11AM, River Road Nairobi. It’s your birthday. Racing towards you is a rusty handcart, popularly known as mkokoteni. You barely manage to sidestep it as it whizzes a mere inch from your scared legs. You catch a glimpse of Bob Marley’s face emblazoned on its left side.
Apart from the gentle whisper of the bamboo trees, silence enveloped the bamboo forest in Dawuro, a region in Southwest Ethiopia. These trees stood alert like a vast green army of soldiers. Their smooth green bark glistened in the soft sunrise hues that were painting the bamboo forest with shimmering colors.
Standing short and expansive with its thorny branches is the gum acacia tree, also known as gum arabic. The tree is a short distance away from the banks of Senegal River in the southern part of Mauritania. This tree is part of Mauritania’s 0.2 percent forest cover, the lowest in Africa.
Mabelé was tired. His 6,2 frame was soaked in so much sweat that the sleeveless black top he was wearing was completely wet. The huge log that he was sitting on was rugged and hard but it felt like a soft sofa beneath him. He kept yawning every few minutes both hungry and tired.
Although it was raining in the same consistent manner of a heartbeat, Henry Stanley was sweaty. This vast, huge, massive, gigantic forest had become like a wet, damp prison. His legs felt like left-over porridge that was ready to be scrapped from the bottom of the bowl and thrown away.
Twigs litter the moist footpath. They have fallen from the many, many trees that are everywhere. A few metres ahead, a river bursts into view, its gentle whistle suddenly becoming a loud rustle. Apart from the sound of her feet crushing the dry leaves beneath and the river’s roar, Vivi can’t hear any other sound.
In May 2017, I went to Karura Forest for a forest trek. Despite having lived in Nairobi for all my life, this was my first time in the forest that was thrust into prominence when Wangari Maathai fiercely defended it from the Moi Government’s attempt to annex part of it for development.
A few meters from a dusty path that leads towards Kakamega Forest in western Kenya lies a medium sized house whose rusty iron sheet roof glints softly in the late afternoon rain. A stone throw away from the craggy house stands an Elgon Teak tree, regal and replete in its natural splendor. Resting his head on the rugged bark of the tree is mzee Mumia, a seventy-seven year old man who has lived next to the forest for all his life. He is gazing expressionlessly at the African Grey Parrot that can be seen flying gently towards some nearby shrubs.