Ngomongo Villages is a theme – park original presentation of the ways of life of the rural peoples of Kenya.
It is a unique presentation of the ways of life of Kenya’s ten most colorful and diverse rural peoples. It is situated along the road leading to Five Star Hotels in SHANZU, MOMBASA.
Ngomongo Villages was born in 1991. At that time it was a sun-baked and barren rocky base of an exhausted limestone mine. The floor of this quarry is barely five feet above the slightly salty water table.
A local medical doctor started single-handedly to reclaim this quarry by planting four acres of eighty different indigenous trees. Public awareness of tree planting was raised by inviting the public to plant the last open acre of the quarry. A total of about fifteen thousand trees and plants have so far been planted in Ngomongo Villages.
Once the forest was ripe, rural villagers from far-flung corners of Kenya were invited to recreate their rural homesteads, each in a niche of the now fully-grown forest. The recreation was to detail including huts, farms, animals associated with some rural people like cattle for the Maasai and crocodiles for the crocodile hunting El Molo people.
The paths connecting each village were themed to represent a dominant feature of each community. For example, beehives line the path leading to honey gathering Akamba people. Cattle skulls line the paths leading to cattle lovers Maasai homestead.
Once the households were complete, the villagers moved in in January 1998 to tender the crops and animals. These villagers have since found a permanent home in the village, living as they would in their rural homes upcountry.
That completed the Garden of Eden creation of Ngomongo Villages. A visitor completing this interesting one-and-a-half-kilometer walk through the village gets the impression of having literally walked through entire rural Kenya in two hours. It is easy for the visitor to forget that this was once a desolate quarry.
The village, therefore, presents a fairly comprehensive look at the ways of life in rural Kenya in an enjoyable manner and without having to go and travel into all the respective rural areas.
However, a written and probably more detailed look at these rural Kenyan ways of life would supplement details not possible to put in place in the village homesteads. Hence this short narrative follows.
It is in itself neither complete nor exhaustive. Just enough details are selected that would make an interested reader want to go and look up more details in our national archives and other books of “culture”, few and rare as they are.
The writing is in the present tense and therefore tends to project a rather stagnant “culture”. This of course does not mean that rural Kenya has escaped Western influence. Far from it. There are various shades of western “development” in all the rural areas. This has not been represented in this booklet or Ngomongo Villages.
Any reader who feels that vital knowledge has been left out, misrepresented, or otherwise is very welcome to write to us and we will amend or add relevant comments in our next edition.
RECLAMATION OF NGOMONGO VILLAGES QUARRY SITE
From wasteland to an eco-cultural tourist paradise.
The Ngomongo quarry in 1991 was a neglected wasteland of approximately 16 acres. This vast urban eyesore resulted from coral limestone mining. It was a hazard to the neighbors as it acted as a retreat for robbers. At around this time, the Mombasa municipal council had earmarked the quarry as the municipal refuse dumping site. This is carried out would have contaminated the water table which lies only four feet below the quarry floor and by extension the Indian Ocean coastal and marine ecosystem.
The built-up surrounding urban neighborhood would have suffered air pollution from the decomposing dumped municipal refuse.
Once reclamation work had started, a local medical doctor involved individuals and the public in community tree planting. This was later followed by the incorporation of cultural tourism to ensure sustainability.
Geography and climate
The quarry is located 10 KM North of Mombasa Island but within Mombasa municipality. It’s about 600 – 700 m inland of the Indian Ocean shoreline. The quarry floor lies only four or so feet above the water table, which interconnects with the sea bed as is evident from quarry well water level fluctuations that are coincidental with the ocean east of the° south of the equator and 390 °tides. The site is 4 Greenwich meridian.
It is excavated up to a depth of 12m and is in the coastal and marine tropical climate. Rain falls every month although not reliably, much of the rain falling during the April – June period. The average annual rainfall is about 1192mm with a maximum of over 2056mm. The number of rain days varies from 85 – 130 except for a marked increase in 1997 due to the El Nino weather conditions. In July and August. Average°the mean temperature is about 28.8 humidity varies too with the lowest readings of 65% say in February and 85% in May.
The coastal region around Mombasa has two monsoon currents: the Southeast monsoon during May to the beginning of October and the northeast from November to March.
