Of Butterflies, Birds, and Bees

Bernard O. Orimbo

Before his fellow villagers understood what he was up to, they called Wafula "the moneyed mad man"-"moneyed" because he had enrolled his daughters in secondary school rather than send them off to hard labor in the nearby Kakamega Forest; and "mad" because every day he could be seen running around with a butterfly net while other men logged and farmed and the women collected firewood.

Eventually it turned out that Wafula wasn't so mad after all, but it took a while for this truth to emerge. Wafula's concerned neighbors actually complained about him to the village elders, who considered the matter and recommended a cleansing ritual to heal his madness. Without cleansing, they said, his weird behavior would only continue, thus causing more failed rains, further climate change and environmental degradation, depletion of the forest cover, and disease outbreaks, among other ills.

Shocked, Wafula asked for a hearing. In what had by now become a communitymeeting in the chief's yard, Wafula said that it is encroachment on the Kakamega Forest that has resulted in over 50-percent depletion of the precious forest cover in the past 25 years. He also explained that over-exploitation of the forest resources for food, herbal medicines, firewood, and timber to construct houses was rapidly diminishing forest resources and destroying other forms of biodiversity and water catchments.