability. She blogs at: www.evergreenkenya.co.ke . Send us your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org