Extinction is Underway!
As a child growing up in my grandfather’s village, one of my favorite fruits was guava. The village was surrounded by guava trees, orange trees, and banana trees. We never bought any such fruits from the market to eat. In fact, travelers and neighboring villagers stopped by and asked for some and it was always given to them free of charge. At times, some of them forced my grandfather to take something small in return, especially when they picked a lot. My grandfather was always happy to give out the fruits because his family didn’t have time for it anymore, and he preferred to offer it and get blessings from his forefather’s spirits than to allow it to spoil. He believed those blessings were the ones protecting his family and the village in general from the evil spirits, as well as bringing him and his seven wives prosperity. He made us (his grandchildren) clean or brush around the trees when they started bearing and when the fruits were about to get ripe. He always supervised the cleaning, telling us that anyone who refuses to brush will not eat some of the fruits and that he would be watching us closely. As a result, all his grandchildren wanted to brush in order to eat some of the fruits. At some point, he assigned trees to everyone for maintenance and I was given two guava trees. He told me I needed to make sure mine were maintained well because they were close to the road and therefore people would admire them as they passed by.
However, nowadays the guava trees that were assigned to me, as well as the other fruit trees are difficult to see compared to before. During one of my previous visits, I was lucky to see three guava trees. One of them was just about to start bearing fruit for the first time, while the other two were still growing. Despite that, during my last visit in December 2018, I realized that one of the two that were still growing had disappeared. I immediately became terrified and built a fence around the remaining one. I started looking all around the village hoping to find one and build a fence around it too, but there was none to be found! In the evening I met with some of the elder’s to discuss the situation. To caution them, I started talking about the medicinal value of the trees, the fruit we eat from them, and lastly the possibility of them going extinct in the village. At the end of the meetings, they agreed to maintain the remaining trees and promised to plant more. But my question now is, why have they allowed this to happen? Will they keep the promise by planting more? How well will they even take care of the remaining two? More and more questions keep coming to me about the situation whenever I think about my grandfather’s village and his rich fruit trees.
Guava is a very good traditional medicine; the leaves of guava are used to treat wounds, diarrhea, and other stomach complications. When it is used for wounds, herbalists collect the leaves and boil it, and then keep the wound in the water when it is cold. The duration depends on the type and the size of the wound. If the herbalists don’t want to use the boil method, he or she grinds the leaves raw and put water on it, let it dissolve, and then keep the wound in the water.
When used for diarrhea and other stomach complications, herbalists will collect the youngest leaves and rinse them with water and then eat or grind the leaves and put them into water for drinking. But many herbalists recommend eating them, because it is more effective, and also the natural chemical composition concentration remains relatively high when it is chewed.
In addition, the fruit of this tropical tree is very tasty! It tastes sweet and sour when it is completely ripe; sour-sweet (equal taste) when it is half ripe; and sour when it is not ripe at all. This fruit is so unique that even the fruit is effective in curing diarrhea and other stomach complications.
Finally, I am deeply frustrated and disappointed that my grandfather has passed. I wish he was still alive to save this beautiful and multi-purpose tree from going into extinction in his village; to make the village fruitful once again. Every time I pass by and see the remaining guava trees, I wish I could ask the owner to get some seeds for me to carry back home. In my country Liberia, I believe that my village is not alone with such extinction problems and the difficulty in today’s environment to propagate and grow new trees.