Passing by the highway leading from Lafto to Lebu, houses line both sides of the road. But hidden in the living quarters of Lafto area lays a hidden gem unnoticed by many, disregarded as a wasteland it was a few years back.
Located next to a cow rearing site is a lush green area dubbed “Wub and Maraki Menafesha.” The huge plot of land it sits on is covered by a diverse flora that beggars’ belief is a stones-throw away from the very concrete jungle urbanites wish to escape.
The park, created by a landscape enthusiast, Habtamu Adane, six years ago, has grown into an unrecognizable spot where children and adults go for a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air.
“I remember when we used to come by here to get some milk. We would instinctively cover our noses because the place reeked, especially during the rainy season. I also remember when he was planting little plants, and I thought he was a random person trying to plant trees. I had been away from here a while now and coming back to see all of this hidden right in the backyard we all hated to walk past is incredible,” said Maramawit Mathias after having discovered the park.
With the Green Legacy movement getting traction, individuals like Habtamu go unnoticed and underappreciated despite the immeasurable effort they put into to have a greener legacy for the country.
Habtamu, a landscape developer with a deep-rooted love for gardening and plants, saw the barren land next to the cowshed filled with manure, right after he moved in the condominium compound in the neighborhood. As soon as he laid eyes on the land, he knew the possibilities that lay before him.
Habtamu asked the woreda for permission to develop the land, putting his own earnings and labor in his passion project. Having faced skeptics and naysayers, Habtamu persisted and invested his time, effort and money in a vision of a floral oasis where people could come and learn the art of caring.
The once wasteland turned garden has become a popular tea spot for the community residing in the area, serving brews using different fresh herbs from the garden. Habtamu checks in on visitors, offering them fruits fresh from the garden, gleefully explaining the multiple benefits of each fruit, herb or plant they see.
“The tea was surprising. I had never heard of a watermelon tea, or other tea varieties he has. I came here with friends after seeing a post about the place on social media. When I found out I live a walking distance from this place, I was amazed. My friend, Becki, always wanted to see a sunflower field and to find a beautiful one here made our day,” said Maramawit.
Habtamu says he developed the place with the environment’s wellbeing and potential in mind, having had to remove the eye grabbing entryway, lined by sunflowers, due to people claiming the land belongs to them. With every project comes its own set of challenges and for Habtamu, he says he had to overcome unnecessary struggles to get the place to where it is now.
Welcoming with a humble smile and giving them his undivided attention, Habtamu shows visitors around, while explaining the plant’s nature and how to care for it. He even goes as far as giving people plants for free, if they are willing to take care of them.
“He has been so generous to us; he gave us seeds, plants and advice, all for free. It is a passion project for him and it shows. The amount of work it must have taken to take this place from what it was to what it is today, is incredible. I stumbled upon this place and was expecting a bit of fun but what awaited us was a peaceful getaway a few meters away from a hectic highway,” added Maramawit.
Habtamu has a grand vision for the place. He aims to turn it into a fully functioning floral school where anyone and everyone could come to learn about plants, how to plant different species and care for them.
Habtamu currently plans to open a summer school for children and adults where they can learn the craft in detail, while surrounded by the sounds of nature. He says his vision will take a couple of years to come to fruition but until then, he plans to share his knowledge with anyone willing to learn. Even though he is not looking for support from the government, the lack of obstacles would be support enough right now.