Once upon a time in Kenya in a remote, unfriendly village called Kamamusa that clung to the side of a mountain, there lived an old lady called Bibi Tumaini whose habits seemed strange to her neighbors. Since the severe cold kept most villagers crowded together near their fireplaces, they did not cultivate the art of hospitality, and rarely spoke to anyone outside their immediate families. The frosty and unproductive mountainside beckoned no one towards its slopes, even in the less cold seasons of the year. Only the children climbed the mountain secretly because their parents had forbidden them. The children always met the old lady. Most of the time Bibi Tumaini was bending over, digging a little hole in the ground, and dropping a ‘tiny something’ into it. The courageous children would ask, “Granny, what are you doing?” Her reply was always the same, “I am changing the face of the mountain.”
The children grew and most left the village for the big cities. After several years a woman called Mazingira returned to share with her husband and children the harsh environment of her youth. When she came back Mazingira did not recognize the place of her childhood. The mountainside was ablaze with an impressive assortment of colorful flowers swaying in the gentle breeze. Bushes and young trees lent their foliage as shade to the many children and adults along the foot of the mountain. Families and neighbors gathered and had parties together. They all spoke to each other, laughed and played games.
The woman who had returned stopped one of the villagers to ask: “When did all this come about? What happened to the unwelcoming and unproductive mountainside of my childhood?” The villager replied: “Do you remember the strange old lady who lived here, the one who would wander up and down the mountainside?” It was she who planted all these seeds. She went out every day intent on her sowing — believing all the while that the results would bear fruit.” Mazingira recalled the image of this old and bent figure from her childhood. At last, she understood the meaning of those words: “I am changing the face of the mountain.”