In February, the Rift plateau country around Fiche town is coloured with red aloe flowers and eucalypts. It was market Sunday, and after meeting Gule and Emayu for a raw meat lunch, we left the spices, tuktuks and sheep on the main street to see the Etse-Fewus Association’s ‘Healing Herbs’ garden on the escarpment behind town. It had been a year since we’d last visited.
We saw bushes of orange marigold, wild rosemary and lemongrass. A guardhouse of mud-brick and grass, a concreted dam to capture water in the rainy season. Young Kosso trees and Yeferes Zeng were growing along the new fence lines.
The Kosso will shelter the more delicate herbs from the wind and rain, and will one day be used to treat tapeworm infections. The Yeferes Zeng, Gule told us, is for headaches and ‘to protect the property’. The handgun on Gule’s belt? To keep thieves and hyenas away when he’s on night guard duty.
“If people come in the night to steal even one herb, this is a big problem for us, we have worked so hard to collect these plants,” he explained. Like most of the Etse-Fewus Association men, Gule works on his farm plot or as a share cropper most days; he sleeps in the guardhouse heremost nights.
Gule told us the next step is for Etse-Fewus is to link the project to market. The group want to be able to process and package the herbs themselves – as dried herbs, ointments and essential oils – to generate income.
To do this, he explained, they’ll buy chickens to build the quality of the soil with manure. Some of the members will bring their private beehives to the communal garden to help pollinate the herbs and increase honey production for the group. They will work together to keep growing.
Here’s a short clip from February …