Emma & Bart in 2010
“We’d heard about Byamba’s project before: Goyo, her daughter, had won silver in the Paul Morrison Guide Awards 2007 and donated her prize money to the advancement of Gobi Oasis so, naturally, we were keen to visit when we finally booked our trip to Mongolia in May 2010.
We arrived late one evening towards the end of the holiday and were warmly welcomed by Byamba and her husband, Radnaa, into their home compound in Mandalgobi. Radnaa quickly whipped up some meat and noodle soup with fresh spring onions – grown lovingly in their garden, no less – and Byamba retrieved her albums containing photos and newspaper clippings collected over the 35 years the project has been running.
It’s clear to see that while her Soviet-influenced outfits and fur hats have disappeared over the years, her commitment to combating desertification in the Gobi hasn’t faltered. It’s a rare thing for a person to find – and commit to – a lifetime goal, and in many ways I’m envious of ‘Forest Byamba’ (as she’s known throughout the region): the act of planting a tree may be a humble one, but her daily dedication to the work has compounded over the years to create a greener, healthier environment for generations to come. An achievement we should aspire to too.
On the drive back to the village, Byamba turns to look at us in the back seat and says ‘A wise man once said: if you plant just one tree, it will be a great memory on the earth’. If that’s true, Byamba has created more than memories – she’s cultivated a legacy.”