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! KOMERA! A CULTURAL HISTORY OF ETHNICITY, AGRICULTURE AND POVERTY IN RWANDA BY AUDRA LOCICERO A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies Under the Sponsorship of Erin Dean Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
"" DEDICATION This thesis is dedicated to the people of Rwanda, p ast and present, for their resilience and strength in the face of hatred and genocide To the one million plus individuals that perished as a result of the Rwandan Genocide, may you r spirits forever rest in peace. To the survivors who are working everyday for a better life, this labor of love is for you. To the women and men I have come to know and love through my experience in Rwanda, may you always remain my insh uti byiza Komera!
""" ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many thanks are due to the faculty, friends and family that have supported me over the past four year and throughout this project. To the New College facu lty that have inspired, taught and encouraged me througho ut my New C ollege experience Erin Dean, thank you for your positivity and unwavering support as my sponsor and for making this thesis experience as smooth as I could have ever imagined. T o Carl Shaw, for supporting student work in the Caples Community Garden for so many semester s Thank you for allowing me the freedom to explore in such a context, always trustin g me. To the community of students engaged in the Caples Garden past and present, you have made my experience at New College so rich. To Nat Colletta, for his inspirational breadth of knowledge of Rwanda and his willingn ess to be a part of this projec t so late in the game. To the beautiful friends I've made while on this journey called "college", you have shaped me into the person I am today So many laughs, I love you. To my family at the 47 th street for providing me refuge, comfort, and love in an otherwise stressful time. To Nancy Lasseter for accepting me into the RSF family and teaching me to receive all into my heart, wisdom I could no t have lived without while in Rwanda To Felix, Damas, and Alice. Thank you for your help, your st ories, your hugs, your courage, and your love. I will see you soon! To Jazz, for your love over the ups and downs of these past three years. May our adventures continue to intertwine. Most im portantly, to my nuclear family the Locos, Mom, D ad, Kori and Ryan for your unconditional love. Y ou have always believed in me and allowed me to do all that I've ever dreamed. Momma Deborah, thank you for taking me on such a t rip, into the heart of darkness without hesitation. You are a shining ray of light in my life. To the spirit of New College, shine o n you crazy diamond. I love you.
"# TABLE OF CONTENTS Page DEDICATION ii A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii TABLE OF CONTENTS iv LIST OF FIGURES v i ABBREVIATIONS vi i ABSTRACT vii i INTRODUCTION ....1 Rwanda: The History of Land and Genocide .. 4 Outline of this Thesis .... ...6 About My Fieldwork 8 CHAPTER ONE: POLITICAL AND AGRICULTURAL HISTORY OF RWANDA... 11 Geography and Place.. 13 Ancient Agriculture.... 14 Pre Colonial Dynastic History: the Nyiginya Dynasty.. 16 Colonialism: the Impact of German and Belgian Control on Ethnic Relations 19 The Hutu Revolution ... 24 The Second Republic... 26 The Rwandan Civil War.. 27 Hutu Power Propaganda.. 28 The Genocide... 30 The End of the Genocide.... ... .. 32 CHAPTER TWO: ISSUES OF LAND, AGRICULTURE, AND POVERTY IN POST GENOCIDE RWANDA.. 36 Social and Politic al Environment Post Genocide .. 37 Returni ng Refugees and Land Tenure 39 The Cycle of Poverty ... 41 U nsustainable Land Use Practices...44 Off farm Employment 48 The Result: Food Insecurity and Overall Poverty. .. 49 Conclusions .. 52 CHAPTER THREE: AG RICULTURE AND POVERTY IN MURARA.. 55 Setting. 58 A History of Rwanda Sustainable Families 60 Rwanda Sustainable Families Summer 2012...... .. 63 M y Research Plan .. .65
# First Experiences in Murara....67 My Research Methods .. 70 A Portrait of Agriculture and P overty in Murara 74 The Role of Agriculture, Ethnicity and Land Tenure in Murara. .............. 81 CONCLUSION .....8 6 APPENDIX : INTERVIEW QUESTIONS .101 WORKS CITED ...102
#" LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1: Map of Rwanda 13 Figure 2: The Road to Murara ...59 Figure 3: Clay P it in Rugerero ..............60 Figure 4: Women in Front of the Komera Cooperative 62 Figure 5: The Women of Umugisha... .......... 64 Figure 6: A Komera Seamstress at Work... .......... 67 Figure 7: An RSF loan recipient and her Daughter .. 69 Figure 8: Helping with the Carrot Harve st ... 72 Figure 9: Sweet Potatoes Growing on a Hillside .. 74 Figure 10: Beans laid out to dry in front of a home in Murara 75 Figure 11: A n RSF Loan Recipient and the Pigs she Purchased .. 76 Figure 12: Mature Reeds Stacked f or Use 78 Figure 13: The Women of Komera with the RSF USA a nd RSF Rwanda Volunteers.. 100
#"" ABBREVIATIONS CAHRE Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education RSF Rwanda Sustainable Families MRND National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development RPF Rwandan Patriotic Front FAR Rwandan Armed Forces RTLM Radio Tlvision Libre des Mille Collines UNAMIR United Nations Assistance Mission For Rwanda CDR Coalition for the Defense of the Republic MFI Microfinance Institution
#""" KOMERA! A CULTURAL HISTORY OF ETHNICITY, AGRICULTURE AND POVERTY IN RWANDA Audra Locicero New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT This thesis is an exploration of Rwandan culture and society, past and present. Through this work I aim to emphasize the role both land and agriculture have played in shaping the history of Rwanda and its people over time and through many distinct phases I do so within the context of Rwandan pol itical and agricultural history, choosing to focus on agriculture and pastoralism, as well as colonialism and their impact on race relations and ultimately the Genocide of 1994. I use the history of ethnicity and agriculture as a tool for examining issues of post genocide Rwandan society, specifically the cycle of poverty as it exists in rural Rwanda today Central to my evaluation is the ethnographic fieldwork I conducted in the agrarian countryside of Rwanda in June of 2012 in connection with the Gainesvi lle, Florida and Gisenyi, Rwanda based microfinance nonprofit Rwanda Sustainable Families. Through the illustration of my time spent with the families of RSF I aim to create a profile of agriculture and poverty in the Mu rara village and shed light on the innovative strategies of poverty reduction being employed on a small scale both from abroad and from within. Pervasive throughout the thesis is the important connection between Rwandese people and the land, and the significance this connection hold s not only for analyzing the past, but looking to the future. Dr. Erin Dean Division of Social Sciences
! Introduction In the f all of 2008, I applied to attend school at New College of Florida. I was a senior in high school, and New College was the only college I applied to. I remember my entrance essay clearly: we were instructed to propose a policy that we believed deeply in. At this time in my life, age 18, the way in which I thought I could impact positive change on the rest of the world was becoming clear to me. I believed that if people around the world could grow their own food sustainably, huma nity could end world hunger, slow land degradation and the destruction of undeveloped land, and halt the cycle of poverty that was keeping so much of the human population in a daily struggle to survive. In my essay, I wrote about the cycle of poverty in th e develop ing world, specifically Africa. I explored the idea of sustainable agriculture education, and in the end argued that humanity could put an end could to the perpetual cycle of hunger an d poverty if appropriate solutions to problems of land degradat ion and overpopulation were implemented globally. With my limited knowledge of the environment and the issues surrounding it, I knew that education regarding land use was crucial; food aid is simply not enough, and neither is the dispersal of seeds. My e ssay was highly idealistic, as was I: the solution to world hunger, poverty, and enviro nmental degradation seemed simple I find this recollection of my beginnings at New College ironic, but telling. After three years of study I've embarked upon my larg est, and most ambitious academic project to date, this thesis. The opportunity fell into my lap, so to speak. In the summer of 2011, my mother traveled to Rwanda with a U niversity of Florida affiliated group CAHRE (Center for the Arts in Healthcare Researc h and Education) an arts in medicine program that worked the previous summer to bring healthcare to a highly impoverished
! # community in the agrarian countryside. Over the course of the next year, she became involved with the nonprofit Rwanda Sustainable Families (RSF) a start up microfinance organization in its infancy. The beginnings of RSF were organic, to say the least. The first CAHRE s ponsored trip to Rwanda included a group of students and health professionals in 2010. Among them were Nancy Lassete r, a psychologist for the Arts in Medicine program at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, and two University of Florida students, Jessica McElroy and Sriya Bhattacharyya. After experiencing weeks with the people of Rwanda, voyeurs to the poverty and deprivatio n, they felt compelled to act, and Rwanda Sustainable Families was born. It began with one $100 donation to one woman who was caring for her young nephew whose parents had recently died of AIDS. The loan was enough to help the woman start her own small bus iness and put the child through primary school for one year. Since its humble beginnings in 2010, RSF has progressed a great deal as an organization: after two year years of hard work both in Rwanda and in the U nited S tates RSF has raised enough money t o support 36 impoverished families through a microloan program, overseen the success of two artist's cooperatives, and hired four full time RSF Rwanda staff My entry into the organization came in late 2011, while my mother was beginning to plan her return trip to Rwanda. I had never pictured it possible to go on the trip until it struck me in one clear revelation: this trip is your dream, and it can also be your thesis. My mind was set; I would be going to Rwanda in the summer of 2012. The path to this pro ject, however, was not straightforward, and it is important to explain my personal academic history that led me to such a realization I entered New College in the f all of 2009 as a prospective Environmental Studies student. My first
! $ semester of E nvironmen tal S tudies classes was lackluster to say the least; I felt discouraged and overwhelmed by the enormity of environmental issues. While my interest in pursuing a degree in E nvironment al Studies was failing, I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I was revived. The book not only reaffirmed all my previous beliefs about our domestic food system and the importance of awareness in consumption, but it put me back on track and reignited my fire. It also helped me realize the inextricable connection of pe ople to food, and to the land. This has remained one of the most salient themes throughout my college experience. That same semester, I enrolled in the Organic Gardening Tutorial, a student led c ourse that oversees the cultivat ion of the Caples Commnity Garden each semester. Through my experience in the garden, I fell in love with the act of growing food, and decided I wanted to pursue organic and sustainable agriculture both in my studies and in my personal life. I began volunteering at local farms and g ardens in an effort to gain as much practical knowledge about food cultivation as possible. It paid off, and the s pring of my se cond year I became the Teaching Assistant for the Organic Gardening Tutorial ; my roles as the TA were to plan the garden and ove rsee the class. The following summer I traveled to Costa Rica to work on an organic biodynamic farm in the heart of the rural countryside Here I volunteered and lived for one month, studying the ways of the land, the cycles of the earth, and the connectio n s of each to human life. The experience was life changing, and I returned to school in the fall with the idea of focusing my thesis on the connection between food cultivation, land rights, and poverty in Central America. In the latter half of my college career, my studies have evolved from simply stud ying issues of the environment to studying the interplay of the natural world and
! % people. The progression has been fluid; if humans are to be considered part of the natural world, the needs of humanity cann ot be left out or considered a separate issue. Because humanity is dependent upon the Earth and its systems for its survival, the natural environment influences culture. After three plus years of environmental studies training, I have come to learn, if any thing, that issues of the environment and issues of humanity are one in the same; there is never one correct solution, and there is never an easy fix. And so, f our years after writing my entrance essay, and with a breadth of study in between, I find myself reflecting on many of the same ideas in this thesis: the importance of the connection of people to the land; the intertwined fates of the environment and hu manity; the role agriculture plays in the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty. Throughout this the sis, I will weave these overarching themes, as they have guided all of my research. I search for the intersection s of the ideas, the place where they meet. Rwanda: The History of Land and Ge nocide Finding that intersection in the case of Rwanda has been easy and highly rewarding ; in th e search, Rwanda provides, and with plenty. Ninety percent of the Rwandan population practices agriculture mainly for subsistence ( Central Intelligence Agency, 10 Feb. 2013 ). Agriculture is central to the Rwandan economy: i n 2011, the World Bank estimated that 32 percent of the nation s GDP came from crop and livestock production ( The World Bank, 10 Feb. 2013) There is also a rich history of farming and pastoralism in Rwanda. Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests that cultivation in the region began 3,000 years ago (S ch o e nbrun 1993: 1). The ancient people s of the
! & Great Lakes based their survival on the cultivation of the earth as well as the care of livestock (and to a lesser degree, hunting) ( Schoenbrun 1993: 18 ) Because of the integral role agriculture plays in Rwandan society and culture, the availability of land, as well as the quality of land, are of utmost importance to the health of the nation's people Unfortunately, both land availability and soil fertility are on the decline. In Rwanda, 81 .1 percent of the nation's territory is considered agricultural land, nearly all of which is in permanent use (The World Bank, 20 Feb. 2013 ). Known as the "Land of a Thousand Hills Rwand a' s landscape is very mountainous, and soil erosion is a n issue of national interest. While agricultur al production is depend ent up on land, in many cases it also the activity that leads most to land degradation. In the case of Rwand a, this can be attributed almost directly to the large and burgeoning population: in July of 2012, the total population was estimated at 11 6 89,696 people, with a population growth rate of 2.751 percent per year (Central Intelligence Agency 20 Feb. 2013 ). In 2010, the average population density was 430.6 per square kilometer, among the highest in Africa (The World Bank, 20 Feb. 2013 ). For Rwanda's rural population (81 percent of the total population), income is generally very low and off farm jobs are often unavailable. The end result of the combined factors is food insecurity, poverty, and poor health for much of the population Some 63 percent of the Rwanda's peo p le live on less than 1.25 USD a day, a standard defined by the World Bank as "extreme poverty" (The World Bank 20 Feb. 2013 ). At the center of this multi faceted issue are land and agricultural production. Equally as pervasive to the history and culture of contemporar y Rw anda is the influence of ethnic conflict. Influenced by colonial racism and discriminatory policies Rwandan society in the mid 20 th century became segregated based on ethnicity,
! eventually to tragic e nds. In 1994, nearly one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were murdered by their Hutu neighbors in one of the most comprehensive and brutal genocides of modern times. The legacy of the genocide pe r vades all aspects of Rwandan life As a rule of thumb, the majority of the population of Rwanda over the age of 18 are genocide survivors, whether perpetrators o r victims ; the implications of this are huge Problem s such as infrastructure destruction, population displacement, land scarcity, unemployment, declining agricultural production, and mental and physical health concerns have remain ed unsolved nearly two decades after the end of the violence. Like land and agriculture the legacy of the g enocide continues to affect life in Rwanda today, and it has proved to have particular negative repercussions in terms of poverty and economic development. Outline of this Thesis Through this thesis I aim to express the important role both land and agriculture have played in shaping the culture of Rwanda and its people throughout its history and into contemporary times 1 In Chapter One, I will g ive the thesis context by f irst providing a broad overview of Rwanda's geography and place in Afr ica. I will then delve into !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Throughout this work I will continue to refer to "land and agriculture" as distinct idea s albeit deeply intertwined. I will define "land" as the greater ecological web of elements that sustain all life on Earth, and from which humans are inseparable. This includes the soil, water, plants, animals, and microorganisms that we share our home with. Land is comm only known to be "the indestructible part of the soil, readily given by nature, and today is a concept that includes arable land, vegetation, water, atmospheric and subterranean products" (Musahara 2001: 3). I will also discuss land in reference to land av ailability and tenure, as an entity to be owned by humans (in this context). I will define "agriculture" to be the intentional human manipulation of the land in efforts to cultivate food. I also want to clarify that when I refer to "agriculture", I intend for this to include both the cultivation of food crops and the of keeping of livestock (pastoralism).
