They were supposed to plant 3,000 trees but by the end of the morning 3,600 trees had been planted.
When we arrive at 8.30am to the hills of Giticyinyoni, about 5 kilometres outside Kigali, streams of people are busy on the hillsides digging and planting seedlings.
It is a diverse crowd. Small holder farmers, the women in colourful but modest dresses, policemen in blue, military in green, ministers and other officials in polo-shirts, khaki trousers and gum boots and the organisers Rwandan Climate Change Network (RCCN), ActionAid and Rwanda’s Environmental Body (REMA) dressed in Pan African Climate Change Alliance T-shirts. All together 500-600 people; impressive mobilisation.
Giticyinyoni means Bird Tree in Kinyarwanda and once upon a time trees covered this area. It was green. It is not green any longer. It is almost bare.
The story is that migrants cut the trees down when they settled on the hills. Today, no one lives here any longer. As part of Rwanda’s countrywide reforestation initiatives all habitants of the Giticyinyoni hills have been resettled further outside the city.
“Trees bring life to the entire earth, if we have no trees we have no life. The air we breathe is important for our quality of life. We resettled people because erosions had made it impossible for them to make a living out of farming on the hillsides. By planting trees we re-establish the natural environment and make sure that the air of Kigali stays fresh and healthy and in the Northern parts of our country", the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Kamanzi Stanislas said while addressing the crowd of three planters.
Trees bring life to the entire earth, if we have no trees we have no life.
After his speech I asked him what Rwanda’s position is at COP17.
“Rwanda’s position is to back Africa’s position, but at the same time to work in collaboration with the developed countries to ensure that we reach an agreement that all of us can live with”, Kamanzi Stanislas answered.
The event was crowned by a bike cyclist race from Nyanza to Kigali, a 100km stretch in order to make the youth interested in COP17 and climate change.
"The youths belong to the future, if they do not start taking care of our natural resources then none of them will have a future," remarked James Butare, Quality Programmes Manger for ActionAid Rwanda, when the bus departed from Kigali toward Katuna and the Ugandan border.
The youth belongs to the future, if they do not start taking care of our natural resources none of them will have a future.
Again we climbed through the mountains but this time in the land of the 1,000 hills and with the Rwandan team of caravinities on board.
I opened the windows to smell the air. Indeed it is fresh and crisp in the northern parts of Rwanda.
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