GREEN WITH ENVY

 

Last week, I attended a meeting in Arusha , a city in the northeast of Tanzania, East Africa. Arusha is the capital of the Arusha Region and is situated at the foothills of Mount Meru ; 4,566 meters and the second highest mountain in Tanzania. Arusha is 80 kilometers west of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It is also close to the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation area, Lake Manyara National Park and the Olduvai Gorge where in the 1930’s the Leakeys found  evidence of the  most Ancient Humans. This strategic positioning has earned Arusha the name “Safari capital of East Africa’’. As if this is not enough to make your feet itch, Arusha is home for the headquarters of the East Africa Union and hosts the UN International Tribunal for Rwanda. It is a fast growing city with a population of  414,442 (2012). It is a centre of agricultural and horticultural activity.

Having come from a country with one of the highest population growth rate in Africa -3.2%(2014Census)which reflects itself in the rapid clearance of forests and woodlands to make room for housing and use as wood fuels, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful and environmental friendly Arusha is.

I would not be surprised if Arusha is the greenest city in East Africa. As you drive from the Kilimanjaro International airport to Arusha city centre, the tall green trees along the suburban roads are a beauty to behold. This beauty is enhanced by the looming Mount Meru covered by white clouds and dense mountain rainforests below. The rich volcanic soils are planted with large fields of maize, coffee, and bananas. The edges are planted with a variety of indigenous trees. I could recognize a few like the acacia and African Flame trees.

The first thing I did when I entered my hotel room was to draw the curtains and look up at Mount Meru  and then  the valleys below.

Arusha is too green to make me feel green with envy. Had I been in a hotel in the city Centre back home, I would be seeing a few dotted trees, blocks of concrete and glass and lines of cars in the tangled city traffic.

As we walked through the city, the air was fresh, the temperatures cool  and the place very relaxing. The city itself is very clean and tidy, giving us an enjoyable experience.

I was able to talk some locals about their city and learned a few things.

Arusha has always been a vibrant city and has had a high population growth rate. The volcanic soils are ideal for agricultural and horticultural activity. So some years back, many of the dense rainforests and grasslands were being cleared for habitation. There was rapid environmental degradation and erosion; the slopes of Mount Meru were almost laid bare.  This raised great concern among the community. A group of like-minded people came together and came up with the ‘Greening Arusha’, a co-ordinated effort.

By the late 90’s, Tree planting programmes  were well established in the Arusha Region. The people started planting many trees along all suburban roads and  some other areas. Most of the people now understand the benefits of forests and woodlands: planting trees is low cost but has great benefits. Trees absorb the pollutions in the air and reduce health risks like Asthma, associated with air pollution. Trees absorb Carbon dioxide and produce the Oxygen we all need for breathing, trees cool the environmental temperatures.  They reduce soil erosion. They increase the property values.

The people of this area have taken on the responsibility to protect and promote trees and wooded areas.

In the Arusha City Authority, you have to get permission first to cut down any tree. The tree has to be identified and only that tree can be cut down. You have to replace that tree by at least planting three others. Little wonder then that Arusha is often described as a green Island in an area where rapid environmental degradation and erosion is common.

This was mind-blowing to me: the tall green trees and the manicured green lawns I was admiring last week were purposely and intentionally planted over twenty years ago by the ‘Greening Arusha’ warriors! This confirms one quote by an unknown author which says : “ The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’’

Germany focused on the Green Goal projects years before the 2006 FIFA World Cup event to reduce the environmental impact of the mega-event on the host country. Cape Town also had similar projects before the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Among them was planting trees to green and shade the city. Cape Town has always been very green but sustaining the Green Goal projects has made it many times greener.

They say that when you travel, you learn and come back to teach others. The people of Arusha have a lot to teach us about building environmental friendly townships or cities. Instead of cutting down the trees at a new building site, one should build the house around the trees. We badly need Green warriors in Uganda if we are to create the green cities we want ourselves, our children and grandchildren to live in. I am already converted all I need now is to identify a local team in my area to work with.

