These three photos describe the highland reaches of Karagwe, Tanzania, where I have been living these past two weeks.
It is banana heaven! The economy depends on growing this luscious fruit and exporting it to the lower regions of a country, the size of Texas. I understand there are many species of banana plants, but certain ones are used to raise cooking bananas, dessert bananas, plantain, and banana liquor. Incidentally, I have yet to have sample banana beer, banana wine or banana whiskey, but I may have that opportunity this evening.
I am not sure when bananas were first introduced, but newer more productive strains have been arriving for years. I know its presence has transformed the landscape. I keep on asking what this area looked like before it went "bananas" and what happened. Apparently, most of the native trees were cut down or burned up through huge wildfires. Earlier peoples mismanaged their crops and soil and then moved on to other places. Also this area and its environment was heavily impacted by large numbers of refugees fleeing neighboring Rwuanda and Burundi who, having no means of sustaining themselves, had to plunder the land and its animals. The distant hills, seen in the last two pictures, are barren and the ground suffers from terrible problems of erosion. There are also no animals roaming about and no monkeys are welcome in banana plantations. Yet, on once lonely soil there are now groves similar to the first photo and there are verdant homesteads everywhere.
Nonetheless, local people are being educated by local organizations on land management, and there is great will on a community level, to improve the environment.
Over time I may forget much of what I have learned and seen here, but I know that every sweet banana I eat at home will point me to my days in Tanzania.