It is sunny evening; the cool breeze is soft and gentle as it fanned upon my face. As I walked into the Tooro Botanical Gardens (TBG), I was enchanted by the abundance of colorful flowers and trees and I could easily hear the birds perched on the groves, singing their lullabies. .
I started walking slowly, so that I do not scare the birds away because my ears were enjoying their sound and I was enthusiastic to see them.
However my excitement was cut short when a bee started buzzing near my ear, I shooed it away. It was no wonder that bees were there in big numbers because were completely surrounded by flowers of different colors, shapes and sizes.
TBG that sits on 100 acres of land is conveniently located towards Mountains of the Moon Hotel, about 2km from Fort Portal town, in Kabarole district.
The second botanical garden in Uganda is a perfect site for leisure with numerous peaceful places for resting and listening to nature. Yet it is also a place where many different and innovative activities take place and deserve to be seen.
Another one is a government owned Botanical Garden Entebbe which was established in 1901 that lie on the shores of Africa’s greatest Lake Victoria.
This wonderful garden is a unique environment where a variety of flowers, medicinal plants vegetables and fruits are grown. It is a magical place to wander around, taste locally grown fruits and vegetables and get to know the rich biodiversity of the region.
The garden employs 85 workers who get their pay from selling spices, vegetables and other plants. They actually pack them for all sorts of buyers, including sellers of herbal medicine.
According to Godfrey Ruyonga, who runs the garden, as its director say, the first private botanical garden in Uganda was started in 2001 with three main objectives of conversation, education and recreation.
He says Uganda is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of biodiversity with other 5,000 plant species, 1,000 bird species, 350 mammal species and countless insect and reptile species.
These are extraordinary figures are however threatened by the unfortunate common harmful trends of overexploitation of resources, abandonment of traditional knowledge and know-how, pressure on natural habitat for agro systems.
Ruyonga says that it is utmost important to address these issues and put a brake to reduce this dangerous loss speed and with time, reverse this trend to the gain of biodiversity.
“The main purpose is to preserve the indigenous species of plants in the Albertine Rift Valley Region of Africa by creating a conservation site at the TBG and using it as a facility to inform the public about the importance of protecting the natural environment,” Ruyonga quickly mentioned.
TBG is more than just a conservation gardens, it is working hand in hand with the community. They teach school children about the beauty of nature and their natural environment, and the importance of preserving it.
Angela Mboneka, a tour guild says that farmers frequent the garden to learn how to grow crops organically, and how to use their land in a sustainable way.
“The community purchase fruits and vegetables seeds to produce greater variety,” Mbeneka says.
Throughout the gardens many paths lead towards magnificent viewpoints. Several itineraries are set up such as easy short walk to more adventurous trails.
You can smell and taste the different herbs, spices and see many unique birds. I loved the grownup smell flowers.
A guided visit to the gardens costs sh 5000, and for your convenience several walks are set up, from easy paths for a pleasant stroll to more adventurous trails including tree-houses.
This will also give you a chance to see a variety of living plant collections from the Albertine Rift region of Uganda.
You also can learn about a wide variety of plants by touring around the demonstration gardens of flowers, medicinal plants, trees and shrubs, herbs and spices. Visitors can join an educational trail to discover more about local fauna and flora
In the nurseries are vast assortments of ornamentals, garden and indigenous forest trees for sale. Notably are flowers and organic vegetables, like leeks, beet roots, fennel and lettuce. Other common species include artemisia an anti-malaria booster, centella a memory booster and garlic tincture to regulate blood pressure.
“These are vegetables you won't find anywhere else. We also sell natural mosquito repellent, based on citronella,” Ruyonga says.
Ruyonga who has visited over 160 botanical gardens in the world says that they want to domestic gloss berries (entutu) because there are nutritious. The gardens was a brain child of Prof. Edward Rugumayo initiated. He says he gets no income from the garden but he is very passionate about it.
Training traditional healers
Ruyonga says that traditional healers also visit the gardens regularly to get more knowledge of unique medicinal plants which provide preventive and healing properties for various illnesses.
He says that they also train them on good methods for harvesting the medicine and storage.
“We train them to converse the medicinal plants and harvest in correct manner so that they can use it for a long time. We do research, find new species and study them for future use,” he says.
It was a joyous day for the butterflies and bees hiving above the blooming petals of the flowers they were all colorful in comparison to me. I came back from the sweet memories I had from the start. To people who love nature, it is a good sight.