From north to south of Mozambique, there is a small tree, so simple that it seems irrelevant. But were we to remove this plant from the landscape, our world would be smaller and less our own. For it is part of the scenery of our soul, it has set roots in our most distant past. It has become history, a ramification of Mozambican time itself.
This tree is the Himbe. Its serious name, its scientific name is Garcinia livingstonei. In different parts of Mozambique, it is known by other names: Bimbi, Himbi, Muhimbi, Meto, Veto, Ntabaza, Petapelo, Mutotola. But it is always the same slight and modest being, marking an indispensable presence alongside the family fields. As if it were a frame for our humanized space. Just for ease of reading, we shall call it Himbe.
Just a simple tree some, more urban, voices will say. But to another, more careful eye, no tree is just a living thing, just a biological species. Every tree is a multiple being, a bearer of identity, and a creator not merely of new beings, but also of life itself.
In many regions, the Himbe is a sacred tree. What tales does tradition tell to protect this species? Simply because its fruits are valuable, with their incomparable sour-sweet taste? Because a highly appreciated drink is produced from them? This utilitarian reason is favoured by some scientists. But there are other reasons: the Himbe is a symbol. Of what? Of the capacity for regeneration, of skill in overcoming wounds and turning death into a simple appearance. The Himbe is one of the pioneer plants that appears after the primary forest has been cleared. After the destruction of slash and burn, the Himbe is one of the first trees to reappear. Thus this small fruit tree is a kind of flag, a victory of hope and of the will for rebirth. Garcinia has two sexes. So that the female tree may produce, there must be a male tree in the vicinity.
The Himbe knows the price of isolation. The tree is a school of relationships. An apprenticeship of a world where we know the strength of being together.
As if these reasons were not enough, the leaves and roots of the Himbe have proven medical properties.
From it an effective antibiotic can be extracted. And it is now believed that within the Himbe there is a chemical component that may inhibit the effects of HIV infection.
The Community Development Foundation (FDC) could not have chosen another symbol. The Himbe enshrines the ideas and philosophy of the organisation. The capacity to awaken forces in others, the motor for creating deep roots of tenacity, the will for rebirth, even when everything tempts us to disillusion, all this is present in the tree and in the Foundation. The ability to cure the wounds of our historical condition, the ability to generate fruits that last, the intelligence to be a school and a proposal for life, all this the Foundation shares with the little fruit tree.
The Himbe never dries up; its leaves always remain green.
The Himbe flower is generous and is offered as nectar. A small branch blesses traditional weddings. It is used to fence the yards of homes, thus ensuring the security and protection of households. Its orange fruits are the first to bud in summer. They are thus a sign of abundance in a universe marked by inclemency. A small shoot is offered to brides, expressing the longevity of the little fruit tree.
All these characteristics of the Himbe also belong to the ideals of the Community Development Foundation. Refusal to be discouraged, perseverance, profound respect for cultures and for mythical universes, betting on the long term against adversities – these are the qualities shared between a creature of the earth and the work of determined people.