! ( Rwandan history, choosing to focus on the socie ty and culture of the region pre colonial contact, during colonial rule, and post independence. Through this summary of Rwandan political history, I will weave the agricultural history of the region. The emphasis for this chapter will be the evolution of i nstitutionalized racism, from the coexistence of all groups prior to the consolidation of the kingdom under the Nyiginya Dynasty and the control of colonial Europe, to the acts of hate that began with the revolution of the late 1950s and escalated to a cli max with the 1994 genocide. I intend to stress the fact that while ethnic divisions were pushed strongly by colonialism, they also have their roots deep in the agricultural history of the nation. Such a perspective will be crucial to sorting out contemp ora ry issues, as again, many e merged as an acute or las ting result of the g enocide. With a strong historical background established, I wil l turn to issues of post genocide Rwanda society. In Chapter Two, I will begin by briefly discussing the p olitical clima te after the genocide and its evolution over the next two decades. I will then address the issue of refugee migration back into Rwanda, a direct affect of the violence of the 20 th century. The large returnee population and limited availability of land has created a plethora of problems for the people of Rwanda, the rural poor in particular. In this chapter, I will detail the ways in which the cornerstone economic and cultural activity, the practice of agriculture, is exacerbating issues such as soil erosion food scarcity, and poverty in general. In the case of Rwanda, agriculture and land degradation are deeply tied, causing many issues for the population. Exacerbating the problem is the high population growth and limited employment opportunities outside of subsistence
! ) agriculture. The current situation for most of Rwanda's rural farmers is dire. This will be discussed in detail. In Chapter Three, I will bring in my own personal experience of volunteering in the rural areas surrounding the town of Gisenyi, Rwanda with the nonprofit Rwanda Sustainable Families This chapter will be an account of my time in the Murara Village interacting with the RSF sponsored families and observing the happenings of life in the Rwandan countryside. In the end, I hope to paint an accurate portrait of life in Murara as I viewed it: the agricultural practices and techniques employed, the dependency on the land and the level of poverty. I will do so through reflection on the twelve informal interv iews I conducted. I hope to conn ect the issues facing the people of Murara (as observed throug h my time spent in the village) to the broader issues facing rural Rwandan society on the whole (as expressed by many scholars of the topic). I n the end, it is my goal that this chapter will pro vide insight into real actions being taken right now in Rwanda to reduce poverty and enhance quality of life for all on a small scale in the form of foreign development assistance and community based action About My Fieldwork I had the unique pleasure of spending four weeks, beginning in early June 2012, work ing with the nonprofit microfinance program Rwanda Sustainable Families in Gisenyi, Rwanda, and in surrounding rural villages. I played a passive role in the organization, helping out wherever I was needed. The goals of the RSF Summer 2012 trip were ambitious to say the least. Our projects included revamping the current loan program, lending a handful of new loans to families in need, working in the artisan
! cooperative started by our sponsored famili es, installing a playground at the local primary school, and creating water cisterns for a small village (under a U niversity of F lorida Projects for Peace Grant). On top of the RSF related projects, I spent time observing the daily lives of the sponsored f amilies, particularly those of the women and men involved in the Komera Cooperative (meaning "be strong" in Kinyarwanda). The RSF team took the ten mile trip from the city center in Gisenyi to the village of Murara everyday, often on the back of a gang of moto taxies, or crammed into the rear of a mutatu (minibus). Our first stop in Murara was always the Komera house, to greet our friends with open arms and smiles. The Komera Cooperative occupied a small house in the heart of the Murara village, just mete rs from the Rubavu sector government office and the Murara health clinic. A village of approximately 3,000 people, Murara lies in the volcanic highlands of northwest Rwanda. It is a highly impoverished community, and most, if not all, of the people of the area practice subsistence agriculture in order to survive. In many cases, this lifestyl e does not provide enough for survival, and hunger, malnutrition, and a lack of access to basic resources and healthcare have created a multitude of problems for the population. My research included participant observation of village life, operations in Komera, local agricultural practices, and Rwandan culture in general. I spent much of my time as a sponge, soaking up all I could: taking photographs, asking questions, watching life go by. I asked questions of our interpreters incessantly, and they were a lways gracious in helping me to understand the ins and outs of the society. The bulk of my research however, is the 12 interviews I conducted while in the field. My intention was to talk to as many farmers as possible, and ask them questions concerning th eir
! "+ agricultural practices and the availability of food within the community, as well as their concepts of land degradation and conservation, in order to gain a first hand account of the situation in Murara. I also interviewed the head of agr iculture for t he Rubavu sector and one of our interpreters, a long time Red Cross Rwanda employee and Masters' student in development and poverty reduction. Because I worked with the women of Komera on a daily basis, when it came time to start my interviews, they were m ore than willing to participate. My time spent in Murara was priceless. This thesis offers the important perspective of an on the ground experienc e, which will all ow me to compare the more general trends o f overpopulation, land degradation, and poverty in Rwanda as expressed by scholars in the field, with a specific case study of agriculture and poverty in the Murara village The case of Murara will give the other research of this thesis a context in which to make comparisons and draw conclusions. My fie l d work illustrates how land and agric ulture (as well as pastoralism) are central to Rwandan culture and society. In the end, I hope to illuminate the stories of those who are working everyday for a better life, and to use th eir experiences as an example for further development within the country.
! "" Chapter One: Political and Agricultural History of Rwanda The East African nation of Rwanda has had a turbulent history. In the 20 th century alone Rwanda and its people have witnessed the fall of a long standing dynasty, the clutch of colonial Europe, state independence, an authoritarian regime, a civil war, and a genocide. Through such tumultuous change, o ne theme has remained constant: the racial ization of Rwanda's people into two distinct groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi. While both groups comprised the same cultural community for centuries (they speak the same language, practice the same religion, and live in the same geographic region), influence s both foreign and native have pitted the two against one another. The results have been tragic. Between the months of April and July 1994, nearly 1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were slaughtered by Hutu Power extremists in one of the most thoroughly org anized genocides of the 20 th century. Although the Rwandan g enocide has been written off by many in the international community as a simple case of primordial tribal warfare, the reality couldn't have been more different. In this chapter, I will argue tha t the ethnic tensions of the 20 th century, culminating in the genocide of 1994, have their roots deep in the history of the Banyarwanda nation. Further, while many scholars have explored the colonial roots of the genocide (Mamdani 2001; Gourevitch: 1998; Des Forges: 1999), one of the most important factors influencing the tensions of 20 th century Rwanda, and one that often goes unnoticed, is the rich agricultural history of the region. People in the Great Lakes region of Rwanda have tended to the land for nearly 3,000 years (S c hoenbrun 199 3: 1). Today, ninety percent of Rwanda's people participate in agricultural production, mainly subsistence practices (Clay 1990: 149). The cultivation of the land is therefore central to
! "# Rwandan cultural life. The relationships formed over the past three m illennia between the people of the region and the l and on which they have depended have shaped the Rwandan state both socially and politically. Distinct agricultural roles among ethnic groups have played an important part in the evolution of the nation; in a country wracked by a history of political violence, the separation of Hutu and Tutsi by occupation has led to much turmoil. The roles delineated by agriculture and pastoralism throughout the country's political history have had great influence on the ba lance of power between ethnicities. I will discuss the agricultural history of Rwanda within the context of the greater political history of the state. Throughout this chapter, I aim to make sense of colonialism's influence on ethnicity in Rwanda. I will do so by illuminating the ways in which "distinct" productive roles (agriculture and pastoralism) were manipulated by outsiders in an attempt to better control the people of Rwanda. In the end, following the examples of scholars including Mamdani, Gourevit ch, Prunier, etc., I will argue that the influence of European colonists helped to establish the ideological framework that ignited the genocide. I will do so by outlining the basics of Rwandan political history, tracing the racialization of the Hutu vs. t he Tutsi over time and throughout each phase I will elaborate on this discussion by interweaving the agricultural and pastoral history of the region. For this thesis, such a consideration is necessary; one cannot begin to understand the ethnic divisions h eld deep within Rwandan society without also understand ing the history of agriculture and the central ro le it has played for centuries.
! "$ Geography and Place Located just south of the equator in East Central Africa and bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda is a small, landlocked nation with a total land area of some 28 thousand square kilometers (Den Biggelaar 1996: 9). Rwanda oc cupies a very mountainous region; the East Africa Rift, a volcanically active continental rift zone that traces East Africa, runs along the western border of the country from north to south (Ford 1990: 44) The country ranges in altitudes from 1,000 meters in the east to 4,500 meters in the northwest, with the steepest slopes found along the divide of the Zaire and Nile watershed and the northwest volcanic highlands (Den Biggelaar 1996: 9) Central Rwanda is made up of rolling hills, while the eastern regi on near Tanzania is home t o swamps, savannas, and plains (Ford 1990: 44). Since ancient times, the volcanic highlands of northwest Rwanda have been well suited to agriculture, the broad open grasslands of the south and east to pastoralism, and the Nyungwe forest region of southwest to hunting (Newbury 2001: 259 262). Rwanda is a part of the African Great Lakes region; Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes, is situated along the Figure 1. Map of Rwanda, lonelyplanet.com.
! "% northwestern border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Newbury 2001: 259). Ancient Agriculture The origins of the contemporary state of the Republic of Rwanda trace back many millennia; archaeologists have found remnants of human society in the Great Lakes region of A frica beyond 2,500 years ago (Newbury 2001: 267). Since this time, agriculture and pastoralism have been central to life in the region. Through linguistic data, it has been demonstrated that the Eastern Highlands Bantu speaking farmers arrived in East Cent ral Africa approximately 3,000 years ago (Shoenbrun 1993: 1). These ancient peo ples practiced both agriculture and pastoralism, as well as hunting and gathering. While particular environm ents were better suited to one practice over the other there is evid ence of many cases in which individuals as well as whole communities tended to cattle, the land, and hunted simultaneously (Des Forges 2011: 3 5). Before 500 B.C.E., many distinct groups, differentiated by the languages they spoke, cultivated the land of t he area, employing an array of techniques and focusing on different crops. In the north and northeastern areas of the region, Sog farmers grew sorghum and beans, and practiced pastoralism (Des Forges 2011: 15). The Central Sudanians lived mainly in the dri er zones in the south and north of the Western Rift, and were best known for their keen ability to raise livestock for their milk (Ibid. 12). The West Nyanza Bantu also raised livestock, but supported themselves mainly through fishing, root cropping, and c ereal raising on the northern woody savannas areas of the Karagwe valley (Ibid. 15).
! "& After 500 BCE, patterns of production began to change in the Great Lakes region; By 700 B.C.E., iron working cultures were at work on the plateaus of w hat is present day Rwanda (Newbury 2001: 267). The Early Iron Age brought with it distinct systems of trapping, bow hunting, root cropping, grain farming and cattle raising. The techniques of the many groups were consolidated and perfected by the Great Lakes Bantu people, a linguistic group whose descendants are the contemporary people of Rwanda. These people settled in the forest margins and grew a variety of crops: a root crop complex that included sweet potatoes, the oil palm, a type of bean, and a type of gourd, as well a s the Bambara groundnut, and possibly the cowpea (Schoenbrun 1 993: 18). The Great Lakes Bantu people were highly effective agriculturalists; some have even called them "farmers par excellence" (Ibid. 19). This is reflected by the broad range of words for c rops and crop processing in the ancestral Great Lakes Bantu tradition. Dry land grains were a part of the traditional crop rotations very early on. It is also believed that the ancient agriculturalists began a regimen of intercropping of beans with cereals and root crops in order to exploit the legumes' ability to add nitrogen to the soil (Schoenbrun 1993: 25). Just like today, the particular microclimate of the region that the people lived in determined the particular crops they chose to grow. The ancien t Bantus also practiced their own well developed form of pastoralism. Livestock provided multiple services for these people. While the skin and the meat were both important, cattle, goats, and sheep were used primarily for their milk and the secondary prod ucts the milk could be used to make. There is linguistic evidence that the Great Lakes farmers made both sour milk and buttermilk in special calabash churns and milk pots made of wood. The blood of the cattle was used as an iron supplement, and the
! "' manure was used on nutrient poor fields to restore soil balance (Schoenbrun 1993: 19). It has therefore been argued that cattle were central to the food system of the region. This information challenges the common assumption that pastoralism was associated solely with one cultural group in the region, and that cattle were only introduced to the area after the migration of a particular group of people a topic that will be discussed later in this chapter (Newbury 2001: 268). Early agriculture and pastoralism were c rucial to the development of culture in the region; scholars suggest that the subsistence practices of these Iron Age communities laid the groundwork for future social, political, and economic identities in the region ( Shoenbrun 1993: 22). Pre Colonial Dynastic History: the Nyiginya Dynasty Prior to the mid eighteenth century and the centralization of power under one dynasty, the people of the region lived in small scal e political sectors within densely populated agricultural societies (Newbury 2001: 290 ). One such sector is associated with the ancestors of the Nyiginya clan, the lineage that over several centuries would become the dynastic line to the Kingdom of Rwanda (Ibid. 290). The beginni ng of the centralization of "Rwanda" under the Nyiginya dynast y is marked by the reign of Mwami ( Kinyarwanda for king ) Ruganzu Ndori in the late seventeenth century. Ruganzu is often portrayed as a quintessential military hero; the myth surrounding him is that he was sent out of the country as a child due to war on ly to return twelve years later on a military campaign from the east to establish the Nyiginya dynasty (Ibid, 294). After Ruganzu Ndori, the Nyiginya lineage produced a succession of many powerful kings.