These quotes about tree planting should move you into action.

“ Colour it green with trees.’’ Author Unknown

“ The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.’’ By Nelson Henderson.

Last but not least, here a few of the photos of the spectacular view from my hotel room in Arusha.

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I am sorry the above photographs were not not included in the post of  18 May 2017.

 

THE TRANSFORMATION

The current rains have transformed all the patchy green areas in the city to a luxurious green much to the delight of many of my peers.

It has reminded of the times I used to travel with my parents to our home village during my childhood. Mityana town is located about 77kilometres west of Kampala city along the Kampala- Fort Portal road. I used to be fascinated by the variety of tall indigenous trees with dense crowns growing along the road. I could not see anything beyond them; I did not know the names of the rolling hills behind them. By a simple game that I played in my mind, I could identify similar trees and group them together. Over time I came to know this area like the back of my hand.

Then in the early 80’s, things started changing little by little: pickups filled with sacks of charcoal and heading to the city became a familiar sight.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Uganda had a population of 16,671 in 1991 and the growth rate was 3.2%.

In the last population census of 2014, our population had grown to 34,856 and the growth rate was 3%- one million people are added to the population every year. The big population demands that trees be cut down to create space to build houses, to grow food and cash crops, to keep livestock, to use in the building industry and to supply wood and charcoal as  heat energy for domestic use.

They say that it takes twenty years to grow a dense forest, sadly for the twenty years I have been away; many more trees have been mown down than planted. The indigenous trees along the road to my home village have been so indiscriminately cut down that I am now seeing rolling hills that I did not know that existed. The grassland and woodlands have been cleared for human settlement. Forests are now left in small patches along the road. It is another transformation that comes with a price tag.

At the same time, the effects of Climate change are being felt by all of us. The rainy and dry seasons have become extremely unpredictable. Last year, the September rains never came and the country experienced a long spell of drought and famine. The current rains are causing floods in some areas.  It is now clear to most of us that trees play a central role in the environment. Trees reduce soil erosion and reduce the risks of floods and landslides, they absorb Carbon dioxide from the air and produce more than 40% of the Oxygen that we all need for breathing ,they absorb pollutions in the air and they cool environmental temperatures.

We just cannot keep taking from the environment without giving back to it. This is unacceptable. Each one of us has to take on the responsibility of planting and protecting trees to conserve the environment. It is our responsibility to educate the people around us of the benefits of tree planting.

The best place to begin is the Primary schools: students should be encouraged to form Environment clubs, to nurture and own trees at school and at home. Since more than 70% of our population depends on agriculture, students should be taught better farming methods like how to use small pieces of land for bigger yields supported by irrigation schemes. Such students will grow up to sustain our environment. In such clubs they need also to be educated on how big populations which translate into big families at the local level destroy the environment. They should be trained on the need to support and adopt the use of safe, renewable forms of energy like Solar, wind and Biomass. Climate change and conservation of the environment are extremely important factors that call for full participation of our children- adults-in-the- making.

One Biblical Proverb endorses this: “Teach children how they should live and they will remember it all their lives.’’

“Great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children.” by Sir Herbert Read.

They should be encouraged to think out of the box and come up with locally appropriate solutions in their communities to clean and sustain the environment.

Kenya is very much ahead of us in developing homegrown agricultural and environment conservation innovations.

The environment belongs to you, me, our children and their children and should be protected by all.

We should all work towards the restoration of forests, woodlands and wetlands as Nature-based solutions to the global challenges in climate. Let us endeavor to make it a daily practice where we are.

One last quote: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’’ By an unknown author

Let us make the collective effort to colour our environment green once again.

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog and read this post. Feel free to share it.

