When I read an article from the Turkish Anadolu Agency about the ambitious projects going on to restore this country’s tree cover, I buried my head in my hands. Lover of everything green-plant that I pride myself in being, how could I have been totally in the dark when green was happening right under my nose and all around me?
I am an insult to you all lovers of green, as to myself.
Leave alone the countryside, I realised that I am a stranger to this city that I inhabit.
You’ve seen the terraces that were beautifully crafted onto the hill on the left side of the road as you go towards the eastern suburban town of Kabuga. Like me, perhaps, you’ve been lamenting the fact of them seeming to have been there and bare forever, without getting any kind of decorative flower pattern, green grass or tree cover.
Well, rest your soul. Those terraces may have been waiting for water drainage systems and, today, they are in place. So, patience, let’s wait and see what’ll clothe them.
Because when I read the lead story of this paper last Tuesday, I wished the earth could open and swallow me. For plying practically the same route all the time, elsewhere I see what was and not what’s busy being!
For instance, only the other day a friend was telling me about his pet project for the nth time, of creating a crocodile farm as the beginning of an urban conservation sanctuary, for vulnerable wild animals. And for the nth time, I was cheering myself hoarse over such a bright idea.
Lo and behold! A brighter head long ago beat him to it, as in the valley right below those terraces there is Umusambi Village. A “21-acre nature reserve” for mainly crested cranes but also for other bird species. In addition, there are also trails for walks and views of ponds and flowing water bodies, according to that article. “Ponds”? My friend had better join up.
And that’s quoting one recreational area because the article counts off a good number of sundry others coming up. The Nyandungu Urban Wetland Ecotourism Park will be home to everything interesting to see or do. In the Gikondo Recreational Park, on the other part of the city, you’ll be able to walk and enjoy different views.
If you are tired of working in an office in the city centre, the City Mini Garden is for you with your laptop because Wi-Fi will be at your service. Alternatively, you can just sit and relax.
Then there are recounting roundabouts that recount our culture, wildlife and land features.
However, the mother of all recreational and educational places will be the Kigali Cultural Village, gracing the picturesque Reberao hill. Choose whatever amusement can tickle your fancy and you’ll get it here. For culture, also, it’ll be a welcome addition to the museums.
Talking of which, I cannot help confessing my fascination with terraces on hillsides, like those I mentioned. Maybe you remember photos of two hillocks, one bigger than the other, around twin Lakes Burera and Ruhondo area. Terraced by villagers with the least thought to aesthetics but, boy, did they look beautiful or did they!
Now think of the imposing Mt. Kigali brooding over the city of Kigali, with the commanding view of the whole of it and beyond. Why not give it a tongue that it seems to beg for?
At the risk of interrupting our city fathers’ thoughts over their plans for it, I would suggest what’s known as “terraces radicales”; very large terraces. On these can be planted trees of all colour and hue, even if it’d mean importing exotic ones to mix with indigenous ones. Green of different shades, yellow, pink, purple, red and others I’ve seen in different countries.
The different trees will not only give it colour but also give it the power to proclaim its identity.
With giant tree letters, Mt Kigali can spell out its city’s name from top to bottom, in cascading colours. In addition to buildings like The Kigali Convention Centre, it can stand out as a landmark and cultural icon of Kigali, to be seen by whoever lands in.
Not to be outdone by the usual Christmas season colours, it can be given its own colours to shine out too, during those nights. Where else cities spell out their names, they’ve done it with giant boards or simple designs of garden plants.
Mt Shyorongi, Mt Jali and any other uninhabited and sizable hill can similarly announce features that mark this country: “Gorillaland”, “Green Land of a Thousand Hills” and suchlike but making sure not to outshine “KIGALI”.
That way, we can let Mother Nature tell the story of our strong reforestation drive to absorb carbon and do away with current high emissions of greenhouse gases.
The overall effort may be a little contribution in mitigating climate change and making this land pleasantly habitable, all right. But posterity will thank this generation for it.
Meanwhile, those like me, let’s get off our butts and visit ‘happening Rwanda’!
The views expressed in this article are of the writer.