! "( The next two hundred years were anything but peacef ul; the period was characterized by the assertion of the legitimacy of the kingship through the centralization of military power under the Nyiginya dynasty, the annexation of land, and the consolidation of independent communities into the Kingdom of Rwanda through warfare. The result was a highly centr alized and stratified society. As the Nyiginya dynasty began to gain power, society within the kingdom became divided along class and occupational lines, and the ownership of cattle became officially tied to w ealth and power The ruling elite, including the kings, were always considered Tutsi ; the Hutu peasants were oft en landless and without cattle (Des Forges 2001: 12). T he a ssociation of Tutsi with the Nyi ginya dynasty in the 18 th century was crucial. It enabled the subordination of all other groups within Rwandan society to the crown. The court came to recognize a highly simplified set of social identities based on occupation and status: the Tutsi minority became associated exclusively w ith pastoralism, the Hutu masses with agriculture, and the Twa (barely one percent of the population) with hunting. Furthering these distinctions was the idea that the Tutsi brought pastoralism with them when they immigrated to the area in the fifteenth ce ntury (Des Forges 2001: 6). By the nineteenth century, the positions of power at the court were increasingly associated with the possession of large herds of cattle, a further link between the pastoralist Tutsi and the aristocracy ( Des Forges 2001: Ibid. 8 ). It should be noted that at this poin t in time the designations of Hutu and Tutsi were flexible: wealthy and influential Hutu were often absorbed into the Tutsi elite, and poor Tutsi many times fell into the category of Hutu (Ibid. 13). This is very impo rtant when considered in con trast to the colonial period, during which European outsiders intentionally delineated the groups
! ") along racial lines in order to manipulate the court as well as the general population to do their biddings. 2 The treatment of Hutu under the Nyiginya dynasty worsened as time passed, particularly under Kigiri Rwabugiri, the "great warrior king of the nineteenth century," (Newbury 2001: 306). The social institution of cattle clientship, in whi ch "clients" entered into a deliberate relationship of dependence on "patrons" not based on kinship, perpetuated the prescribed distinctions. Over the course of at least one hundred years, from the mid nineteenth to mid twentieth century, there existed three types of cattle cl ientship. The first of the three, known as umuheto involved the periodic gift of cattle from client to patron in return for regular protection (Mamdani 2001: 65). Umuheto eventually led into ubuhake considered the standard of cattle clientship, which was characterized by the ceding of cattle from patron to client, for use by the client. This was particularly harmful for the relationship between cattle owning elite and the cattle less poor, as it gave the patrons the freedom to withdraw their cattle fro m their clients at any time, leaving the clients without livestock, and in poverty (Ibid. 65). The third transition was the introduction of ubureetwa, a type of clientship imposed only upon the Hutu, that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! # In considering the early origins of the Nyiginya dynasty and the Kingdom of Rwanda, it is important to recognize that the cultural community of Kinyarw anda speakers extended far beyond the boundaries of the kingdom. According to David Newbury, "the history of Rwanda cannot be reduced to the history of one dynastic family alone; the identity of the Nyiginya ruling line was forged in the course of interact ion with many dynastic units as well as commoner groups," (2001: 293). The often presumed isolation of the kingdom from the surrounding region is deceiving. The cultural community of present day Rwanda is just as grounded in the customs and rituals of t he kingdom as it is in that of the areas outside the kingdom's direct influence. In other words, the boundaries of the dynastic kingdom did not serve as boundaries of culture. A good example of this is the fact that the family of Kinyarwanda speakers forms th e second largest Bantu language group after Kiswahili, and is spoken widely in contemporary Rwanda, as well as in the surrounding nations (Ibid. 259).
! "* required manual labor for the local hill chief as p ayment f or occupation of the land (Mamdani 2001: 66). This type of clientship originated under the reign of Rwabugiri, and signaled the erosion of reciprocity and equality between the Tutsi and the Hutu. The institution of cattle clientship created an obvi ous and intentional division between those that owned cattle, and those who did not (Tutsi and Hutu, respectively). The ownership of c attle was used by the wealthy overlords as leverage to subordinate the cattle less peasants. This is a further example of agriculture and pastoralism shaping the history of ethnic relationships in Rwanda. Colonialism: the Impact of German and Belgian Control on Ethnic Relations The introduction of Europeans into the Kingdom of Rwanda began with the assignment of Rwanda to Germany as part of their holdings in German East Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884. Between the years of 1897 and 1898, both German and Belgian officers established outposts near the border town of Shangi (Des Forges 2001: 24). Germany's policy was t hat of indirect rule, choosing rather to support the power of the mwami (king) and the rest of the aristocracy then to assume power outright (Gourevitch 1998: 54). The infiltration of Europeans was not strictly limited to nation states; shortly after Germa ny and Belgium set up camp in Rwanda, the Roman Catholic missionaries of the Societe des Missionnaires d' Afrique, founded by the French Cardinal Avigerie, opened a mission in Rwanda. Known as the White Fathers for their customary white cassocks, the missi onaries quickly gained the trust of the Hutu masses, as they posed a threat to the court, the source of the Hutu's oppression (Des Forges 2001: 27 29). With the presence of the Germans, Belgians, and the White Fathers, the court was forced
! #+ to accept the fa ct that there were now foreign powers at play within Rwanda, with the influence to do what they willed, when they willed it ( Des Forges 2001: 42). The tensions between the Tutsi and the Hutu were heightened under colonial rule. The Europeans took what th ey incorrectly perceived to be a hierarchy based on race, not class or ethnicity, and ran with it. The first European to delineate Rwandans based on race was John Hanning Speke, the English explorer credited with "discovering" Lake Victoria and identifying the source of the Nile River in the 1860s (Gourevitch 1998: 50 51). In a section of his Journal of the Discovery of the Nile headed "Fauna," Speke describes in depth about what he saw to be the ugliness of the Rwandan natives: "the true curly headed, flab nosed, pouch mouthed negro" (Ibid. 51). It was his belief that the only explanation for the amount of civilization he found in the Kingdom of Rwanda was that it had been introduced by a Caucasoid tribe of Ethiopian decent. Living alongside the "negroes," Speke found what he considered to be a "superior race." This race included the Tutsi, whom he observed as those who tended cattle, ruled over the Negroids, and possessed much more refined physical features. He concluded this "semi Hamitic" people to be a race of lost Christians (Ibid. 52). Speke's word was powerful, and when further Europeans arrived in Rwanda, they brought this prejudice with them. They envisioned the racial hierarchy as fact, not to be questioned. From this point on, Rwandans (as well a s Burundians) were to be classified as either Tutsi, tall and thin with light skin, and high noses, and associated with power and pastoralism; Hutu, of stockier build, with round faces and flat noses, and linked to agriculture and servitude; or Twa, hunter s or potters who were also short of stature, and who lived on the fringes of society (Newbury 2001: 258). From such was born the
! #" migration hypothesis, the idea (largely based on myth) that the ancestors of the Tutsi emigrated with the Bachwezi of Uganda fr om "south eastern Ethiopia and south Somalia with their long horned cattle," (Mamdani 2001: 46). This idea was supported by the largely racist Hamitic hypothesis, which proposed that that any semblance of civilization on the African continent was the work of a mobile group of people known as the Hamites (Ibid. 80). The Hamitic hypothesis, and the ideology that accompanied it, was highly influential, as it established the Tutsi as a non native elite. This myth would become very important in terms of the Rwan dan Revolution of the 1960s and eventually the Rwandan g enocide. There is, of course, a great deal of debate surrounding the idea that the Hutu and Tutsi are racially distinct, particularly the idea of the Tutsi migration. For one, as discussed above, ag riculture and pastoralism were hardly ever practiced exclusively (Mamdani 2001: 51). With the linguistic evidence of ancient Bantu pastoralists in mind, the equation of the origin of Rwandan pastoralism with the arrival of the ancestors of the Tutsi must b e reconsidered. The clear division of labor was a product of the inequality set forth by the centralization of Rwandan society under the Nyiginya dynasty, and reinforced by colonialism; it should be recognized as such, rather than an age old obsession of t wo distinct peoples. A further contradiction in the Hamitic Hypothesis is the fact that the people of the Kingdom of Rwanda, and those of the surrounding areas, Hutu and Tutsi alike, spoke the same language, lived on the same hills, and practiced the same religion. In other words, they comprised the same cultural community, one that was not contained by political borders (Ibid. 52). A third inconsistency is the fact that many so called Hutu and Tutsi intermarried over the years. According to Mamdani's resea rch,
! ## anywhere from "a significant minority to a majority of contemporary Rwandans are likely to be children of Hutu and Tutsi intermarriages over the centuries," (54). Such a conclusion discredits the idea of a pure Tutsi or pure Hutu race. This is particu larly poignant when considered in light of the countless acts of brutal violence against the Tutsi minority from the 1960s onward. Either way, the idea persisted, and the Europeans in Rwanda used it to their advantage. Afte r WWI, Belgium took control of t he Kingdom of Rwanda. Unlike Germany, Belgium ruled with an iron fist and sought to control Rwanda to their greatest profit. In the 1920s, the Belgians in Rwanda began to alter the political makeup of the kingdom, using force to appoint state officials in previously self governing regions (Des Forges 1999: 32). Through administrative changes wrought by the Belgians for their own benefit, oppression by the Rwandan officials and rulers escalated; the Rwandan elite, although subject to the Belgians, took the p ower given to them and used it to elevate their own status. The Belgians overlooked the abuses of the newly instated Rwandan officials, and continued to make matters worse by declaring that the Tutsi alone could hold positions of power. All Hutu were syste matically excluded from obtaining higher education or political administrative job s within the society (Des Forges 1999: 35). In 1931, with help from the Church, the Belgians deposed the M wami Yuhi Musinga, whom they considered to be too independent, and replaced him with a new leader, Mutara Rudahigwa, chosen for his passivity (Gourevitch 1998: 56) The next step was to determine who was to be considered Tutsi, and who Hutu. Between the years of 1933 34, the Belgians conducted a comprehensive census, cem enting individuals as either Hutu (84 percent), Tutsi (15 percent), or Twa (one percent). All living Rwandese
! #$ were sorted based on their de clared group identity; all born thereafter were registered at the time of their birth (Des Forges 1999: 37). This ma rked the definitive end of class mobility, and the institutionalization of discrimination based on race. In that sense, the Belgian colonists in Rwanda solidified the racialization of the Hutu and the Tutsi. Locked into their "race," the conditions for th e Hutu peasantry declined from there. The Hutu were forced by the Belgians into laboring or producing crops for their local chiefs, a system called butake (Kinyarwanda for forced labor "). The traditional system called for one day of labor for the chief ou t of every five; the influence of the Belgians increased the required labor to two or three out of every six days (Mamdani 2001: 95). A common punishment for going against the authority of the Belgians and their Tutsi overlord chiefs was the kiboko eight strokes with the hippopotamus cane (Ibid. 94). Time spent laboring for the local chiefs in cash cropping and construction work left little time for the peasants to grow their own food for subsistence, and beginning in 1904 and lasting through the 1930s, th e people of Rwanda experien ced great famine (Ibid. 95). Under this balance of power, the Tutsi overlords held an interesting position: while they were privileged in relation to the Hutu masses, they were absolutely subordinate to the Europeans. "You whip t he Hutu or we will whip you," an elderly Tutsi recalled (Gourevitch 1998: 57). The Belgians had successfully made race a defining feature of Rwandan society, and strong animosity between Hutu and Tutsi was beginning to be felt. After WWII, Rwanda became a UN trust territory destined for decolonization (Mamdani 2001: 114). Independence was strong in the air; the Tutsi wished for freedom from the Belgians, and the Hutu from the Tutsi. Two rival documents were sent to the
! #% UN decolonization mission in 1957: th e proposition of an all Rwandan liberation program from the Mwami and his people, and the Hutu Manifesto put forth by the Hutu Emancipation Movement or Parmehutu which expressed the need for liberation of the "Hutu from both the Hamites' (Tutsi) and t he Buganzu' (whites) (Ibid. 116). The Hutu Manifesto was among the first examples of native Rwandans accepting and using the Hamitic hypothesis to their advantage. The Tutsi were identified as a non indigenous elite, and it was the vision of the Hutu lead ers to see them stripped of their power. The Hutu Manifesto, signed by Grgoire Kayibanda and eight other Hutu nationalists was to be the more influential of the two documents. The Hutu Revolution By the late 1950s, political unrest was brewing. The breaking point came on November 1, 1959, when a Hutu political activist by the name of Dominique Mbonyumutwa was beaten by a group of Tutsi activists in the province of Gitarama (Gourevitch 1998: 58 59). Immediately after, Mbonyumutwa was untruthfully pronounced dead, and the rumor spread. Events rapidly escalated from there. The next day, Hutus were burning Tutsi homes, and the "Hutu social r evolution" had officially begun ( Gourevitch 1998: 59). In 1960, still under the control of the Belgium, a coup d'tat was executed replacing Tutsi chiefs with Hutu chiefs. Guy Logiest, a Belgian colonel with a particular interest in the libe ration of "Rwandan's people" (the Hutu), was a driving force behind this take over and the revolution in general. Following the coup, Gregoire Kayibanda, the leader of Parmehutu was appointed the first President of the First Republic ( Ibid. 60). The violence against the Tutsi, civilians in particular, increased
! #& over the following y ears. It is estimated that anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 Tutsi were massacred in the raids following the 1959 Hutu Revolution, a foreshadowing of what was to come. In January 1961, the monarchy was official abolished and Rwanda was declared a republic By 1962, the nation was granted full independence from Belguim, and Kayibanda was official inaugurated as the President (Prunier 1995: 54). The government of the Republic of Rwanda claimed to represent the entire population, but in reality the Tutsi were treated as second class citizens to the Hutu majority. The Tutsi were positioned exclusively as outsiders, non natives living in the land of the native Hutu (Mamdani 2001: 134). President Kabiyarama was largely ineffective as a leader. He was, however, ab le to rally the Hutu masses to subdue raiding bands of Tutsi who had fled into exile during the attacks following the social revolution (Gourevitch 1998: 64). These guerilla fighters called themselves "cockroaches," a term that would be used as propaganda against the Tutsi during the genocide. The most intense guerilla invasion came in December of 1963, during which several hundred Tutsi rebels were able to advance within miles of the capital of Kigali. The Tutsi guerilla attacks were almost always followe d by violence against Tutsi civilians, and the retaliation following the December 1963 advance was among the worst. Between December of 1963 and January of 1964, it has been reported that nearly 14,000 Tutsi were killed in the province of Gikongoro alone, leading one U nited N ations employee in Butare to call it "a veritable genocide, (Prunier 1995: 56). Those who survived fled the coun try, and by mid 1965, it is thought that nearly 250,000 Tutsi were living in exile (Gourevitch 1998: 65). After the Hutu Re volution, the percentage of Tutsi
