Meanwhile, in East Africa, the man-made and natural challenges are of a different kind. The Rwenzori, commonly known as the ‘mountains of the moon’ divides Uganda and Congo – one of the most politically troubled areas in the world. Godfrey Ruyonga of the community-owned Tooro Botanical Gardens which specialises in native trees and alpines describes his seed collecting missions. “We will go on foot, it takes about 3 days. The first day you move and camp. You stopover the second day and the third day you reach your destination, most likely. If you need you will take a fourth day, it’s acceptable. So you plan that. Then you go back…”
The terrain is not easy. “Mount Rwenzori is a high mountain, a difficult climb, not everyone can do it. Some parts, where we would get some unique flora, there are lakes up there, and some difficult valleys to cross… It takes a little bit more effort, but the park is so rich.” They need to be accompanied by a security escort, and members of the Uganda Wildlife Authority team, who manage the national parks.
They have in their sights 16 rare species, 8 are trees. “There are some we haven’t seen in the past 30-40 years, so we believe they are there, but until we get there we can’t be sure 100%…Whatever collection we are making, most of them will be competing with the primates there who eat the same fruits. So we really have to be spot on so we get enough time.” says Godfrey. If the mission yields no seeds but they find one of the plants the project is focused on, they can log the GPS data, and more economically deploy one of the park rangers to revisit and continue the quest.