One evening we had finished early enough I decided I needed some exercise. I had been trooping around with the trainees but the walks were short and there was a lot of time just standing round explaining or fixing problems or interviewing the land holders. I felt the effects of too many chicken and rice curries and felt I needed to reduce the bloat. So I told Kofi I would head along the main road and see where it took me.
The sun was just beginning to drop low enough to redden the sky; I estimated I had about 90 minutes before it got too dark to see. I dropped down from the house and within 100m was in amongst the community forest which bounded much of the village. At the bottom of the hill was the women’s bathing pool and a couple of semi naked women were washing and chatting down there, their children playing in and out of the water half covered in soap. The road rose quite steeply into the dry scrubby vegetation; I left what was called the “gallery forest”, the tall thick tropical trees, behind, and entered a low but densely treed area with thick tangles of grasses and creepers now almost completely dried out. To me it was a very pretty landscape, a sort of crowded parkland; one I heard was innately within our blood to connect with as it was the savannah landscape our first ancestors ever looked out on. The road dipped again and there was a wide valley bottom. As opposed to the community forest, this valley had been stripped of all but a few trees, and the floor carved up into different farm plots. A variety of food was being grown here; as well as rice paddies there were vegetables including onions, chilli, okra, gourds. People had devised different ways to control the water flow and water logging here; some of the crops were grown on small round soil mounds about a metre above the valley bottom, others in ridges of soil. In other places bunds had been put up to shelter the crop from the little channels of water than ran between each plot. It was so carefully controlled, meticulously managed.
And the contrast between the green of these bottom areas (bas fond in the French was a common term used for them) and the dry scrubland vegetation around was stark. No wonder you could pick it out from satellite imagery so easily.