! #' in the population declined severely; this is attributed to the mass number of Tutsi who either fled or were murdered in the attacks (Des Forges 1999: 40). By 1966, tired of the backlash against civilians that followed each of their invasions, the "cockroach" army of Tutsi in exile disbanded (Gourevitch 1998: 66). Under the Kabyibanda regime, Tutsi oppression continued, with the government limiting their access to basic rights and services such as education and public employ ment (Ibid. 66). The Second Republic In July of 1973, a Hutu by the name of Juvnal Habyarimana seized power fr om Kayibanda in a military coup and announced himself the president of the Second Republic (Des Forges 1999: 41). Crucial to his takeover was his declaration that all violence against Tutsi was to come to an end. He made Rwanda a single party state; the National Revolutionary Movement f or Development (MRND) became the new ruling party, by which every Rwandan citizen was automatically a member (Prunier 1995: 75). The Tutsi rejoiced in his takeover; they saw him as a protector of their people. However, the reality was not always so. The Tu tsi still remained subordinate to the Hutu majority in many aspects of society. Under this false umbrella of protection, the Tutsi were living generally unmolested in comparison to the past, and therefore did not complain about their social status. With t ime however, the Second Republic revealed itself to be a totalitarian regime: in the election of 1983, Habyarimana "won" 99 percent of the vote in a one party election. Those of his closest company became very rich as the Rwandan masses, Tutsi and Hutu ali ke, remained in utter poverty. One of his most questionable decisions was the
! #( reinstatement of the "mandatory communal work" ( butake ) of the colonial era (Gourevitch 1998: 75). The president himself however, held very little power. While his image was tha t of an omnipotent leader, his doings were mostly directed by the biddings of his wife Agathe Kanzinga, who belonged to a family of prominent Hutu. Her family and their posse were known as le clan de Madame and more notably as the A kaz u, or little house ( Des Forges 1999: 44). The A kaz u was the real source of muscl e behind the Habyarimana regime and the spread of genocidal Hutu Power ideology Around 1990 things started to shift inside the Habyarimana regime. During this time, aid from the capitalist gover nments of the West accounted for nearly sixty percent of Rwanda's annual budget. With great pressure from these foreign powers, Habyarimana declared in June of 1990 that Rwanda would democratize and establish a multi party political system (Gourevitch 1998 : 82). This was met with great distaste from the A k az u who wished to remain in control of the Rwandan political sphere. The Rwandan Civil War By the late 1980s, the population of Rwandese living in exile (mainly Tutsi) had risen to nearly 600,000 people (Des Forges 1999: 48). These populations in exile were the refugees of decades of violence since the Revolution of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Hoping to take the refugee problem into their own hands, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel army co nsisting of Tutsis forced into Uganda, entered Rwanda from the north on October 1, 1990 (Gourevitch 1998: 82). These Tutsi refugees, led by Paul Kagame, wished to overturn the Habyarimana government and allow for the safe reentry
! #) of the Tutsi displaced sin ce the Revolution. This invasion signaled the beginning of what would become the Rwandan Civil War. Three days la ter, on October 4, the Rwandan government declared that it had quieted the rebel army in Kigali, although the RPF had never ventured there. Hab yarimana's government capitalized on the heightened state of stress within the country and took the opportunity to round up all enemies of the state: powerful and educated Tutsis, as well as Hutus who the regime found to be disobedient were jailed. Nearly ten thousand people were arrested in the months following the initial RPF attack (Ibid. 83). Hutu Power Propaganda The attacks staged by the R wandan P atriotic F ront in 1990 sent a shock throughout much of the country. After the fact, much of the Tutsi la y population feared being targeting in reprisal attacks, and the Hutu remembered the massacres of their people in neighboring Burundi in 1972, 1988, and 1991 (Des Forges 1999: 65). The situation however, was not as dire or unstable as the Rwandan governmen t publicly made it out to be : after the initial attacks, the RPF's size had been greatly reduced to a number less th an half that of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) the army of the Rwandan government The FAR remained very strong, and had support from hundr eds of French troops (Des Forge 1999: 65). Instead of using this knowledge to calm the frightened population, the Habyarimana regime fed off the fear of the Rwandan people, perpetuating a racist and war mongering ideology in order to solidify its power (Ib id. 65). With freedom of press, Hutu Power propagandists were able to disseminate their hatred and ignorance with relative ease, through countless media outlets. In December of
! #* 1990, "The Hutu Ten Commandments" was published by a government backed Hutu su premacy newspaper called Kanguru or "Wake It Up." Each "commandment" asserted the Hutu's right to power over the Tutsi; the eighth commandment read: "Hutus must stop having mercy on the Tutsi," (Gourevitch 1998: 87 88). The commandments were widely popula r, and among the most influential acts of Hutu Power. Kanguru and o ther anti Tutsi newspapers were sold in the capital and disseminated by urban workers who returned home to the countryside for the weekends. The influence of Hutu Power propaganda was there fore not limited to Kigali; it trickled throughout the nation, eventually reaching the majority of the country's small towns and villages The radio was arguably the most effective tool used to promote organized violence against Tutsis. The radio had a large listener base: in 1991, some 29 percent of all households in Rwanda had a radio (Des Forges 1998: 67). This number rose as genocidal sen timents grew, and in some cases the national government distributed free radios to local governments. Prior to the civil war, the radio was reserved for the sole use of the government and the president, to announce information such as prefectural meetings or the results of admissions examinations to secondary schools (Ibid. 67). By late 1993, a new station was created, Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), by Hutu extremists with the outright intention of spreading anti Tutsi propaganda to the Hutu masses. RTLM was sponsored by the Hutu supremacists of the A kaz u and was committed to the perpetuation of genocidal propaganda (Des Forges 1999: 99). Radio propaganda came in the form of songs, listener call ins, speeches, and general broadcasts, pinn ing the Tutsi as "cockroaches," and promoting the mass slaughter of all Tutsi. The radio claimed it necessary that all Hutu take up arms to defeat their Tutsi neighbor and
! $+ ultimately eliminate the race for good. The Genocide RPF attacks on the FAR contin ued into 1992, but to little avail; they were always followed by strong violence against Tutsi civilians. In March of 1992, 300 Tutsi were massacred in just three days in the Bugesera region (Gourevitch 1998: 94). As the influence of Hutu P ower grew, that of President Habyarimana diminished. Although Habyarimana remained the figurehead of the Rwand an government, in many aspects he was simply a puppet to the will of the A kazu and other Hutu extremists groups such as the Coalition for the Defense of the Repub lic (CDR), each involved in the movement to eliminate the Tutsi Strategically however it was still the aim of those in charge to appease the international community on the surface. As a result of this sentiment Habyarimana agreed to sign the Arusha Accords in August of 1993 a peace agreement with the RPF that was to bring an end to the civil war and allow for a peaceful return of Tutsi refugees to Rwanda. The accords stipulated that a new government be constructed (the Broad Based Transitional Gover nment) comprising members of all the national par ties. Due to the power sharing inherent in the accords, Habyarimana was to continue as president for the time being, but with limited powe r (Ibid. 99). It has been reported that Habyramina never intended to abide by the accords; he merely signed to appease the international community of peacekeepers. The situa tion within Rwanda in late 1993 and early 1994 was highly unstable The United Nations sent a peacekeeping force to Rwanda in October of 1993 in order t o see that the mandates of the Arusha Accords were implemented smoothly ; UNAMIR (the
! $" United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda), to the disgust of its persistent commander Canadian Lieutenant General Romo Dellaire, would end up being wholly ineffectual in its meager attempts to end the violence against the Tutsi during the genocide. On April 3, the RTLM announced to the nation t hat "on April 7 and 8 you will hear the sounds of bullets and grenades exploding," (Gourevitch 1998: 110). Such was true: on Ap ril 6, Habyairima's plane was shot down over Kigali. The president of Rwanda was assassinated on his flight home into Rwanda, along with many of his top advisors and the President of Burundi (Ibid. 110). Although heavily investigated, it is still remains u nknown to this day exactly who was responsible for the assassination of the president. The two opposing groups, Hutu Power extremists and the R wandan P atriotic F ront are the main suspects. Though controversy still remains, the event is unquestionably consi dered the catalyst of the Rwandan Genocide. The gnocidaire s were methodical in their takeover of the country; their plan was put into action within hours of the assassination. On April 7, ten Belgian UNAMIR troops were captured by Rwanda n soldiers, tortured, and murdered for their attempts to protect the Hutu Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a moderate Hutu who did not conform to Hutu Power ideology (Des Forges 1999: 190). With the prime minister also murdered, organized killin gs bega n within hours, starting with government officials and other prominent non conformers. By 2 AM in Kigali the Interahamwe (a radical Hutu militia group comprised mostly of boys and young men) were patrolling the streets and extensive roadblocks had been set up, creating a very tense and dangerous environment for Tutsi ( Des Forges 1999: 191). The violence that followed in the coming three months was unprecedented. At
! $# least 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were slaughtered in a matter of 100 days. Phillip Gou revitch breaks this down into sobering numbers: 333 murders an hour, or five and a half lives taken every minute, everyday, for three months (1998: 133). The popular involvement in the genocide was startling: every Hutu male (and sometimes female) was mobi lized to kill the Tutsi. And the attacks were not against unknown individuals; the majority of the stories to come out of Rwanda were those of entire communities of Tutsi being round ed up and murdered by their Hutu neighbors. Former priests, teachers, doct ors, and humanitarians, all killed in the name of Hutu Power. The massacres were systematic: gangs of Hutu killed all day, and by night they feasted and drank beer until they were drunk, only to wake up in the morning and do it over again (Gourevitch 1998: 18). The murders were also brutal, executed almost exclusively with machetes and the masu a club studded with nails (Ibid. 23). The victims were tortured, the women were raped, and unborn babies were cut out of the womb. The End of the Genocide The R wandan P atriotic F ront came under attack immediately after the assassination of Habyarimana in April. The Tutsi forces managed to recuperate and joined with the rest of the R wandan Patriotic Front in the north. The genocide triggered renewed efforts from t he RPF to defeat the FAR in an at t empt to both take control of the nation and end the massacres against the Tutsi. By July 4, 1994, the RPF had taken Kigali; on July 13, it seized Ruhengeri, the stronghold of Hutu Power in the north (Des Forges 1999: 692). On July 17, victory was finally declared; on the 19th, a new government was sworn in at Kigali. Consisting of a coalition between the RPF and the
! $$ remaining anti Hutu Power opposition, the new government was committed to implementing the agreements of the Arusha Accords. The genocide proper was over. The genocidaires (the head organizers of the genocide) and the Hutu masses fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), settling in massive refugee camps, sometimes of 200,000 people each (Gourevitch 1 998: 164). One of the most difficult to swallow aspects of the genocide was the lack of reaction from the international community. After WWII, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, obligating "Contracting Parties" to intervene, "prevent and punishacts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group," (Gourevitch 1998: 149). The contracting parties however, did the o pposite. When General Dellaire of UNAMIR urgently asked for 5,000 more troops to be sent, among vehicles and other supplies in April of 1994, the UNAMIR force was cut by 99 percent, leaving a mere 270 troops to protect the peoples of Rwanda (Ibid. 150). Ho w and why such crimes against humanity could have be ignored may never fully be understood. While the horrors of the Rwandan Genocide are incomprehensible, it is important to consider the violence of 1994 within the context of the state's history. The r ole of the Tutsi within Rwandan society as cattle owning patrons and Hutu as landless poor was established under the Nyiginya dynasty and further shaped by colonialism; depicted as non native pastoralists by the Hamitic Hypothesis, the Tutsi were given the status of an elite race by the Europeans. The definitive separation of H utu and Tutsi as distinct
! $% ethnicities was solidified through the identification process, forced upon the population by the Belgians in the 1930s. The concept of Tutsi as outsiders was internalized and accepted by the Hutu struggling for freedom in the late 1950s. The Hutu Revolution called for a reclaiming of the Hutu s native home from the Tutsi immigrants, an emancipation from the Belgians as well as the Tutsi chiefs. This ideology w as incorporated into the collective consciousness of the nation, and ultimately used to spread genocidal hatred. For the Hutu that murdered, the Tutsi was not a neighbor or friend, but an outsider (Mamdani 2001: 14). It was believed by many that the state of Rwanda was rightfully that of the Hutu, and it was into their hands that power must be restored. Such propaganda was necessary to mobilize 85 percent of the population into killing their kin, men, women and children, without a thought of the implication s The political history of the 20 th century supported the notion that the g enocide against the Tutsi would be the final extermination of a foreign race, that the violence of 1994 was the pinnacle of conflict between settler and n ative groups. As explored i n previous sections, there is great e vidence disputing this ideology and supporting the concept that the distinction of Hutu and Tutsi as separate races is contrived and inaccurate. For one, the ancestors of the present day state of Rwanda comprised one cu ltural community: they lived on the same hills, practiced the same religion, and spoke the same language. Another contradiction is the deep history of intermarriage among peoples of different groups in Rwanda; even if the distinctions were valid, there is no person living in Rwanda today who is either purely Tutsi or purely Hutu. Most importantly for my argument, as demonstrated by the history of agriculture in the region, is the fact that the distinct separation of the Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa based on
! $& their primary forms o f production was highly politicized This determination is gravely oversimplified, and does not account for the diversity of agriculture, pastoralism, and hunting practiced in the region in the centuries preceding the rule of Nyiginya dynast y. Not only were cattle in the area prior to the rule of Tutsi kings and the centralization of the state, but there is substantial evidence supporting the fact that farming and herding were practiced in conjunction with one another for centuries. In fact, to imagine the existence of a successful agricultural society that did not employ animals at least for their manure seems impractical. Even today, hardly any effectively diverse and sustainable farming operations are able to operate without the use of live stock. The identification of Tutsi with cattle and Hutu with land must be understood as artifacts of a time long gone. However misconstrued the designation may have been, it held great influence in the racialization of the Hutu and the Tutsi as separate, often warring, ethnic groups. All of this speaks to the importance of agriculture and pastoralism to the evolution of Rwandan culture, connecting ancient Great Lakes civilization to contemporary Rwandan society. Issues associated with land, agriculture, an d pastoralism have been central to the progression of history in Rwanda, and in this case, the ethnic and ra cial conflicts that led to the g enocide; as I will explore in the next chapter, they are also central to issu es of contemporary Rwanda. The g enocide continues to affect all aspects of life in Rwanda today. The connection between the violence of 1994 and contemporary problems will be expanded upon in the coming passages.
