Environmentalist Akilah Jaramogi says whether or not there is rain, people have to be ready for bush and forest fires. Jaramogi is the project manager of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP). FACRP yesterday launched its annual three-day Gayap at Fondes Amandes River Road, St Ann's, to raise public awareness about protecting the environment.
"Gayap" means a helping hand given by friends and neighbours for a common purpose. Scores of students from primary to university level were given a tour of the area, which takes up 115 acres. Earlier this year, the Meteorological Office said there would be a wet start to the dry season. As at March 14, rainfall measured close to 100 mm. This year, bush fires have not been as rampant as in 2010.
Jaramogi said despite the change in weather patterns, readiness and consistent efforts to take charge were important. She said usually the gayap was held because of the number of bush fires in the dry season. This year the group decided it was still important to host activities for the three days. The last bush fire in Fondes Amandes was in 1997.
Yesterday, some brave and bold university students petted snakes; some even allowed the snakes to twine around their bodies. Pupils from several primary schools paused every now and then to look at plants and trees and learn about the environment from project members.
Jaramogi said she was pleased with the turnout of students.
"They all participated and wanted to learn more and get involved," she said. Among their activities were clearing drains, tending trees, collecting and shifting soil and raking fire trails. She said: "Young people need this space away from the city where they can have an interactive, hands-on training experience. "Not because there are no fires in the hills means we can't keep a gayap," she said.
Jaramogi said people are the custodians of the environment. This year's theme is­"Our River, Our Forest, Our People." Rapso artist Brother Resistance performed "Mother Earth" for the gayap. Kemba Jaramogi, who assists with management, said sharing information was important, and people needed to know conservation was more than planting a tree.
She said: "It is not just about forest fires. We try to make people understand that it's not just about stopping a forest fire or planting a tree; it is about planting the tree and keeping it alive." The younger Jaramogi said despite financial challenges, the project will continue. Funding usually comes from the Green Fund.