Trees cannot talk. They cannot run away from danger nor migrate to where there is everlasting peace. But if they were to talk and complain about harassment by man, a tree known as Omuboro in Runyankole but usually referred to, as the Mburo tree would be the first to break the silence.
The Mburo tree, (cassine Aethiopica) has suffered enough at the hands of savage man. Commonly found within and outside Lake Mburo National Park in western Uganda, the golden Omuboro is endangered and faces extinction.
Whenever you sight it, especially outside Lake Mburo National Park, it has either dried or is in the process of dying. One cannot fail to notice that most of the trees have their barks peeled off. The bark of the Omuboro tree is believed to be a super aphrodisiac.
Apart from curing impotence in men, the tree is also believed to do wonders for frigid women.
As an aphrodisiac, Omuboro beats the Whitman’s viagra and has no side-effects people claim. When it is consistently taken, impotence and frigidity in men and women becomes history. The bark is peeled off and boiled in water before it is ready for drinking.
“That tree is fire-works,” everybody seems to say of it. But when you ask if anyone whether they have used, the answer is always the same.
“My friend used it.” It is difficult to find that friend who used it. Looking at the bark less dying trees it is evident that men, if not the majority of them from western Uganda have many problems. it seems most people in the area have used the tree but do not want to admit it.
In Runyankore, the word Omuboro is vulgar. It comes from the word emboro, which means manhood. The name omuboro by coincidence sounds like the name of the park-Mburo. The name of the park has a different origin. There is a fairy tale about how the park came to be known as Mburo. “Long ago”, the tale goes, “two brothers Kigarama and Mburo lived in a big valley.” One night Kigarama had a dream that there was going to be danger. He told his younger brother Mburo to move away but Mburo ignored the warning. Kigarama moved to the hills and the valley flooded, drowning Mburo who had remained behind. The flooded valley is now called Mburo and the 260square kilometer park derives its name from the lake.
The famous tree is called the Mburo tree because it is found in the area. It has become a big tourist attraction. For entry int the Lake Mburo National Park, UWA charges foreign residents US$40; East Africans US 35 while Ugandans part with sh30000 as entrance fee per day/night.
The park used to have elephants and lions but they were wiped out by poachers in the 1980s though the park still has a big diversity of wildlife. But the Mburo tree (which is also threatened), has compensated for the loss of the big game (elephants and lions). The tree is a big tourist attraction. Visitors always want to see it and if possible, take a dose of it to prove the stories about it.
The park, which does not keep records of visitors who come to see it, does not allow one to even pluck off a leaf. Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) main objective is to conserve but the Mburo tree needs extra surveillance.
Though the trees within the park are relatively safe, it is not surprising to find some of them have been ‘hurt.’
The park’s warden for tourisms, Jane Apio, has a story to tell about the tree. Some body took an over dose of it. It was not her husband who drunk it but a stubborn tourist.
“He got the bark of the tree from outside the park, boiled it and drunk it.” Apio starts her narration. “Ten minutes later, the tourist who had booked in for two days became restless and asked for the nearest trading centre where he could spend the night. Since we only have animals, we advised him to either go to Mbarara or Lyantonde.” Apio says but refuses to disclose the tourist’s name. The tourist came back the following day and apologized, Apio says.
The park’s warden for community conservation, David Abeho, believes the Mburo tree abnormally gives men an extra sexual charge. But like the rest, he says he has never used it but knows of some one who took it and run all over the surrounding village looking for anything wearing a skirt or dress. Still it was difficult to get the identity of that someone.
Abaho says people first undress and drop coins on the ground before cutting the tree. They believe the ritual makes the medicine becomes more effective. When Mburo was gazetted as a national park, the locals lost access to the medicinal plants like Omuboro, which they used to get from the area. To reduce the conflict between the park and the communities, the locals were allowed to collect the plants from the park and propagate them on their land.
Joyce Katamusiha, 70, is one of the herbalists living near the park who benefited from that arrangement. She is famous for using the tree to treat her patients.
Katamusiha explains that she has used it to successfully treat frigid women. “In addition to that, small doses can also be given to children suffering from ekibaare, (a chest illness in children),”she says. Katamusiha does not believe in those who undress and dance around the tree before cutting the bark. “It is superstition,” she says.
I have treated important men and women with this,” she says handing over a sample to me without disclosing the names of those she has treated. Katamusiha’s full dose is five litres. One takes a half a litre daily.
I took her sample and later gave it to my best friend (who is married, name withheld) in Kampala without telling him what it was. The following day, my friend came and asked for more. It’s then that I told him what it was. When I drink my share at the right time, it will be another story.