The first time Mumo heard about Mau her adrenaline pumped to levels that only allowed her to compose songs she would sing with any kid she came across in this foreign land. Mumo is one of the long serving Peace Ambassador with a robust love for trees. The agreeable and smooth tongued Mumo boisterously took advantage of any tree planting activity to fulfil the desires of her undying passion. There is no way she was going to miss out on Mau, Kenya’s famous forest.
It was Saturday the fourth day of June the day Mumo had long been waiting for. This is the day Mumo dressed in all black, a sweater tied around her waist, sun glasses on her forehead with a hat arrived in an unfamiliar place. It was later discovered that Mumo had boarded and alighted three public service vehicles finishing up with a motorcycle ride that was not that pleasant thanks to the hilly terrain and potholes on the only accessible road. She was also heard lamenting about the scorching sun which she did not expect given the reputation of forested areas.
She booked her spot on the floor among her peers where mattresses were laid and left to explore the area. That evening Mumo spend her time making acquaintances with the locals among them the village elder who also introduced himself as the lover of peace. Simon was his name. He warmly welcomed Mumo and some of her friends to his home where they learned the culture of the host community, the Ogieks.
The visitors were served honey and meat which she later on found out was the staple food of the community for ages. Community members coexisting with nature in Mau forest complex. Mumo was made aware of the segetiet (cultural spoon) that was used by the mother in-law to give honey to her daughter in-law as a symbol of acceptance into the family.
As the story telling was going on the authoritative and masterful Simon presented Mumo with moratina the local brew which she said was surprisingly sweet and tasted like fruit. However the local brew was meant for special occasions and was only taken by wazee in marking the day, therefore she was only allowed two cups.
The scorching sun was long gone by evening, replaced by a stinging cold told in desert tales. Mumo was welcomed to a harsh reality that the sweater tied on her waist could not handle without the reinforcement of Maasai shuka a friend threw on her. The scarf that was diligently tied on her head to make a modern, playful fashion statement had to be shared with the neck. It was hard to believe the sun that did not tolerate the idea of a string of sweat taking its time to travel across ones face, was overpowered by the cold that would extend into the night and get to its extreme at around 3am.
The bundling up of animals in the poles or during winter was therefore the only survival technique to go for in this situation because even the warmest of sleeping bags had no chance against the cold. Without Mumo’s realisation, the hooting of owls in the night was quickly and gladly overcome with the knocking of wood peckers and other daylight dominators.
The following day was a Sunday, fifth day of June. The cold rays of the rising sun brushed by Mumo’s skin as she walked through the thick forests in search of the unknown and to also commemorate the World Environment Day in a glamorous 10 Km Trees for Peace Walk followed by tree planting session. As she together with her peers gathered in an abyss of confusion to plan, boisterous students from universities, high schools and primary schools started trickling in.
After the walk was flagged off, Mumo started feasting on the tantalizing sceneries of valleys and landscapes that were dotted with the tranquil greenness of the shrubs.
Land as a resource, arable land for that matter, is considered a piece of diamond in a country deeply rooted in agriculture and therefore, land also becomes the cause of many conflicts in Kenya. As Peace Ambassadors, Mumo together with her peers were preaching conservation as a means of protecting forests from farming and other forms of human encroachment. Through such reforestation efforts of the Mau forest, surrounding communities would be forced to see one another as natural conservation allies.
In attendance, University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Pwani University and the host university, Egerton University, just to mention but a few. Njoro girl was not left out in representing high schools, Tiritagoi primary school, Rift valley prestige school, Lord Egerton Primary School made sure to have the generation that is most likely to feel the pinch of the destruction was present in large numbers.
Young Environmental enthusiasists in the company of Forest gurus struggling to retain composure on coming across amazingly decorated trees like the podo, cedar and the dombeya. Many of these trees were embracing moss and ferns making them rather eerie yet ever so beautiful. One of the forest gurus was Mr. Ruto, a Kenya Forest Service ranger with over ten years experience. His dark patched face and red eyes were testament of the many hours he had spent trekking the cold forest and seeking warm solace from bonfires.
Apart from Mr. Ruto’s forest tales, hoping and jumping over streams became the norm for Mumo. This vindicated Mau’s status as a water tower; streams emerged out of nowhere thanks to the rate of underground seepage that occurs in places with proper tree cover.
The higher she got the air becomes moist and cooler making her spontaneously turn around to look at girls with natural hair while touching her own. She lived in the big industrialised city of Nairobi where fresh air only existed in fantasies, -not that bad because the occupants have not started wearing face masks yet- therefore she made plans of moving to the middle of the jungle just to survive like Katy Perry in Roar and have all the unthinkable fun with the shy Turacos and colourful sunbirds.
It startled Mumo what a difference of few minutes travel made, with epiphany she remembered all the articles she had read about the Mau, she remembered it being called the largest of its kind in the whole of East Africa, she remembered it being called the backbone of the country, she remembered it being the main supplier of water into the major cities including her not so beloved Nairobi where the population keeps growing.
Apart from water, Mau also holds the economy of Kenya in the palm if it’s green hands. It is the source of the Mara River, which in turn supports the wildlife that has made Kenya a tourism powerhouse. Such priceless benefits from Mau were the ones that inspired Mumo as she planted trees. Hopefully, these trees would one day be part of an even bigger, not dwindling Mau Forest Complex.