In two tiny villages of Africa, change is taking place, in away triggering admiration and envy. It’s not a revolutionary or machinery metamorphosis fond of characterizing social and political scenes in Africa, nor is a leadership institute gathering data on governance and reforms, but it is that change aiming to breathe new lease of life to an environmentally tortured earth. The two drivers of this green change are two men from different nations but with equally same aspirations and dreams; that one of changing their worlds in their own small way using trees.
Separated by thousands of miles away, Wycliffe Asiyo of Kagan village in Western Kenya and Theoneste Alafu of Runoga in Northern Rwanda are doing what they know best; to prepare tree nurseries and to plant trees. At a youthful age of 26, Wycliffe had lost passion for an endless search of employment afte college, with basic agro forestry skills, he immediately started a tree nursery project, and little did he know that his actions shall inspire other youths to join his course.
Armed with only one hundred Kenyan shillings, Wycliffe bought eucalyptus seeds for his first tree nursery, he confesses that he knew not that this simple move could make him enter in a course of transformation, ‘‘When I started planting trees, I was aiming to sell trees seedlings and trees for financial gain, but today its more than that, because I am a local consultant in tree planting,’’ says Wycliffe. In his four years of tree nursery preparation and tree planting, Wycliffe reveals that he has distributed and planted more than a million eucalyptus trees both to buyers and his locality.
In a mini outreach to his community, he liaises with the local administration like the village chief to distribute free tree seedlings during village barazas (meetings). ‘‘Every planting season, I spare five thousand seedlings for free distribution to the public; I usually use our chief who is very cooperative in this,’’ reveals Wycliffe who is ever optimistic that his drive of planting trees will accumulate massive benefits not only to the locals but to the whole region.
‘‘There is no success like your people accepting to join you in your endevours,’’Wycliffe asserts as he outlines how he has successfully mobilized fellow villagers to rally behind his noble course, making trees to be planted along the village paths and streets.
With love for growing trees increasing each and every day, Wycliffe says that nothing will stop him in spite of perennial tree diseases that sometimes dog his activities. His main drive is to seek further knowledge on tree planting and maintenance.
Alafu Is not as young as Wycliffe, for he is hitting seventy, but age is just a number considering his tortuous move to transform his community.Alafu has been planting trees for the last thirty years, to accord him a name in the village, kanyashamba, meaning one who likes trees. At any month of the year, anyone is assured of getting tree seedling from him. He admits boldly that trees has transformed his life, especially after the genocide against the Tutsis that befell his country, leaving many people poor and desperate due to wanton killings and destruction that ensued in its aftermath. ‘‘I have been preparing my tree seedlings for the last thirty years, it is one religious like duty that I have never been tired to perform because of its benefits to my community,’ says Alafu.Just like Wycliffe, his success of reaching his community in planting trees has been through local initiatives and leadership, he says that through umuganda;Rwanda’s monthly holiday of communal work often set to be on the last Saturday of every month, he has successfully rallied umurenge,(local leadership) to back his call of mass tree planting, ‘‘We have used umuganda to plant more than ten thousand trees in the last two years and we are still continuing,’ explains cheerful Alafu.
Planting trees for Alafu has bore fruits; in the last ten years, agricultural yields of his region was meager and below expectation yet there was an increasing population, but since he started free distribution of trees, it has been good tidings as rain is annually witnessed as expected to boost farming. It is this small ‘magic’ of trees that made the entire village to back his tree planting mission, ‘‘When people saw that if they plant trees everywhere there could be a change in climate and rain coming anytime, they backed this mission,’ notes Alafu who just as Wycliffe, is not only hopeful that he will change his community through this bold gesture but for other young energetic people to emulate this.
In Wycliffe and Alafu’s deeds, maybe there cannot be recognition of their contribution to mitigate effects of climate change beyond their villages, but their acts are transformative and pace setting, a spirit that if only all of us could adopt, then we could leave the world a better place than we found it.