! $' Chapter Two: Issues of Land, Agriculture, and Poverty in Post Genocide Rwand a Picking up the pieces after the Rwandan genocide was an unimaginable task, albeit a necessary one. Four years of civil war, and nearly four months of mass murder, left much of the country's infrastructure in ruins and its people in a state of utter despair The violence brought up many obvious challenges, intensifying the problems already present within society and creating a plethora of new ones. With a limited resource base and burgeoning population prior to the genocide, the destruction of the early 1990 s heavily exacerbated issues already at the forefront. It therefore comes as no surprise that the genocide, in combination with patterns already at work, has had serious lasting effects on agricultural production and land tenure, leaving most of the popula tion in abject poverty. In addition to being one of the most pressing problems, the issue of land i s also perhaps the most complex, as land and agriculture are at the heart of the economic, political, and social makeup of Rwanda. Not only have war and gen ocide left the economy ravaged, but it is now clearer than ever that agriculture can no longer provide for the livelihood of a population which is increasing so dramatically ( Van Hoyweghen 1999: 353) As I write this, some 19 years after the genocide, t here are still countless issues facing the bulk of the Rwandese population. In this chapter I will discuss these problems, both those that resulted as acute products of the genocide, and the broader, more lasting issues embedded within Rwandan culture and society. Through this, I aim to draw a connection between the historical importance of agriculture and contemporary problems of land scarcity, environmental degradation, and food insecurity. I will do so by first
! $( exploring the direct impacts of the genocid e on land availability and tenure. I will go on to discuss the present day struggles of rural Rwanda and the "cycle of poverty" as it exists today: overpopulation, scarce land resources, overcultivation, food insecurity, and ultimately, poverty. Through th is I hope to make salient the fa ct that land and agriculture remain central to both the successes and failures of Rwanda's people, the keystone of the nation's culture. Social and Political Environment Post Genocide While this thesis can in no way begin to put to words the pain and suffering experienced by the survivors of the genocide it is important to make note of the social and political context that all Rwandese people found themselves in in late 1994 and beyond, as to better understand the economic and agricultural instability that persisted thereafter. Socially, the Rwandan genocide was very different f rom other examples of organized ethnic cleansing of recent history. It was unique in that the majority of the Hutu lay population was mobilized eith er by desire or force to kill their Tutsi neighbors. This was a clear departure from other cases of genocide of the 20 th century, which were generally carried out from above, by military personnel. The very personal nature of the Rwandan genocide made life all the more difficult after the killing ceased in July of 1994. As is to be expected, suspicion abounded, and of those that remained in the country, none were assumed innocent (Prunier 2009: 5). Upon return to Rwanda (after the initial exodus to Zaire), it was commonplace for the Hutu perpetrators to return to their native villages, leaving the Tutsi survivors to live alongside those that murdered their families. 300,000
! $) children were left without parents, and minor headed households became a norm (Prunie r 2009: 5). It is also important to briefly explore the political climate post genocide and its evolution over the next two decades. On July 19, 1994, just days after the genocide was declared over, a coalition between the RPF and the remaining anti Hutu Power opposition was sworn in in Kigali as the new body of government. Known as the Broad Based Government of National Unity, the new coalition would henceforth base its fundamental laws off of the 1991 constitution, the agreements of the 1993 Arusha Peace Accords, and the declarations of the many different political parties (Des Forges 199: 692). The MRND, the Hutu led political party in power before and during the genocide, was outlawed entirely (Reed 1995: 50). The R wandan P atriotic F ront remaine d in control of the nation and split into a political and military division (the RPF and the Rwandan Defense Forces, respectively). I n July of 1994 the RPF established Pasteur Bizimungu as the fifth President of Rwanda. A man of Hutu decent, Bizimungu was chos en for the presidency over the RPF leader Paul Kagame, in order to give the Hutu majority a feeling of representation in the post conflict climate. Kagame was chosen as Vice President (Government of the Republic of Rwanda, 14 Feb. 2013). In 2000, due to personal disagreements with the current leadership structure, Bizimungu stepped down from the presidency ; Paul Kagame assumed the role of President (Government of the Republic of Rwanda, 14 Feb. 2013). Political organizing was banned throughout the nation until late 2003, when the first post war presidential and legislative popular elections were held. In a landslide vote, Rwanda's people elected Kagame president for a seven year term. In 2010, he was re elected for a second term
! $* ( Government of the Republic of Rwanda, 14 Feb. 2013 .). Today, Rwanda operates politically as a Presidential Republic with a multi party system: the president is both the head of state and the head of government. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the pr esident ( Ibid. 14 Feb. 2013). A significant innovation of the new government is that any form of discrimination based on race or ethnicity, as well as gender and religion, is considered illegal. In fact, it is highly taboo to use the words Hutu or Tutsi wh en referring to anyone or anything other than the "Genocide Against the Tutsi." Instead, the population is encouraged to think of themselves as solely Rwandese (Ibid. 14. Feb. 2013 ). Returning Refugees and Land Tenure Although Rwanda exists today in a st ate of relative peace, the transition from genocidal chaos to stability and economic growth has not come easily for the country and its people. Many attribute the success of the nation in face of possible collapse to President Kagame and his administration The administration's approach has been a strong commitment to economic development, which overall, has been to the benefit of Rwandan society (Longman 2011: 25). However, Kagame's legitimacy as a fair and democratic leader is fiercely debated within the academic and humanitarian communities, the details of which I will not delve into in this thesis. 3 Among the first orders of business for the post genocide administration were to restart agricultural production (and in turn !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $ There is great controversy surrounding the actions of the Rwandan Defense Forces (the national army pos t genocide) since 1994, as well as President Kagame and his choices. I will not explore this is this thesis, but further information can be found in Timothy Longman's "The Undemocratic Nature of Transition in Rwanda" from the book Remaking R wand a (2011), a s well as many other important works.
! %+ the economy), and to repatriate t he hundreds of thousands of returning refugees (Reed 1995: 51). This was no easy task, as the success of both objectives was dependent upon a number of uncontrollable factors. Some 10 years after the genocide both issues still remaine d a pressing matter ( Crook 2006: 1500). Despite relative stability in the government post genocide, the subject of refugee migration and land availability was a serious issue; disputes over land between returning refugees came to the forefront just after the end of the genoci de. As briefly mentioned in Chapter One of this thesis, the RPF victory over the FAR signaled a mass exodus of Hutu (genocidaires, perpetrators, Hutu Power militia and no n affiliated Hutu peasants ) to the neighboring nations, mostly Zaire in the northwest. The numbers that left were huge: an estimated two million people fled as the genocide ended, nearly one and a half million to Zaire alone (Prunier 1995: 312). After the killing ceased in July of 1994 and the new Tutsi led government took power, the Tutsi of the diaspora, many of who had been in exile since 1959, felt safe enough to return to Rwanda. These "old caseload" refugees, as they are called, returned in staggering masses, nearly one million in a matter o f months (Crook 2006: 1498). It was common fo r these refugees, some living their entire lives in exile, to reclaim available houses and fields, many of which belonged to the deceased or the "new caseload" Hutu refugees (Van Hoyweghen 1999: 354). By mid 1996, as the political climate began to settle in Rwanda and the fear of retaliation diminished, those who fled immediately after the genocide ("new caseload" refugees) began to return. In the end of 1996, 1.3 million people migrated back to Rwanda within a few weeks ( Crook 2006: 1499) As new and old caseload refugees alike sought to return to their homes and fields, the competition for land became a prominent
! %" issue. It should be made clear: Rwanda did not have the land resources to accommodate for this influx of people into the nation, or for their im mediate need of food and shelter (Crook 2006: 1499). The land simply could not support the population. The return of millions of refugees caused a wide range of disruptions: many Hutu new caseload refugees and internally displaced Tutsi returned to find th eir homes occupied by Tutsi from the diaspora; Tutsi survivors were subject ed to liv ing alongside those that murdered their families; food was scarce, and in many cases, land was wholly unavailable for cultivation (Prunier 1999: 5). In response to the mas s migration back into Rwanda, the government decided in December of 1996 to regroup the population into newly constructed survivor villages or umudugud u (Van Hoyweghen 1999: 363). These villages were often built without ease of access to arable land, a ne cessity of life in Rwanda, where 90 percent of the population relies on agriculture for subsistence or commercial endeavors. For those who had received a home in the umudugudu (mostly genocide survivors), the long distance to available plots of cultivable land made life all the more difficult (Van Hoyweghen 1999: 364). On the other hand, many of the Tutsi returnees from abroad had little interest in practicing agriculture, as they possessed no knowledge of the trade having been raised in refugee camps or ur ban settings (Prunier 1995: 5). However, these old caseload refugees still desired land and complained of a total lack of its availability to them. The demand for resource was strong on all sides. The Cycle of Poverty In 2006, a ccording to the U NHC R, 50 000 refu g ees were still abroad, yet to be
! %# repatriated making land availability an issue of national interest twelve years after the end of the genocide (Crook 2006: 1500). As expressed by Crook in Promoting Peace and Economic Security in Rwanda through F air and Equitable Land Rights (2006) the Rwandan issue of land availability and tenure is complicated by many deeply held cultural factors: "M ost of (Rwanda's) rural poor are subsistence farmers with strong familial and cultural ties to their ancestral plots ; adherence to traditional patri liniage has decreased the size of most family plots to an unproductive .5 hectares or less; women (who comprise a majority of Rwanda's food suppliers) still experience disproportionate land insecurity, despite a sharp i ncrease in the number of women headed ho useholds following the genocide" ( 1489 90) In other words, while issues of land and agriculture were profoundly affected by the genocide in terms of migration and tenure disputes, they must also be understood in th e context of pre genocide Rwandan society. Prior to the violence that began with the civil war in 1990, years of population growth and economic stagnation within the tiny landlocked country had Rwanda's people headed for dire straits. In 1992, Rwanda's pop ulation was 7.5 million people, with a growth rate of 3.3 percent per year between 1985 and 1990 (Percival and Homer Dixon 1995: 277). Population density was also high, with 422 people living in a single square kilometer on average (excluding lakes, nation al parks, and forest reserves from the calculation) ( Ibid. 277). Some 95 percent of the population lived in a rural environment, and 90 percent relied on agriculture for food and/or income. In fact, in 1994, agricultural production accounted for 40 percent of the nation's GNP ( Ibid. 271). The intense demand for agricultural land and production came at a high price: years of overcu ltivation on marginal soils were causing serious erosion
! %$ and loss of fertility 4 ( Percival and Homer Dixon 1995: 277). The supply was failing to meet the demand for food, and as a result farmers were forced to increase the intensity of their cultivation even further, leaving little to no fallow time a year ( Percival and Homer Dixon 1995: 277). 5 Pan to present day, and much remains the same. Year after year, Rwanda's people attempt to sustain life i n an environment that simple cannot provide, a population of agriculturalists struggling to feed themselves In 2012 alone, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization donated over fifty million USD to a variety of field programs in Rwanda related to food, poverty reduction, and agriculture production ( United Nations Food an d Agriculture Organization 20 03). The equation is simple: the large returnee refugee population combined with the already high popul ation growth rate has led to limited land availability. This has forced Rwanda's farmers to cultivate the land at a much higher density in order to suppo rt the population, which has in turn led to soil erosion and degradation. The end result is a cycle of food insecurity, poverty, and continued land degradation that for many peasants, without external aid, is hard to escape. To top this off, there is littl e access to off farm employment, a necessary !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 I will discuss soil erosion and land degradation several times in this thesis. The definition I like most comes from Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac : "Fertility is the abi lity of soil to receive, store, and release energy. Ag riculture, by overdrafts on the soil, or by too radical a substitution of domestic for native species in the superstructure, may derange the channels of flow or deplete storage. Soils depleted of their storage or of the organic matter which anchors it, wa sh away faster than they form. T his is erosion. (Leopold 2008: 288). 5 It should be noted that some scholars consider e nvironmental scarcity" to be a cause of the genocide. While this is an important point o f view, it should be seen as a contributing factor, not as the sole cause For more information see "Environmental Scarcity and Violent C onflict: The Case of Rwanda" by Percival and Homer Dixon "A lthough environmental factors were significant development issues, environmental scarcity had at most a limited, aggravating role in the conflict ( 2006: 270 ).
! %% supplement to agricultural production. When one takes into account the percentage of the population that relies on agriculture to support their livelihoods (90 percent), the magnitude of the problem is made most salient: land affects all Rwandese people. This struggle for land is embedded in contemporary Rwandan c ulture. In "Promoting Food Security in Rwanda through Sustainable Agricultural Production, (1996) Daniel C. Clay, et al. present the issues facing Rwa nda's rural poor in simple and accessible terms by highlighting three main factors at work: rapid population growth, unsustainable land use practices, and insufficient off farm employment (1996: ix). I will use this model to explore the issues affecting Rw anda's rural poor As expressed above, Rwanda is a country with limited arable land and a burgeoning population. By 1999, the population of Rwanda had reached pre genocide levels of some 8 million people ( Van Hoyweghen 1999: 362) In the decade or so since, the population has grown to nearly 11.7 million people (Central Intelligence Agency, 14 Feb. 2013). In 2010, th e average population density had risen slightly to 430.6 per square kilometer, still among the highest in Africa (The World Bank Group, 14 Feb. 2013 ). T h e popul ation growth rate in 2012 although diminished since before the genocide, still remained high at 2. 751 percent per year (Central Intelligence Agency, 14 Feb. 2013). Un sustainable Land Use Practices The explosive population growth since the genocide has put obvious demands on the land: the larger the population, the greater the need for renewable and non renewable natural resources. In an alread y exhausted natural environment, the ultimate result is a total depletion of resources. Unfortunately for Rwanda, many signs point to this end.
