Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sub-Saharan Flora

I inherited my mother’s love of flowers. Here, I find it amazing here that there are always flowers blooming on the trees and shrubs, flowers that I have never before seen. Flowers of all shapes, sizes and scents, some so powerful and fragrant you could just lie down and drink in each breath and never stop inhaling. Avocado trees so tall that the fruit is completely inaccessible.

I have taken a little time with my camera to photograph just a few of the trees and shrubs that have caught my eye. Because there are no real seasons, except two rainy and one dry, there are even trees blooming at the same time that fruit is ripening! Amazing, eh? Or perhaps that is something that other people have realized and I am the last to know. Whatever...

Just in the front yard here at the association there are three small orange trees, one mango tree, a guava tree, two large lemon trees, a vine called ‘prunes du japon’ and an avocado that is still a baby but growing rapidly, having just been rescued – fertilized and disentangled from a crop of weeds – so it is now in full sun. It is a charming garden, especially because each of the plants gives something delicious to eat! Charming and useful, a great combo.

As I tried to describe in my blog about the gorilla trek, the cultivated fields abut the wilds of Rwanda. Anything left uncultivated reverts very quickly to jungle and weed, the result of plenty of sun and rain and very rich soil.

We put in a small garden here at the centre, growing carrots, beets, beans, spinach, celery, garlic, zucchini, cucumber and leeks. This will supplement the diet of the sewing students, giving them a bit more variety than just beans, rice, sorghum and bananas. After two weeks, everything had sprouted and now is growing rapidly. Soon, some things will need to be thinned! I imagine it would be easy to have two or three crops per year, although I don’t think that is the custom because it is too dry for several months and too costly to irrigate.

It is heartbreaking to me to see the farmers (both men and women) at work in their fields, barefoot, using very crude implements. Every blessed field and crop is cultivated and weeded by hand. They often walk long distances to reach their fields. These rural farmers work so very hard every day and remain very poor. I don’t know if there is resistance to change in these communities, preferring to use traditional tools, or if there is simply not enough money to purchase anything more efficient. Also, I don’t know if the traditional ways of planting various crops produces the highest yield it could. From my perspective, there is a lot of space between rows that is wasted, but likely to make room for humans to weed the crops.

I leave you with a few photos, which give just a hint of the beauty that is around every corner.

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