Why We Need Not To Give Up!

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I took a memory of my past and compared to what it is now and to a point of view, I call it disaster would be development but in the planning the environmental factor was ignored.

I remember while in a matatu, (PSV) with my younger sister heading for a visit to our elder sisters home, I was sharing my disappointment on how people have reclaimed swamps, wetlands and cut down trees for settlement, roads and industrialisation, this was sparked by the view from the matatu, building after building with their shooting heights. To note, a building could be housing several units meaning that each can house thirty and above people depending on the number of floors each has. Wait! I posed. My sister starred at me with wonder, I shared my thoughts out to her.

Must people make money by building on wetlands? Or is housing and real estate an assurance to permanent wealth? Some years back in my childhood, swamps and wetlands we're for agriculture, home for rice and sugarcane farming and this was done commercially, for example in Ahero and Mwea in Kenya and Tororo, Palisa and Mbale in Uganda. These places are losing their pride.

I remember, painfully, that a few years back, a good stretch on both sides of the road to the town in Mbale - Uganda - was a wetland (a section of it was later afforested), the rest was a rice farm and mud fish was a harvest for a farmer on several occasions. One could see a cloud of bats on the trees and a colony of them on flight, this was splendid. The natural sounds from birds, reptiles, animals and insects, and the mountainous view of Mt. Elgon like the Wanale hills, was something to give a memory. The town was green, a welcome like no other. In the divisions within the municipal, it was refreshing to walk by mango trees and Iroko trees (Melicia excelsa) planted in the 1920s by Kakungulu Semmei which gave giant tree shades during the sunny seasons. On certain seasons caterpillars would drop down from the trees and this was a meal to some people. Mangoes were communal. It was free to eat since the trees were on the road sides. Estates were jolly and parents were assured of where to get their children. In some occasions, people carried some mangoes to their homes. The mangoes were juicy and sweet.

In the town, there was a purple fruity look from the big trees commonly known as 'Jambula' - also known as the Java Plum. We find the sweet memories of this tree by how it has been of use in reference to love stories and poems by Monica Arec De Nyeko, an award winner of the cane prize for African writing for the book 'Jambula Tree', a love story published by Ayebia Clarke publishers in 2006. Similar to the book, the scent from the Jambula fruits will flare your nostrils. It has a calling scent just like the jacaranda tree. All this is almost no more. Maluku was beautiful and so were Nkokonjeru, Senior quarters, Indian Quarters, Namakwekwe, Half London and the road sides to the villages of Mbale. This is no more!  I told my sister.

In a low tone my sister responded, “People gave up”.

On arrival as we were alighting at the bus stop, we were hit by a storm of dust while the shifty matatu attendants were seated two meters away from the stage under an iron sheet roofed shade. Where did we go wrong? I asked my sister and with a smile on her face my sister said again “People gave up”.


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