! %& Know as the "Land of a Thousand Hills," Rwanda encompasses very mountainous region. As briefly mentioned in Chapter One of this thesis, the East Africa Rift, a volcanically active continental rift zone that runs the length of East Africa from north to south, traces the western border of the country. Rwanda's stee pest slopes are those of the Virunga Mountains, which occupy the country's northwest borderl ands (Den Biggelaar 1996: 9). Because of the nation's high altitude, the temperatures in Rwanda are more moderate than the typically hot and humid equatorial areas that surround it. The average temperature year round on the central plateau is approximately 19 20 degrees Celsius varying about 0.5 degrees Celsius with each 100 meter change in altitude (Den Biggelaar 1996: 11). In the context of Sub Saharan Africa, Rw anda encompasses a particularly fertile and well watered region. Precipitation varies by geography, with the west and northwest receiving more rain on average (about 1,600 mm a year) than the east and southeast (800mm). Rwanda experiences two rainy seasons and consequently, two growing seasons: the first runs from February to June, in which approximately 40 percent of the year's precipitation falls; the second from September to December, when 27 percent of the annual rainfall is recorded. In between each i s a dry season, with the months of December and January being typically less dry than those of June through September (Den Biggelaar 1996: 11). With a population of subsistence agriculturalist s much of the land in Rwanda is used for growing crops. Approx imately 18 thousand square kilometers are available for agro pastoral activities. The rest of Rwanda's undeveloped land is designated as national park and forest areas. Currently two thirds of all arable land in Rwanda is being used for
! %' agricultural produc tion. The remaining third consists of pasture, woodlots, and fallow land. The distinction between fallow land and pasture is that fallow land has in the past been used for agriculture and is likely to be used again in the future, while pasture neither has nor will be cultivated as long as it remains with that designation (Clay, et al. 1996: 13). Although fertile, Rwanda's cultivated hills and mountains are severely susceptible to erosion. It was once traditional practice to avoid settling on and cultivating the slopes of Rwanda's many hills; instead, farmers would inhabit the upper ridges of the hillsides, where the soil was most fertile (Clay, et al. 1996: 48). Since the genocide however, demographic pressures and limited land availability have increasingly pushed farmers to cultivate marginal lands, including those found on the steepest slopes (May 1995: 324). Necessitating the use of fragile lands is the fragmentation of family holdings through generational transfers (every boy aged 18 is entitled to land) (May 1995: 326). Through the generations, this has led to an ever diminishing land base for households. In 1990 the indivi dual household land holding was generally only 1.2 hectares, an amount unsuitable to sustain a family at this time ( U.S. Agency for International Development 1990: 4). In 2001, sixty percent of the population was working on less than 0.5 hectares of land (Musahara 2001: 8). In 2009, the World Bank determined there to be an estimated 0.13 hectares of arable land per person in Rwanda (Th e World Bank, worldbank.org, 13 March 2013). With little land to sustain themselves on, individuals are left to farm in areas once considered too unstable to cultivate. Such pressures have also caused Rwandan agriculturalists to utilize land once reserved as pastureland, woodlots, or untouched forests. This has resulted in heavy deforestation nationwide. Desperation has
! %( shortened the fallow periods and elongated the cultivation periods, leaving little time for the land to rest in between seasons (Van Hoyweg hen 1999: 354). This abandonment of traditional agricultural wisdom has come at a serious price. The consequences of both more intensive farming and the cultivation of fragile hillsides are declining soil fertility and soil loss due to erosion. In 1996 it was estimated that nearly half of the country's farmlands suffered from moderate to severe erosion (Clay, et al. 1996: 54). When the incidences of heavy seasonal rains are taken into account, the effects are compounded (Clay and Lewis 1990: 148). The exte rnal consequences are also important: the conversion of pastureland into cropland has decreased the production of manure, an important source of fertility for soil. The destruction of natural forest areas for subsistence and commercial agriculture has decr eased the soil protection provided by forest cover (May 1995: 325). Land degradation in rural Rwanda is particularly problematic because it exists within a vicious cycle. Donella M eadows explains that, the more the soil erodes, the less vegetation it can support, the fewer roots and leaves to soften rain and runoff, the more the soil erodes (1999: 11). Clay and Lewis describe this process best: I f left untreated, environmental decline will generally accelerate because various stages of deterioration ten d to reinforce one another: decreasing soil fertility, for example, reduces vegetation cover, which in turn, increases the potential for soil loss and e ven lower fertility" (1990: 149 50). The Northwest region of Rwanda, which encompasses the Virunga Mount ains (as well as the Rubavu district where I conducted my research in 2012), is particularly susceptible to soil degradation and erosion. The region is home to temperate highlands
! %) with fertile volcanic soils, and well watered lowlands near Lake Kivu. Becau se of this, the region is known for its high agricultural production. However, t he region is also home to Rwanda's steepest slopes, and because of the high altitudes and plentiful rainfall, the region's soils are highly susceptible to erosion and flooding (Musahara 2001: 5) ,! The cultivation of marginal lands in the northwest h as led to serious slope failure in the form of slumps and landslides (Clay and Lewis 1990: 148). Such consequences have been detrimental to the region s overall food security. Off farm Employment Adding to the cycle of poverty for Rwanda's rural poor is the limited availability of quality off farm employment (defined as labor spent in off farm economic ventures or one's own personal non agriculture related business) (Clay, et a l. 1996: 7). Because money earned from subsistence agriculture is often very limited, and the quality and availability of land is declining at a rapid rate, off farm employment in the rural economy is considered a necessary supplement for most agrarian hou seholds ( U.S. Agency for International Development 1990:1). Although an estimated 47 percent of all farm households in Rwanda generate some amount of income from off farm employment, it is often most readily available to those in the highest quartile ( U.S Agency for International Development 1990: 8, Clay, et al. 1996: 7). Thirty one percent of those who do find off farm employment are subject to work for others as agricultural laborers ( Musahara 2001: 8 ). Most rural Rwandan fall into the gray area that e xists between on farm self sufficiency and the security of a job that pays enough to justify time spent away from the farm. This is a troubling situation as it translates to almost assured deprivatio n for those without opportunity.
! %* The Result: Food Insec urity and Overall Poverty As defined by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, "food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life" ( United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 2006: 1). This includes "food availability": the availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production o r imports; "food access": access by individuals to adequate resources for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet; "utilization": utilization of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional w ell being; and "stability": to be food secure, a population, household, or individual must have acces s to adequate food at all times ( United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 2006: 1 ). Very low food security occurs when "one or more household membe rs are hungry because they cannot afford enough food" (Edelstein 1999: 93). While there exists a plethora of definitions for the term "poverty", the inte rnational development community's description of "absolute poverty" seems most useful to this context Absolute poverty, as defined by the 1995 World Summit on Social Development is "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services." Deprivation is often conceptualized as a continuum that ranges from mild through severe. The absolute poverty threshold is equal to two or more "severe deprivations" of the basic human needs me ntioned in the above definition (Gordon 2005: 4). In terms of poverty, the majority of
! &+ Rwanda's rural population experiences severe deprivation of almost every basic need to some degree. The combination of the factors discussed in the previous sections ( overpopulation, unsustainable land use practices, limited off farm employment) has led to serious hardships for Rwanda's rural poor. In 2006, the United Nation's Development Program ranked Rwanda 19 th on the list of least livable countries in the world (Cr ook 2006: 1489). In 2011, it was estimated that 44.9 percent of all Rwandese people were living below the poverty line (The World Bank Group, 9 Feb 2013). An astounding 63.2 percent of the po pulation survives on less than 1.25 USD a day (at 2005 purchasing power parity ) a level defined by the W orld B ank as the "poverty threshold" (The World Bank Group, 9 Feb. 2013) 6 Poverty in Rwanda is concentrated in the country's rural areas: while 48.7 percent of the rural population is considered impoverished; only 21.1 percent of the urban population lives in poverty (United Nations World Food Programme 2012: 5). The Western and Southern Provinces have the highest rates of poverty ( Ibid. 4). Agricultural production in Rwanda as it stands today is unsustainabl e, as it fails to meet the caloric needs of the population. Both food insecurity and poverty in general are issues faced by a great percentage of the population. Although there have been improvements in nationwide agricultural productivity since the genoci de, per capita food production is still low ( United Nations World Food Programme 2012: 4) Declining productivity du e to soil degradation can have crushing long term effects on human he alth !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To be clear, this amount of 1.25 USD a day purchasing power parity, does not translate to living on the equivalent of such amount in the local currency at international exchange rates (as this could in fact be a good sum of money in some places). Instead, it translates to the ability to purchase in the local currency that which 1.25 USD would purchase in the United States.
! &" and nutrition (Clay and L ewis 1990: 148) In March through April of 2012, the World Food Programme, in conjunction with the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, conducted a nationwide "Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis and Nutrition Survey." Published in December of 2012, it determine d that more than 51 percent of all households in Rwanda experienced some type of difficulty in accessing food (in the year preceding the survey), and that 14 percent of Rwandan households have usual and almost year round "chronic difficulties" in accessing food for their families ( Ibid. 2). The percentage of households with "unacceptable food consumption" are especially high in the rural areas bordering Lake Kivu (42 percent), where the land is more susceptible to erosion ( United Nations World Food Program me 2012: 2). In fact, the Western Province has the larges t number of food insecure households in comparison to all other provinces (Ibid. 2). This fact is significant to this thesis because I conducted my research in the area just west of Lake Kivu. The na tional survey also found that food insecure families typically reside in small crowded homes, and rely on low income wage labor. Those surveyed that fit into this category generally depend on a small number of livelihood activities, often have no kitchen g arden, and their household food stocks are not sufficient to last through the lean season until the next harvest. "I n primarily agra rian societies such as Rwanda's insufficient land security constitutes a substantial impediment to economic stability and growth by preventing families from meeting their food and housing needs" (Crook 2006: 1489). I n these conditions many rural families are not able to produce a sufficient yield to provide for their own needs and must supplement their diets by purchasing fo od through the market
! ( Van Hoyweghen 1999: 356) Beyond food, there are many expenses for the rural household, such as soap, fodder, fuel, clothing, shoes, school supplies, and taxes. In order to obtain money to pay for these expenses, one of the only choi ces facing many is limited wage labor employment, typically in construction or agriculture ( Ibid. 356 ) In "Inequality and the Emergence of Nonfarm Employment in Rwanda", Clay, Kampayana, and Kayitsinga express that in 1990 "among the 85 p ercent of young m en and women who believe they will not inherit e nough land to meet their families' needs, nearly a quarter expect to have no other option than to make future careers as agricultural labor ers for others ( 1990: 17) For much of the rural poor without the s upport of community building initiatives or external aid daily life is a constant struggle for survival. Conclusions Herman Musahara, the Vice President of the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa and a Professor of economics at the National U niversity of Rwanda, in a seminar on land and poverty in Rwanda in 2 001 said that, T he easiest link is that land degradation causes poverty. The other half of the truth is that poverty also encroaches on the environment and land use in particular. Suffice to mention here, that there is an apparent historical and structural link of poverty to land size, exploitation and degradation that has b een exacerbated by human action" (2001: 10). His words are important, and speak truth to t he crux of the issue of land and poverty in Rwanda tod ay. Neither land degradation nor poverty are independent of one another; instead, they exist in a cycl e While overpopulation leads to the overcultivation of the earth, and in turn poverty, poverty and desperation in effect also lead to environmental destruction. This is the cycle of poverty.
! &$ What does this amount to for the bulk of Rwanda's population? Although great strides have been made through government sponsored development, it is obvious that th ere is still much to be done for the least represented portion of the populace. Those considered least likely to succeed (and most likely to face the struggles of poverty all their lives) are the individuals without access to education, credit, vocational training, healthcare, and family planning. The plight of the rural poor is in dire need of attention. Support of such communities through culturally appropriate community restoration initiatives is c rucial to the further development of Rwanda Considering the importance of agriculture to Rwandan society, sustainable economic growth will only occur if serious work is done to support rural farmers. Aiding in soil erosion control and working to provide infrastructure for more off farm employment should be a pr iority of those who currently hold the power and resources to affect positive change, such as government extension services, and in country and foreign nonprofits and NGOs. The triple threat of more available jobs off farm jobs, access to education and ser vices that provide information and assistance with erosion control and soil restoration, and the education and liberation of women combined with access to birth control could help to see Rwanda out of the cycle of rural poverty it exists in today. There, o f course, is no easy solution to problems so embedded in the history and culture of a nation, and as an outsider I do not presume to have the answers. Through this exploration, I instead aim to shed light on the issues facing post genocide Rwandan society, and reflect on them in the context of Rwandan agricultural history, as well as the history of the genocide. In the following chapter I will relate my experience of time spent in rural Rwanda with the nonprofit Rwanda Sustainable Families. Through this, I hope to
! &% make connections between the broader trends addressed here, and those that I observed while in the Murara village.
