At over 2300 metres above sea level in a rainforest, and in the rainy season, one can’t hope for too much in the way of warmth and sunshine. That said, this is a particularly cold and wet Sunday and the urge to lay in bed all day reading is strong. Billie Holiday is doing her best to soothe the situation.
She needn’t worry though. At 9 a.m. the day is already done. I’ve had a lovely morning birding with Oliver (my new birding pal) around the tea plantation before it started bucketing. I’ve seen some great new birds, heard some great stories and seen lovely skies. We saw a black-headed heron near the tea which I found odd as I always expect to see herons near water. Oliver explained how they like to catch mice and that they can sometimes be seen with their head on the ground listening for the little critters in their tunnels.
At the edge of the tea and along the roads are lots of rambling bushes that look very familiar to a Brit.
The blackberries (well that’s what they look like) are coming out and I momentarily get transported to a damp autumn walk through a Sussex wood.
We walked through the little village which ribbons along the road into the park and where I work. The rain never seems to subdue the kids here and they were furiously bouncing new found little plastic balls on the road surface. A dangerous game, given the speed the trucks race through at.
The story of this village is a little blurred. Apparently, they arrived around the time of the genocide as they were displaced, but no one seems to know where they actually came from. I guess you don’t ask. Or more likely; people do know but maybe I shouldn’t ask.
They are also due to be evicted from the forest as many others have been. To protect the park. There is some flexibility in the buffer zone around the edge of the park but no one is allowed to take anything from the park proper or indeed live inside it. Enforcing this is another matter and somewhat complex. The work of NGO’s like the one I work for is specifically to encourage alternative, approved and legal ways of gaining a decent living. No one said Conservation was easy and I have all kinds of complex feelings about this. the park itself is extremely important in so so many ways; including providing up to 70% of the water for the rest Rwanda.
People seem very poor in this village by Rwandan standards and work seems mainly in making charcoal and selling to passers-by in large rice sacks for four thousand Rwandan Francs (£4 or $6). This is half the price of charcoal in Kigali and many stop and load their pickups with it.
The alternative choice of employment is the tea factory where you will be paid 700 Rwandan Francs for a long full day of picking tea. That’s about 70 pence or around a dollar a day. Like everywhere in the world, the cost of living has gone up substantially in Rwanda and comparative to other East African countries, basic goods are expensive.
On the upside, the tea you see in these photos is tea which belongs to the local cooperative. They then sell on to the tea factories. I’m told that a good fast picker can earn up to 1,400 Rwandan Francs which is pretty OK by local standards . More on this later…
Walking back from our rather soggy birding trip, the rain subsides and the sun comes out briefly offering up a magnificent sky. It is so beautiful here and my heart lifts whenever the sun comes out like this. Or an augur buzzard soars past, or the baboons come back, or a scops owl stares at me furiously when I disturb him from a night’s hunting by lamplight. Wonderful. Sometimes my luck aint all that bad…