The following story was shared with participants during WUSC Botswana’s Celebrating Success and Engaging for the Future event earlier this year. For over 20 years, WUSC has worked alongside local and overseas partners in the country to strengthen education systems and build the capacity of local organizations to fight the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
The following is a story of commitment, sharing and friendship. It is a message that encompasses WUSC Botswana’s work with all its partners.
A long, long time ago, long before tarred roads and cityscapes, the Baobab tree came to learn about her unique body and her capacity to nourish all of nature’s creatures. As Baobab admired her beautiful surroundings, she realized that none of the trees around her shared her characteristics. She had even heard the small trees jokingly call her the “upside down tree”. However, many of the animals who lingered under her branches appreciated her unique capacity to provide shade from the harsh sun and they also enjoyed the yogurty-sweet fruits she grew.
Baobab wanted to share her unique capacities by building other Baobabs who could offer similar shade and fruits to animals in need. However, Baobab knew this would be a challenge, because if she harvested another Baobab nearby, they would compete for water and eventually one or both could die. Also, her seeds were coated by a rock hard shell that struggled to decompose in the arid conditions.
One day, when Elephant was enjoying Baobab’s ample shadow and fruits, Baobab realized the key to sharing her capacity and growing more baobabs was a partnership with Elephant. She realized that the key is in the harvest (thobo) of her fruits. “I can see that you really enjoy my fruits. I need a favour, Elephant,” she whispered. “I am a very strong tree with many rewards to share with all of Botswana. But in order to grow other Baobabs like me, the seeds must be carried far away from me so that we don’t compete for water. Plus, the shell around the seed is very hard and the seed cannot grow into a tree until the shell has been softened. So I’m asking you to swallow the seeds, and carry them 4-5 hours away from me and then release the seed after your stomach has softened the shell. When it is released, the seed will be nourished in your fertilizer.” Elephant trumpeted with joy at the idea of having more shadow and fruits to eat and she happily accepted her new duties.
With good planning and committed execution though this partnership, Baobab and Elephant were able to invest (peeletso) the seeds from the harvest to make more fruits and shady areas for animals to rest. They distributed the unique capacities of the ‘upside down tree’ throughout many parts of Botswana, allowing animals and humans to benefit from the services that her harvested offspring are able to provide.
Thobo le Peeletso. Harvest and Invest. Build a stronger Botswana through capacity strengthening and education.