History is always reported as seen from the perspective of the winning side and does not encompass all its dimensions. Mt. Elgon, also called Mt. Masaba by the Gishu has its origins told from various perspectives. The Sabiny believe it to be derived from el gony meaning the people who live on the mountain. The Kalenjin however believe that its name was derived from gony, a woman’s breast. This is because the mountain is shaped like a woman’s breast. According to Buganda mythology, Kintu, believed to be the first man originated from this very mountain. This therefore signifies the mountains importance to the people both around it and afar. Equipped with these tiny pieces of information, we decided to explore to complete the whole puzzle.
Awakened to a warm crispy morning, we couldn’t help but wait gallantly for what the day had in store for us. To our disappointment, what we thought would be a comfortable ride turned out to be very sloppy. Ascending the steep terrain to Mt. Elgon National Park was very arduous. The road was very muddy and ‘fertile.’ The journey involved multiple skidding incidents but with hope we held on. After minutes of these incidents, we decided to trek to the entrance as it was already in view. We were welcomed by a gratifying Mr. Abiringa who then handed us to Mr. Salim Alex, our tour guide for the day.
At the Forest Exploration Centre also containing the Conservation Centre, we noticed a device, a solar cooker, used to cook food by harnessing the heat energy carried by the sun rays. The device did not use any artificial inducing properties to work as it is only powered by the sun. This however meant it could only be used during the day time. The conservation reserve has partnered with UNICEF to improve the quality of the biosphere which was slowly depleting due to the presence of the locals who previously inhabited the park. They were sensitized about the benefits of conserving nature and asked to leave. A few foreigners helped but later left the park. The locals however still live close by and still benefit from the reserve.
Trees were planted to boost and help the community for example; the Pinus Africana and the Elgon teak tree. The elgon teak is the most sought after as it provides very good timber. Pinus Africana, an interesting tree that grows off others. It is like parasitic hence kills the other to grow. It is also used to treat prostate cancer in its early stages. These trees are also used by the locals as local herbs and also as a source of food for example; mushrooms and the bamboo shoots used to make malewa. However, one setback is the impassable fertile roads. The trees are also a form of construction as most of the structures are made of mud and wattle. These structures are greatly seen amidst the locals. The presence of the loose soils on the mountain make it susceptible to land slides.
At the end of the day we were left to wonder how much people truly take the initiative to think for the future. As conservation centres try to protect the biosphere, what contribution do we offer to support their cause?