! && Chapter Three: Agriculture and Poverty in Murara The day is June 10, 2012. In two days time, I have traveled from the comfort of my family's home near St. Petersburg, Florida, to Kigali, Rwanda. We arrived at the Kigali International Airport last night around 9 PM. The sun had already long since set, and darkness was around us as we were greeted by our guide and translator, Damas. A towering man some six and a half feet tall, Damas welcomed us with open arms and numerous blessings, our first taste of Rwandan hospitality One of my travel partners, Nancy, the director of Rwanda Sus tainable Families, already knew Damas from two years earlier when he acted as a interpreter for the first CAHRE (Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education) sponsored trip to Rwanda in 2010; it was a very happy reunion for the two. After some time, we loaded our numerous suitcases into the back of our hired driver's truck and made our way to our home for the night, the St. Francis Guesthouse. The streets of Kigali were busy still; the glittering lights in the
! &' distance outlined a landscape of h ills and valleys, dotted with homes and businesses. Beyond this sketch, I could not make out much else in the darkness. When we arrived at St Francis, there was no one in sight, and Damas had to search for someone to assist us into our rooms. Once we were inside the guesthouse it became apparent that dinner had already been served, but we were hungry after 24 plus hours travel, so the staff cooked us a warm meal. Our first taste of Rwandan cuisine, the kitchen staff brought us heaping portions of potatoes, rice, and beans, and of course our choice of Fanta. The food was plain, but delicious and filling, an d we were so grateful to have full stomachs after our many hours of travel. The next morning we woke early to begin our day: we had to make our way to the central bus station in Kigali and catch a bus to the northwestern city of Gisenyi where we would be staying for the remainder of our trip. Kigali by day was bustling: from the backseat cab of the truck I watched as we passed throngs of scooters (motos ) with passengers on the back, mini buses (mutatus) crowded with people on their daily route, and hundreds of pedestrians, many with parcels on their heads or in their arms. The motos zoomed through traffic, whipping up dust as they sped through the street s. I was in utter awe of all I saw: women carrying children on their backs and their harvest on their heads, businessmen and women traveling to and from work, teenagers in street clothes walking and talking. This was the capital city of a rapidly developin g African nation, and I was experiencing it for the first time, as an absolute outsider Upon arrival at the central bus station, we were jolted into a whole different world. The scene at the station was one I will never forget: countless shops lining the parameter, rows upon rows of buses big and small, music blaring from huge speakers
! &( somewhere in the distance, street kids and beggars asking for money, and hundreds of people waiting for the right bus. With our truck and eight suitcases, we obviously stoo d out. Exiting the truck meant leaving my comfort zone: I was no longer an observer. I was a participant, and I was clueless. My intuition however, was still keen as I thought to myself, "do not let the strange men crowding around the bed of the truck get near our bags, keep your backpack on your front, do not acknowledge the advances of the street vendors, do not give money to the street children." The experience was disorienting: not only was I rendered helpless by the language barrier, but every last pe rson in the station was staring at the four female "mazungus" (foreigners) in cargo pants. This was culture shock. Eventually, we made our way onto a bus headed for Gisenyi. This was, of course, not without some struggle, and in the end our luggage found a home in the back row of the bus. It was laughable, and in the context, outright over the top that our bags had their own ticketed seats, but there was no other storage available. The interior of the bus was hot and cramped, and I was positioned in the se cond to last row, blocked in entirely by bodies. This made me anxious, as I am quick to feel both motion sickness and claustrophobia. These feelings quickly peeled away as the bus began to move and cool air circulated throughout the vehicle. Within ten min utes of driving, Kigali was behind us; ahead was a two lane road through the Rwandan countryside. Words cannot properly describe the beauty that is the Rwandan countryside. Rolling emerald green hills, rivers and streams that fall into valleys, terraced a cres of crop fields and banana plantations, the world outside the window was alive. I watched as we passed women and men attending to their fields, children playing football, and cattle
! &) grazing on pastures, all engaged in the activities of daily life. The ride was nearly four hours long, but I couldn't seem to take my eyes away from the outside. I felt excited and amazed by the sites; it was a whole new world to me, but something about it all felt familiar. I thought of my experiences in Costa Rica and Mexi co and it occurred to me, that although the three nations are clearly distinct from one another, each are still moving through the stages of development in some form or another in a way still different from my home in the US The familiarity comforted me, and it finally hit me: w e are here, we are in Rwanda. Setting Between the dates of June 8 and July 9, 2012, I volunteered in the rural villages surrounding Gisenyi, Rwanda with the Gainesville, Florida/Gisenyi based nonprofit Rwanda Sustainable Families. The bulk of my time was spent in Murara, a small, densely populated and deeply impoverished village some ten miles from the town center in Gisenyi. Nestled into the foothills of the Virunga Mountains, Murara is a part of the Rubavu district in the Western Province of Rwanda. For those that call Murara home, life in the village is a constant struggle. With no electricity to power the homes, the da y begins early with the sunrise and winds down as the sun is setting. There is no apparent center of the villag e, just homes and shops lining dusty dirt roads. The houses are small, not more than two or three rooms, and made of clay bricks and corrugated metal roofing. Some homes have land enough for a small vegetable garden, but most do not. The road to Murara fro m Gisenyi is long, approximately a ten mile journey from the central market in Gisenyi to the heart of
! &* Murara. The RSF volunteers, myself included, made the trip daily, catching the motos just up the hill from our guesthouse. After about eight miles of wi nding mountain roads from Gisenyi, the road to Murara emerges, passing first through the village Rugerero. In contrast to the smooth, paved highway, the road into the village is ridden with large rock s, potholes and puddles always an adventure on the back of a moto or bicycle taxi. This two mile trip from the main road to our destination at the Komera Cooperative is what I hold in my mind to be the most picturesque part of my experience in Rwanda. It is from the daily walks back through the village, and the talks that accompanied them, that I learned the most about Rwandan culture, that I observed the most about life in Murara. There was always much to be seen on these trips: barbers in small rooms d oing business, churches with choirs of voices pouring out of the cracks in the doors, mothers reclining while breastfeeding their babies, children carrying jerrycans of water atop their heads, men hauling the season's harvest of crops on a bicycle, makeshi ft markets selling produce and shoes. Impossible to avoid was the unending chorus of mazungu, mazungu !" (a benign word meaning foreigner) that emanated from the throngs of idle children as we passed through the village. This often made for an overwhelming Figure 2. The Road to Murara. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! '+ experience, as smiling and dirty children waved and fought for our hands to hold as we walked. It perplexed me: why do I deserve such celebrity? How does this make the adults of the village feel? My only response was to smile graciously at all those I pas sed, men, women, and children. After a week or two of our daily "mazungu parade," as I came to call it, I began recognizing the people I passed, and they would respond to our presence with smiles and even hugs. A History of Rwanda Sustainable Families Rwanda Sustainable Families was born during the summer of 2010. While volunteering at the Murara clinic in affiliation with the CAHRE sponsored trip, Nancy Lassester spotted a b oy dancing in a crowd of children. Uwacu (the boy) stood out to her, and she asked her interpreter why he was not in school; his clothes were tattered, revealing his distended stomach. The interpreter explained that the boy's guardians could not afford the uniform and supplies necessary for him to go to school, a sum amounting to around 20 USD a year. Nancy expressed her desire to support him in school. Together Nancy and her interpreter found Uwacu's guardian and learned his story: the boy's parents died o f AIDS when he was very young; his current guardian was his aunt, but she Figure 3. Clay Pit in Rugerero. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! '" was also infected with HIV, and had little money to support the family. With advice from a dear and trusted Rwandese friend Felix, Nancy decided to make a more sustainable donation: a gift of 100 USD to Uwacu's aunt intended to both support him in school and aid her in starting her own small business. With the money, his Aunt Gorette purchased uniforms and supplies for Uw acu and began selling produce and raising pigs. The success of Gorette and Uwacu was real, and it inspired Nancy (with advising from Felix) to explore the model on a larger scale. Through the oversight of Felix and Jaqui, a nurse at the Rubavu clinic, more families in need were identified and Rwanda Sustainable Famili es was born. The mission of the program was "to help Rwandan families in starting small, sustainable businesses and to support education for their children as a means of ending the cycle of poverty." In December of 2010, four new families were sponsored by loans. Funds were dispersed under the condition that 50 percent be paid forward into the community in order to help other families in need. Soon after the first loans were dispersed, one of the borrowers Christine came up with a life changing idea: if t he RSF families could pool their loan payback money together, they could start their own artist cooperative. Cooperatives are a popular form of group investment in Rwanda, and a tool for development employed by many communities. Christine took the initiati ve to seek out twenty RSF families to whom she could present this idea. They all decided to join, and together they collected 100 USD in funds to hire a banana leaf weaving instructor. In addition to running their own businesses and taking care of their fa milies, the women and men of RSF were meeting three times a week for a weaving lesson. When the RSF USA team arrived in May of
! '# 2011 for the first visit since the loans were given, the cooperative had been working together for six weeks; already they were p roducing mats and purses. Back in the US, RSF volunteers had fundraised enough money to purchase six sewing machines for the cooperative, as well as hire a sewing teacher to instruct seven women for six months. Without a building to house the machines, RSF looked to the local government; the office of the Rubavu sector is located just meters from the Mura ra health clinic. Happy to support such a vigorous project, the government granted the cooperative a room in the building just adjacent to the government building that same day. The sewing machines were moved in, and a mural was painted on the front of the building. The cooperative was named Komera ", which means "be strong" in Kinyarwanda, a fitting name considering both the origins of the cooperative and the history of those involved. The story of Komera is an inspiration, especially when considering that although its creation was supported by RSF, its actualization was entirely the work of the families themselves. In this case, they created their own avenue for success and hope, an amazing surprise to come of the efforts of RSF. F igure 4. Women Outside of the Komera House. Locicero, Audra, 2012. Figure 4. Women in front of the Komera Cooperative. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! '$ Rwanda Sustainable Famili es Summer 2012 As illuminated by these stories, as well as my own personal experience, projects that would take months to plan and execute in the US due to the bureaucracy of l aws and regulations such as the construction of a playground, in many cases have the ability to be accomplished with great ease in Rwanda. This could be seen as both good and bad, but in most cases, it ended up being for the benefit of all. The project list for the RSF Summer 2012 trip was extensive. In a little under two months, our group of eleven volunteers from the US, with the aid of our three interpreters and countless Rwandese friends, were set to follow up on the loan borrowers' progress, interview potential new borrowers and disperse new loans, work with the Komera Cooper ative to help develop their products for market, build five rain catchment cisterns for families in need, and oversee the construction of a playground at the Rubavu I Primary School. Our days were busy, filled with countless tasks and errands, and we often returned home to our guesthouse exhausted. At the end of the day howev er, our loads were never as heavy as those of the RSF families living in Murara We had beds to return to and a hot meal waiting for us; in most cases, they had neither. The stark contr ast between my life and those of the families in Murara was very difficult to come to terms with; poverty and privile ge are intertwined concepts which I still struggle to understand. I left for Rwanda in early June with three other volunteers, my mother Deborah, Nancy, and Hannah, an international studies student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Each week we were met by new members, ultimately amounting to eleven US RSF volunteers. By the end of the two month trip, all the above projects were accomplished, and then some. With books brought over from the United States, as well as
! '% many cast aside textbooks left in storage at the school, we helped bring together the first library at a public school in the entire Rubavu sector. With the assistance of Felix, the RSF Rwanda Project Manager, a new cooperative was established comprised solely of HIV positive women. Named "Umugisha", meaning blessing, this co op is supporting 31 members in sewing and weaving initiatives. The necessary legal documentati on was completed to establish both Komera and Umugisha as official cooperatives within the national cooperative system. This allowed the work of both organizations to become a part of the Rwanda Fair Trade Artisan Cooperative "Nziza" (meaning beautiful in Kinyarwanda), which sells products from cooperatives all over the country in the capital city of Kigali. The mic roloan program was revitalized, and extended to accommodate 12 new families, which included the support of 12 more children in school for one year. Emelienne Nyiramana, founder of a highly successful cooperative in Kigali, and employee of the nonprofit Ind ego Africa, hosted a three day cooperative business skills training with 23 of the RSF cooperative members. Three new RSF Africa staff were hired and trained; the Rwanda team now includes a coordinator, and accountant, and a financial officer. The accompli shments of the summer 2012 trip Figure 5. The Women of Umugisha Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! '& exceeded all expectations, and could not have been completed without the ambition and hope of our Rwandan inshuti (friends). My Research Plan I was introduced to RSF through my mother, now the Assistant Director of the or ganization. Prior to my trip, I attended a few of the planning meetings in Gainesville, and corresponded with some of the other travelers regarding trip preparation. Beyond that however, I was not involved deeply in any of the summer projects in particular My intention in going on the trip was to be of aid in any way I could within the organization, to have the experience of working with a foreign development nonprofit, and most importantly to observe the relationship between the people and the land in rur al Rwanda. I did as much to prepare for the trip as possible, reading countless articles and books regarding both Rwandan history and specifically the history of the Rwandan genocide. I also studied traditional Rwandan agricultural practices and the relate d issues, such as land degradation and food availability nationwide so as to give me an idea of what to expect while in country. In my correspondence with Nancy, the director of RSF, I found out t hat nearly all of the women who RSF gave loans used the m oney to invest in agricultural businesses. As I continued to read and learn more about the connections between people and agriculture in rural Rwanda, I felt more confident in the relevance of my research plans with RSF. As previously mentioned, nearly 90 percent of the Rwandan population practices agriculture on a subsistence basis; the terrain of Rwanda is highly mountainous, making soil erosion an issue of national importance; the population growth rate in
! '' Rwanda is among the highest in the world. Not on ly were my questions relevant to Rwanda as a whole, but they seemed to be applicable to the lives of the RSF families as well. I configured a proposal for my fieldwork. Through my time spent in Murara with Rwanda Sustainable Families, I hoped to observe the connections between agriculture, land degradation, food insecurity and poverty in a rural context. The questions I aimed to answer through my experience included the following: what percentage of the population of Murara practices agriculture on a subs istence basis? Of that number, what percent is self sufficient in their practices? What are some of the traditional agricultural techniques they employ? Is agriculture a source of environmental degradation in the area, specifically erosion? What is the lev el of poverty in Murara? It was my intention to come back with information regarding the role of agriculture and animal husbandry in the village, as well as the extent of land degradation due to agriculture. Through my time, I also hoped to gain a better understanding of the factors contributing to the cycle of poverty in Murara My research plan was to work with the RSF sponsored families in their gardens and their fields, helping them with their daily tasks, and learning about their agricultural practic es through shared experience. I also hoped to have the opportunity to interview as many farmers as possible on a variety of topics related to my research. Beyond these two active forms of research, I expected to observe all that I saw, and record all that I did. I anticipated that I would spend the first week or so in the village establishing relationships with the families. After trust was established, I planned to introdu ce my project and ask those who were interested for permission to both observe them a t work and conduct an
! '( interview. Just prior to my departure, part of me still felt anxious about my research and how the community would receive it Many questions filled my mind. M ost often they included, "How will I properly communicate my ideas and ques tions with the people of Rwanda?" "How will I be able to relate to a population who has experienced so much suffering?" "How will my potential interviewees perceive me? Will they be okay with me interviewing them?" After some time spent in the village, man y of these feelings resolved themselves; some however, remained throughout the duration of the experience. Fir st Experiences in Murara My time in Murara began with a day of introductions. After taking the bus from Gisenyi, we walked the two mile trip from the main road to the Komera house through both Rugerero and Murara. As it was my first experience on this road, I was amazed at the opportunity to observe daily life in this context. Our presence did not go unnoticed, and it was apparent by the looks on the locals' faces that abazungus (plural for "foreigners") did not frequent the area. Upon arrival at Komera, we were greeted by a sea of hugs and smiles. The sculptors were outside getti ng a lesson from their instructor, the seamstresses were inside the house sewing, and the weavers were out Figure 6. A Komera Seamstress at work. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! ') on the front lawn making mats and baskets. We made our way to each group, taking the time to meet every single individual. It was an interesting and almost overwhelming experience, as we were unable to communicate beyond a "hello", "how are you", "nice to meet you." For my mother and Nancy, this was a joyous reunion with friends. For Hannah and I, it was our first experience with the women and men we would come to know and love. We also met Jules and Dina, the sculpture and sewing instructors, respectively. After about an hour at Komera, we walked up the road to the Murara Health Clinic, which is located about 200 meters from the Komera house. There we were met by Jacqui, a nurse at the clinic and friend of RSF. She was overjoyed to see both Nancy and my mother, and the excitement was infectious. After ten minutes with her, she was calling both Hannah and I her daughters. We toured the clinic and made o ur way back to Komera; these introductions took up most of our day in the village. One aspect of Rwandan culture of which I quickly took note of was the high level of affection exhibited amongst friends and family. A greeting among friends is never withou t an embrace, personal space is far less than in the US, and it is normal to see adult men holding hands in the streets as they walk. This first day, and throughout the trip, we were always treated with love from our Rwandese friends. To be accepted into s uch a kind environment was an unexpected blessing, one that made the work seem even more worthwhile and leaving all the more difficult. On our next trip to Murara the following day, the four of us, and our two interpreters Damas and Felix, got right to w ork with the initial loan follow up interviews. At this time, loans had been given to 27 heads of households in Murara. The purpose of these interviews was to track the progress of their businesses, learn about their successes
! '* and failures of the previous year, and note any changes in the families' living situations. The six of us split into two groups, an interpreter, an interviewer, and a recorder to each. We continued these interviews for a week or so. The passive role I took as the recorder allowed me t o listen to the women's stories, learn about life in Murara, and become comfortable with the idea of conducting my own interviews. The initial follow up interviews were very difficult to participate in without appearing shocked and dismayed. In many cases, the women and their families were still living in abject poverty. With sadness in their eyes, the women told us of their health, the unfortunate status of their businesses, or their inability to feed their families more than once a day. On one occasion in particular, I had to excuse my self from an interview; I immediately broke down sobbing. The wo man explained to us that the money from her loan was stol en from her at the market. The goat she had purchased died after eating plastic. Her daughter had been living with malaria for months. The second interview group had equally as hard a time that first day: one woman explained to them that she had bought rab bits with her loan, but they had all gotten sick and died. Her husband was disabled, and unable to work, so she was left to provide for him and her four children; they were only able to eat once a day. Figure 7. An RSF loan recipient and her daughter in front of t heir home. Locicero, Au d ra, 2012.
