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Bralirwa takes greening values to schools

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The verdant wooden hills in Rwanda’s countryside have got a story of their own to tell.
A story of rejuvenation and regeneration. A story of a people’s commitment to a new life and new values. And a story of hope to living in a clean green environment. Such is the story upheld and enhanced by the leading Rwanda brewers Bralirwa.

And this is exactly what a teacher at Group Scolaire de Musenyi, in Gatsibo district welcomes this writer and an agronomist, Jean Pierre Mutabaruka of Compagnie Agricole with. Whenever I see you, I just look around and these trees complete the story and what you and Bralirwa have done to our schools,î says the teacher as she points around the school com- pound draped in dexterously tended jungle, speaking to Mutabaruka whose NGO was hired by Bralirwa to plant the trees in about 22 schools in Gatsibo, Kicukiro and Bugesera districts.

At Groupe Scolaire de Musenyi, the trees have now grown, with enveloping canopies under which students relax and shed off fatigue during break time. The breeze the trees exude with the soft fluttering sounds, add calm and serenity to the whole school campus. The school director, Mr. Gakumba Bishop, speaks of the Bralirwa intervention as an act of care for the environment, the students and the schools. Strong winds used to rupture our roofs and cause devastation, not only here but in many parts of Eastern Province.

Today, we are not affected by the ravages of winds, says the newly posted director to the school, which has about 1,000 jacaranda and over 2000 caliandra trees around its compound. The caliandra trees, other than the nitrogen-fixing function are a good feed for the cows and other domestic animals, explains Mutabaruka. He explains the trees are at different levels of growth and are in the process of planting others early 2013.

Bralirwa has strong reasons to believe that initiating the acts of conservation in schools has long-term effects on the total greening of the country. This is in line with the national tree planting programme and contributing to the restoration of the forest cover to 40% by 2020. We started with schools because that is where the innermost values of conservation can be inculcated in society starting with the teenagers who can then pass them over to the entire society,î says Jonathan Hall the Bralirwa Managing Director.

The partnership between Compagnie Agricole and Bralirwa was established in 2007 to help plant a total of 160,000 trees at school campuses causarina equcetifolia, cedrela serrata, grevelia robusta, senna spectabilis and jacaranda mimosa. So far a total of 159,000 trees have been planted the at the campuses of the 22 schools

According to the Bralirwa Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager, Freddy Nyangezi Biniga, plans are underway to plant about 70,000 trees around the campus of Umutara Polytechnic University. We have heavily planted in the Eastern Province, because most of the other tree planting projects are concentrated around the Kigali city and its peripheral districts yet the effects of a treeless environment are more imprinted in the countryside, explains Nyangezi. At Nyagashanga Primary, in Karangazi Sector, the deputy headmaster James Muhikirwa says the tree planting clubs have been a great blessing to the greening of the school. ìBralirwa has supported the tree planting exercises since 2007.  The pupils get involved in preparing the ground and looking after the trees. They give the trees names and develop a special attachment to them,î explains Muhikirwa before Mutabaruka chips in; Even during the times of drought, they are advised to wash their hands on the trees. For those with trees at home, they use recycle the water and use it for irrigating the trees. So the spirit of caring for the trees is getting deep-seated amongst the youngsters. The Umutara Polytechnic University Estates Manager Engineer Fred Mugisha says they have all the land ready for the planting of trees. ìWe want to set an out- standing example in this area. When we are done with our campus, then we shall get to work with the communities around Nyagatare, he asserts.

The story is no different at Nyamirama and Rwisirabo primary schools in Karangazi Sector. The participation of teachers and pupils has been an eloquent act. In Nyagatare, the Ryabega Primary School headmaster Constantine Gatare says the school has a teacher responsible for tree planting, working with Bralirwa and the pupils. The patron of Mandela Tree Planting Club in Ryabega primary, Celestine Birigamba, says when they work with the pupils, they grow up loving the culture. ìWe shall witness this beyond the gates of the school, he ob- serves.

The Mandela Club, he explains, started with about 20 members but has 120 today and has planted over 8,000 trees around the school. And we still need some more he says as he conveys his gratitude to Bralirwa for the nod.

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