The African plain lay bare across the earth, exposing its hungry veins. It yearned for water, yearned for the rain to plunder to the dry ground. Only rain would be able to save the greens. The rain was the only answer to make the trees grow and lift to the sky, thanking the gods for being generous with their gifts.
One morning, just after the mist had lifted its vast blanket from the cold earth to welcome a new day in the wild African savannah, Jambo and his daughter, Kimba left the tribes camp and set off on a walk. Their feet made prints in the dry dirt, marking their existence. The land was quiet and in the air was an eerie scent of mystery.
“Where are we going?” asked Kimba, intrigued. She was still a bit sleepy as it was quite early in the morning. “There are a lot of things that need to be done today.”
“Kimba, you need to learn to be patient and let life take you along the path your ancestors have laid out for you,” Jambo looked at his daughter with a concerned look.
“Ancestors?” Kimba asked. She had known about her ancestors all her life and heard the elders talk about them a lot, but hearing her father talk about them now made her listen with a new curiosity.
“Yes, Kimba. Your ancestors watch over you and make sure that you lead a pure life. They make sure that you stay safe and guide you through the tough times that might come over your path.”
“Father, do they watch over you too?” Kimba asked, curious about where the conversation was going.
“Yes, they watch over me and they watch over you. They have watched over everyone before us and they will watch over everyone after us. Do you understand, Kimba?” Jambo asked.
“Yes, Father,” Kimba said, beginning to form new understanding about life and what if holds. “Where are we going?” she asked again.
“We are going to our ancestors place. I want to show you something important,” replied Jambo.
They strolled side by side, holding hands until eventually, they came to a spot where a majestic tree stood with splendorous branches from which the tall giraffes were eating and shading from the sun.
“Your great-great-grandfather planted this tree when his first son was born. It is said that he called to the ancestors to keep watch over his son from this tree. Your ancestors are still alive in there, their spirits keeping the tree alive.” Jambo explained to his daughter.
Kimba got closer to the tree hesitantly and touched its rugged bark. Although the land was dry, these trees seemed to have a life source of its own. Instantly, she was filled with a feeling of awe and respect. There was an immediate connection between her and the family legacy. On close inspection, she felt as if the tree branches were her arms and the rustling leaves were her fingers.
“It’s beautiful!” she whispered in wonder. Kimba was amazed, for such large and breathtakingly beautiful trees where uncommon in those lands.
“It is yes,” He father replied. “Kimba, I think you are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. You will soon be a grown young lady and it is very important for you to know where you come from and where your roots are. Without your roots, you are but chaff in the wind. I need you to understand that your ancestors are there to protect you and keep you out of harm’s way. Whenever you feel unsafe, remember where you come from.”
Feeling a bubbly sensation forming in the pit of her stomach, Kimba realized that her father was preparing her to move into the world, leaving her very own mark on history.
“I understand, Father. I will let our ancestors guide me like they have guided you. I will follow their lead and make you proud,” Kimba promised.
Later, they returned to the camp and she went about her usual daily chores of herding the cattle and helping her father with other duties but the image of the tree stayed fresh in her mind.
Nighttime eventually darkened the African sky and Kimba was warming herself at the camp fire. That was when she heard the elders talk.
“The rains have not arrived yet this year,” Tomko, The Wise One, spoke solemnly.
“Yes, the land is dry and there is little grass for our cattle to graze on.” another elder continued.
“How will we ever get through these tough times if we do not even have cattle to keep us from starving ourselves?” a concerned elder asked.
“There is very little we can do at the moment.” Came a reply from a corner near the fire.
“There is plenty we can do. I say we travel West in search of fresh pastures.” replied Tomko.
“Move the entire camp? That will tire us even more!”
“Yes, let’s move camp and let us pray that the gods will bring food to our cattle and rain to the earth,” Tomko assured the worrying eyes staring at him.
The conversation continued until late that night, but Kimba fell asleep for she was exhausted after a day full of exciting, yet confusing emotions and hard work.
As her sleep deepened, she had the most special and vivid dream. She dreamt that the land was covered in trees just like the one her great-great-grandfather had planted a long time ago. The branches of the trees in her dream swayed upwards in the air as if they were alive. Then, all of a sudden there was a very loud thunder that shook the earth and woke Kimba up immediately. It had started to rain heavily. Kimba’s body was soon drenched in water and she laughed out loud to herself. The air was filled with an intense scent of wet earth. The tribes’ people danced under the rain, full of joy and happiness for, at last, the rain had come.
“The rain has come, the rain has come!” Some of the other tribes members chanted, stomping their feet on the now sodden earth.
“Praise our ancestors for our prayers have been answered!” Kimba’s father said.
“I have just had the strangest dream…” Kimba started saying, but was interrupted by a crackle and more rain pouring onto the thirsty earth.
The next day, the tribe moved camp from the tree but from then on, Kimba’s thoughts were never far from her ancestors’ place. She knew there was something of great importance at that place. She had learnt a lesson that she still did not fully understand but would later be revealed and make sense to her.
Years went by and Kimba grew older. As she grew older, she became more aware of the seasons and the tribe’s movements in search of pastures to feed their flocks. One year a foreign man came to visit the tribe and what he said changed the life and future of the tribe. He came from a strange place and Kimba did not know what to think of this man coming to talk to the people of her tribe. At first, she wanted to protect her people against his words, but a strange feeling came upon her and she let him speak his mind and share his thoughts with the tribe.
With his strange accent and wise face, he stood in front of the tribe. It seemed as if he had a heaviness over his heart and Kimba could sense it. “My government is planting trees to create a corridor to fight the desert from spreading. If the desert spreads, you will soon have no pastures for your flock, nor will you have water to keep them from dying of the thirst.”
Some of the tribe’s younger members gasped when they heard this damning news. They did not yet fully understand the impact of his words. Kimba shivered at the mere thought of having no flock left to keep them from extinction. Not only did she fear for herself, she feared for what would happen to the tribespeople if they did not reach new grounds quickly.
“How can we help to solve this problem? There is no way we will survive without trees or pastures.” Kimba said. She did not want to discourage the rest of the tribe, but she needed answers.
“There is a way you can help yes. Each and every one of you can help to solve this problem. If the tribe keep the cattle from eating the young trees, eventually the trees would create green pastures around them and you all will have plenty of greens for your cattle; enough so that you wouldn’t have to move to other areas in search of fresh pastures.”
Kimba realized how wise her great-great-grandfather had been to plant a tree in honour of his child, for trees could make a big difference to future generations. After all, without trees, there is no life.