GREEN WITH ENVY

 

Last week, I attended a meeting in Arusha , a city in the northeast of Tanzania, East Africa. Arusha is the capital of the Arusha Region and is situated at the foothills of Mount Meru ; 4,566 meters and second highest mountain in Tanzania. Arusha is 80 kilometers west of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It is also close to the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation area, Lake Manyara National Park and the Olduvai Gorge where in the 1930’s the Leakeys found  evidence of the  most Ancient Humans. This strategic positioning has earned Arusha the name “Safari capital of East Africa’’. As if this is not enough to make your feet itch, Arusha is home for the headquarters of the East Africa Union and hosts the UN International Tribunal for Rwanda. It is a fast growing city with a population of  414,442 (2012). It is a centre of agricultural and horticultural activity.

Having come from a country with one of the highest population growth rate in Africa -3.2%

(2014Census)which reflects itself in the rapid clearance of forests and woodlands to make room for housing and use as wood fuels, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful and environmental friendly Arusha is.

I would not be surprised if Arusha is the greenest city in East Africa. As you drive from the Kilimanjaro International airport to Arusha city centre, the tall green trees along the suburban roads are a beauty to behold. This beauty is enhanced by the looming Mount Meru covered by white clouds and dense mountain rainforests below. The rich volcanic soils are planted with large fields of maize, coffee, and bananas. The edges are planted with a variety of indigenous trees. I could recognize a few like the acacia and African Flame trees.

The first thing I did when I entered my hotel room was to draw the curtains and look up at Mount Meru  and then  the valleys below.

Arusha is too green to make me feel green with envy. Had I been in a hotel in the city Centre back home, I would be seeing a few dotted trees, blocks of concrete and glass and lines of cars in the tangled city traffic.

As we walked through the city, the air was fresh, the temperatures cool  and the place very relaxing. The city itself is very clean and tidy giving us an enjoyable experience.

I was able to talk some locals about their city and learned a few things.

Arusha has always been a vibrant city and has had a high population growth rate. The volcanic soils are ideal for agricultural and horticultural activity. So some years back, many of the dense rainforests and grasslands had been cleared for habitation. There was rapid environmental degradation and erosion; the slopes of Mount Meru were almost laid bare.  This raised great concern among the community. A group of like-minded people came together and came up with the ‘Greening Arusha’, a co-ordinated effort.

By the late 90’s, Tree planting programmes  were well established in the Arusha Region. The people started planting many trees along all suburban roads and  some other areas. Most of the people now understand the benefits of forests and woodlands: planting trees is low cost but has great benefits. Trees absorb the pollutions in the air and reduce health risks like Asthma, associated with air pollution. Trees absorb Carbon dioxide and produce the Oxygen we all need for breathing, trees cool the environmental temperatures.  They reduce soil erosion. They increase the property values.

The people of this area have taken on the responsibility to protect and promote trees and wooded areas.

In the Arusha City Authority, you have to get permission first to cut down any tree. The tree has to be identified and only that tree can be cut down. You have to replace that tree by at least planting three others. Little wonder then that Arusha is often described as a green Island in an area where rapid environmental degradation and erosion is common.

This was mind blowing to me: the tall green trees and the manicured green lawns I was admiring last week were purposely and intentionally planted over twenty years ago by the ‘Greening Arusha’ warriors! This confirms one quote by an unknown author which says : “ The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’’

Germany focused on the Green Goal projects years before the 2006 FIFA World Cup event to reduce the environmental impact of the mega-event on the host country. Cape Town also had similar projects before the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Among them was planting trees to green and shade the city. Cape Town has always been very green but sustaining the Green Goal projects has made it many times greener.

They say that when you travel, you learn and come back to teach others. The people of Arusha have a lot to teach us about building environmental friendly townships or cities. Instead of cutting down the trees at a new building site, one should build the house around the trees. We badly need Green warriors in Uganda if we are to create the green cities we want ourselves, our children and grandchildren to live in. I am already converted all I need now is to identify a local team in my area to work with.

These quotes about tree planting should move you into action.

“ Colour it green with trees.’’ Author Unknown

“ The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.’’ By Nelson Henderson.

Last but not least, here a few of the photos of the spectacular view from my hotel room in Arusha.