Quarry rehabilitation project
Corals usually live in colonies. Every single animal excretes a skeleton of calcium carbonate which cements with neighbor cell excretions, eventually forming a whole colonial build-up of compacted constructions that extend over wide areas. Corals don’t thrive in temperatures below 20 degrees C and depend on shallow seas for growth. Once the living corals get dry from shifting sea levels, the whole coral structure dies and is then known as coral limestone rock. It is at this point that man excavates coral limestone for construction works.
The arid and desolate Ngomongo quarry pit excavated to 12m was not conducive for plant growth.
It had no hope of being spontaneously inhabited by trees for another ten years.
The reason for quarry rehabilitation was therefore to make it into a good hospitable land, with high utility to the people around, improve on the ecosystem, reduce its various hazards, and make it into a sustainable development…
The total dissolved solid and the salinity of the groundwater were studied for planning purposes.
The casuarinas are famous for their prestigious timber which is used in the construction industry.
The Neem tree is also doing very wells, so are the Baobab tree, coconut, mango trees, and the date palms, “mvuli”, “muratina” and others. The Neem tree (“mwarobaini”) is believed to be able to cure 40 diseases hence the name “mwarobaini”. The logs are used for carving wood sculptures by “Akamba” carvers. Its bark and leaves are used for treating fevers such as due to malaria and other ailments. The leaves yield a non – synthetic insecticide. The small branches are used as disposable toothbrushes. the powdered bark of the tree is used for the protection of maize granaries against weevils.
The “Muratina” tree spongy fruit is the traditional ‘yeast” for brewing traditional “muratina” brew for the “Kikuyu” and the “Akamba” ( this can be sipped and tasted at the Akamba village of Ngomongo villages)
“Mvuli” is a sought for hardwood originally from Tanzania. It is the best oak tree equivalent for furniture in East Africa.
Plants and insects
Ferns, mushrooms, and other plants which require tree cover and a lot of humus started appearing after just a few years in the forest. At first, only a few species were found flourishing but more species are now appearing, some on branches, trunks of deadwood, and on the rock cliff face.
Leaf shedding ants are useful in cutting leaves into small pieces. The ants work day and night. Their leaf shredding habit and their fungal cultivation are beneficial to the forest. The types of ants are many, an example being the weaver ants. The termites are also in large numbers in our forest. The termites feed on soft timber trunks, thus they are usually considered pests, but they play a great role in reducing the deadwood in forests to humus.
Natural Ponds were dug by an improvised homegrown hole and shovel. The shovel was made from an empty fifty-gallon steel water storage tank whose designated shoveling edge on the tank open top was reinforced with a sharpened pick–up main leaf spring, welded onto this edge.
With two men sitting on the plow or shovel to give it weight and anchorage, the donkeys would drag the plow or shovel. This would be repeated many times until the lake was at least one meter deep below the water table. The depth of the 3 ponds is an average of one meter.
Crocodiles were introduced into one of the ponds that represent Lake Turkana in the village theme. (Lake Turkana is in the northern part of Kenya).
The other pond represents our village theme, Lake Victoria which is on the Western side of Kenya. Tilapia has been introduced into this lake. Large flocks of birds nest on and feed on these wetlands. These including kingfishers, weaver birds, Egyptian geese, etc.
The bird sanctuary
Within the quarry, a two-acre bird sanctuary has local chicken, ostriches, geese and
cranes. The daily feeding of birds at the bird sanctuary has attracted many wild birds like the Egyptian geese. These wild birds have established their breeding sites on the quarry rock outcrops and most of them have made the quarry their home. There are now over 50 species of birds in the entire quarry. The birds help in seed dispersal as they feed on wild fruits and drop their droppings on other parts of the forest.
Frequently identified species are:
Egyptian geese, Ostrich, Helmeted guinea fowls, Crested cranes, Tortoises, Blackwater tortoise, Quails, Local chicken, Peacock, Kingfisher, Weaverbirds, and Strike
The quarry now has ten diverse rural Kenya villagers each with a niche of a forest, displaying his true “culture” and “rural home replica”. They display huts, utensils, gardens, and the crops they grow in their rural areas. The gardens were made by clearing patches of the new forest (how destructive again!) Loosening the coral, then putting a 4” soil and manure cover on which various tribal unique crops are being cultivated. The land which was once a lifeless wasteland now has a diversity of life. Readers whenever you visit Kenya remember to visit Ngomongo villages. The quarry has turned out to be a paradise where one can see the whole of rural Kenya in one spot