29 February 2012

Uganda: Simply Paradise

Friday evening was dedicated to adoring nature's tropical beauty in its true sense. This was during the launch of a gardening book, Simply Paradise Tropical Gardening Plants.

Each table in the hall at Protea Hotel was adorned with a vessel of fresh tulips, giving the ballroom a breathtaking tropical atmosphere. And it was thesame feeling one got when they flipped through pages of the nature-leaning book.

Written by Winnie Rukidi, the book was inspired by a series of articles she has published in the Saturday Vision gardening column for almost a decade now.

The gardening guide covers most plants that can grow in tropical areas of the world, and a large cross-section of its plants, trees and flowers are from familiar spots around Kampala.

In tandem with the atmosphere of the evening, all speakers at the event had a plant or flower associated with their character.

The Kampala City Council Authority executive director, Jennifer Musisi cuts a tape at the launch Simply Paradise Tropical Gardening book written by Winifred Rukidi (second right). Third right is Enoch Rukidi, Winifred's husband. Right is the Senior Presidential advisor, John Nagenda and extreme left is New Vision editor-in-chief, Barbara Kaija

The evening's MC, Roby Kakonge, did a good job letting us in on the improvised name of the plant or flower for the speakers. She introduced the chief guest, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) executive director Jennifer Musisi, as "a red rose with thorns." How interesting that sounded, especially knowing how thorny Musisi gets as she goes about her duty without fear or favour!

This was Musisi's first function as KCCA boss; reason being that it concerns the one thing on top of her list lately, making Kampala beautifully green again.

"Let this be the first of a brigade of flowers in Kampala and Uganda. This book is important to the nation and the city, as we are trying to beautify and improve is ambiance, which has degenerated over the years," Musisi said. "Our assignment is beautification. The buildings aside, the natural beauty is most important," she added.

The author, Rukidi, said the book is a course towards going green, a journey which begins in our front and backyards. "It has been a dream that has materialised after almost a decade," she said.

Vision Group editor-in-chief Barbara Kaija reviewed the 57-page gardening guide as "reminiscent of the Garden of Eden in its original state."

"She uses the power of the camera to capture breath-taking pictures, giving the reader over 400 beautifully displayed flowers and plants," said Kaija about the author, whom she also described as one who lives, breathes and sleeps plants.

An interesting highlight at the launch was the book's auction, done by Gen. Elly Tumwiine. In a way, the auction turned into a battle of the sexes, with either sex trying to out-bid the other.

The men ultimately won when Presidential advisor John Nagenda gave the highest bid of sh2.1m, taking home an autographed copy of the book, whose proceeds are to promote green plantation in Uganda, while some of its copies will be donated to gardening clubs in our schools.

In attendance were distinguished folk like Ntungamo-Kajara county MP Stephen Tashobya, Mary Mugyenyi, Pecos Kuteesa, business mogul Patrick Bitaature and wife among others. Clearly, they were all moved by the novel idea.

Want to get a copy? It is available in all the leading bookstores in town.

About the author

Born in Mbarara, Winnie grew up in Mukono. Her father the late Dr. Bishop Eustace Ruhindi and mother Canon Beatrice Ruhindi had a soft spot for gardening.

Tending the garden at home, Rukidi picked up the skill in what would later become her bread earner.

While in high school at Kyebambe Girls', Fort Portal, her passion for gardening shone even brighter. A head prefect who also doubled as compound prefect, she saw to a beautified compound full of flowers .

At university, she studied economics and public administration, which later got her a job as a banker. She did it for 10 years before quitting in 1994 to concentrate on gardening and compound designing.

She thus formed Simply Paradise, a gardening consultancy firm where she is director. Rukidi and husband Enoch Rukidi celebrated their 25th year in marriage on the day of the book launch. They have 3 children.

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