! (+ Her house had burnt down in a fire a few months prior, and the family was temporarily living in a tent until they could afford a new home. She was also HIV positive. With my very limited experience in the community, I was unable to comprehend the reality that was these women's lives. My Research Methods Nee dless to say, the first week was a great introduction to the organization, the overall culture of Rwanda, the women of RSF, and the many issues associated with life in Murara. In my second week in the village, I began my own personal interviews. The method of choosing participants was straightforward; for the first few, I asked Felix to arrange the meetings. He knew about the project, and also knew the women well, and was able to find many suitable and willing participants. It ended up working out so that a lmost all of my interviewees were members of Komera, which meant that I was either familiar with them or was working with them on a daily basis. Because of this, they were more than willing to sit down and answer my questions. I formulated some of the ques tions before my departure to Rwanda, but found it necessary to modify them after my first week in the country. Even after that short period of time, I had learned so much, and could see that my ideas were shifting and my aims needed redirecting. The proce ss of each interview w as simple: with my interprete r Alice present, I explained my project to the women, and asked for permission to record their responses with an audio recorder. Through Alice, I asked a series of questions, in general the same questions for each participant. Each interview took approximately 20 40 minutes. The interviews were conducted over the next two weeks, two or three every other day or so.
! (" After the first few were completed, I no longer needed Felix's help to find participants. Inst ead, each participant would find a friend or two for me to interview. The process continued organically for the rest of my time in Murara. This was very enjoyable, and reflective of the connectedness of the community. In the end, I conducted ten individual interviews with women of the Murara village, nine of which were with women either sponsored by RSF with a loan, or members of the Komera Cooperative. I also interviewed the head agronomist for the Rubavu sector, as well as our interpreter Damas, a long ti me Red Cross Rwanda employee, and participated in several relevant follow up interviews for RSF. The interviews proved to be highly insightful, making clear the obvious observations and illuminating unknown issues. Prior to my trip it seemed that my resea rch questions and goals would be rather straightforward: what is the connection between agricultural production, land degradation, food security and p overty in rural Rwanda? However, after the first few weeks of immersion into Rwandan culture and society, and my many interactions with the w omen of RSF, my ideas evolved. My daily experiences in Murara began to shape my thoughts in a new direction. While the concept of land degradation seemed relevant enough, the most glaring issue within the village was that of poverty: low income, poor living conditions, little access to fresh food and water, and poor health. In the end, what I gai ned from the fieldwork was different than what I expected when I set out. My focus became much less about soil erosion and sustai nable agriculture practices, and more about the creative efforts being employed by the men and women of Murara to pull themselves out of poverty. This is due in part to circumstance: my participants, in many cases, did not have much to say in regards to l and degradation and soil erosion. It was
! (# apparent that dependency on agriculture was creating many of the problems in the village, and that the limited availability of cultivable land was a huge factor in this, but I soon came to see that there was also mu ch more to be learned. Although it was my hope, I did not have the opportunity to observe or help any of the RSF women in their gardens as I planned. Logistically, it did not make sense: as I learned from my interviews, most, if not all, of the land that the RSF women rented or owned was far from their homes, and they did not visit it on a daily basis. Culturally, my presence would have been more of a hindrance to their work than a help: I needed a translator, and my foreignness was so severe that it would have simply detracted from their work, something I definitely did not want to do. I realized this one day when I tried helping a few women that were harvesting carrots across the way from the Komera house. As was obvious by their facial expressions, their stares, and their laughter, they could not under stand for the life of them why the young mazungu wanted to help them harvest. In the end, they were grateful for the help, and the experience generated many laughs and smiles all around, but it seemed that my F igure 8. Helping with the carrot harvest. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! ($ presence was more distracting than beneficial. Once I left them to their work, they continued harvesting for many hours. I did however spend every day in Murara in the Komera hous e, observing the women working and the camaraderie between them. I watched the joy shared between them as they worked, often singing together quietly, always joking and talking, sharing and learning together. In my interviews with the women of Komera (and RSF), each explained that they loved the time shared with the other women because it made them feel more normal and less lonely. It gave them a sense of home and community, and it motivated them to work hard everyday. In the context of post genocide Rwanda, such responses are truly a mi racle. I could also see that the work in the cooperative, although not directly related to agricultural production, was highly beneficial to the members, giving them the opportunity to succeed in other aspects of their lives. With the help of a master sea mstress, many of the women had learned to sew and were now quite good at it, producing uniform shirts and shorts, an assortment of bags, and their own ornate dresses among many other items The cooperative also supported weaving and sculpting initiatives; some members were learning the skills to produce sculpted wooden plates, and others were practicing making mats, bags, and baskets from dried banana leaves. The skills gained from their work in the cooperative gave the members a diversification of livelih ood activities, an important step in the right direction toward the alleviation of poverty. Work in the cooperatives served as much needed "off farm employment", a necessary supplement to farm work. Most significant is the fact that the creation of the Kom era Cooperative was initiated directly by members of the community; although it
! (% was initially supported through the funds distribute d by RSF, the move to create the cooperative was an intentional effort on the part of a group of ambitious individuals to he lp themselves to a better life. A Portrait of Agriculture and Poverty in Murara The following is a narrative profile of agricultural land practices, land quality, food insecurity and poverty in Murara as I interpreted it. I conclude the following from both my weeks of participant observation, and the 12 formal interviews I conducted. I do not aim to make claims regarding agriculture and poverty beyond the scope of the Rubavu sector, more specifically the village of Murara. This research is limited to th e area, which is important to note, as environmental conditions differ all over Rwanda. Murara is an agrarian community, first and foremost. From my intervie w with the head agronomist for the Rubavu sector, I found out that like the rest of Rwanda, ninety percent of people in Rubavu practice agriculture. This fact became appar ent right away. In the village and the areas surrounding it, uncultivated land was ne arly nonexistent. It appeared to me, a foreigner, that every square inch of arable land was growing some sort of vegetable or grain. The crops I observed growing were exactly those described in the literature: Figure 9. Sweet potato es growing on a hillside near the Murara village. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! (& bananas, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, cass ava, maize, beans, and a variety of other vegetables. Large areas of crops were terraced up hills and mountains, fields were planted adjacent to homes and business, and small garden s were spilling into the roads in the tiny patches of land in front of home s. Another hard to miss activity was the movement of crops from field to market; it was commonplace to see women with entire harvests of maize atop their heads, and men pushing huge bundles of cabbage on a bicycle. The bounty of the first season of harvest s was apparent every day of our trip, more frequently as the weeks passed. The prevalence of agriculture, a nd the central role it played in life in the village became obvious from observation, but also from my interviews. Beans and maize are the crops most commonly grown in the village. Sweet potatoes, bananas, cassava, and vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, and carrots are also grown, but to a lesser degree. In Murara, the planting and growing season coincides with the rains; crops are seeded in February and harvested beginning in June. The second growing season spans September to January. It was clear that our trip was in synch with the ye ar's first harvest season. F igure 10 Beans laid out to dry in front of a home in Murara. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! (' For the women who rented land with their loans, this time brought more concentrated work in the fields for about a week. Besides planting and harvesting times, the women reported only having to check up on their crops a few time s a week to weed. Some of the women had already harvested their season's crop, others were waiting a few more weeks, which could explain the amount of time they spent working in the cooperatives. In the months in between the two growing seasons, the land i s left fallow to rest and rejuvenate. During the many months of rain, food is abundant; the dry seasons bring hardship for countless families, as they are forced to purchase food in order to survive. If they lack the resources to do so, there can be great suffering. As in the rest of Rwanda, animal husbandry is common practice in Murara. In the village, it was normal for individuals or families to practic e both agriculture and animal husbandry as part of a fully agrarian lifestyle. Many of the women of RSF used their loans to purchase pigs, goats, and rabbits. Universally, the animals were bought with the intent to raise, breed, and sell them at market, an d not to eat them; the idea is that selling one's livestock is much more profitable than eating them. In Murara, the consumption of meat is a luxury, and although it may be consumed on F igure 11. An RSF loan recipient and the pigs she purchase d with her loan. Locic ero, Audra, 012.
! (( occasions, most families cannot afford it. Own ing dairy cows or cattle also seemed to be a luxury; of the ten women I interviewed formally, and the countless other women I spoke to casually, only one owned a cow, which she was gifted by the Rwandan government through a program aimed at providing the country's poor with a sus tainable source of milk and manure. Not only are cows expensive to purchase, they are also costly to maintain. For many of the country's rural poor, the ownership of cows is simply out of reach. For this reason, fresh milk is hard to come by in Murara (lik e meat). When I inquired whether or not goats were used for their milk, many reacted with great surprise, almost disgust the consumption of goat's milk is not a part of traditional Rwandan culture. Agricultural land tenure in Murara is rare; in general, it is the norm for families to own the small patches of land surrounding their homes, but nothing else. Of the ten women I interviewed personally, only one owned the land she worked, which was due to the fact that she inherited it from her family. She expl ained, I have my own land, but I share it with my siblings. It's not just for myself. We own the small land near our house, and a field far away from our home." In the case of the remaining women, most used their business loans from RSF to rent land from more well off land owners Unfortunately in my time, I did not have the opportunity to meet or interview any of these landowners themselves, although I would venture to say that most of them do not live in Murara or other villages like it. The majority reported that the fields they rented were far from their homes, although they were unable to communicate exact distances. The priority in every case was to feed one's family on the crops harvested from the rented land; being able to sell the harvest at m ar ket was the hope of everyone but came second
! () to subsistence. Some of the women were able to successfully feed their families and make a profit at harvest time; however many relied on their land solely as a source of food. As one woman said, "w e eat all of the food we produce, there is not enough to sell any." For some, the food they produce is still not enough. For those in particularly desperate situations, it was necessary to supplement their diets with purchased food. One interviewee explained that, "Wh en there are no crops in the field, I must ask friends to borrow money to buy beans to sell at the market. I use the money I make from the beans to buy food." There were a few small village markets close to Murara but my interviewees reported that they di d not provide all necessary items. "The evening markets are small, and open around four o'clock in the village. When I need a lot of things, I have to go to Gisenyi town." My interviews and observations suggest that agriculture is practiced on a subsistenc e level in Murara. Beyond this, it could be concluded that on the whole, agriculture in Murara is not self sustaining for most farmers and cannot sufficiently support full reliance on the land. My interview participants had interesting things to say in regards to land degradation and conservation in the area. Cutting down large long standing trees is illegal in the countryside. Because of this, F igure 12 Mature reeds stacked for use, with seedling reeds ready for planting. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! (* ma ny purchase coal at market for a high price. A common alternative to purchasing coal is growing (or purchasing) bamboo like reeds, which can be planted and harvested in one year. When questioned about soil quality, most of the woman responded by saying th e soil was "good", that there was no need to add manure; "year by year the soil has remained the same, not worse or better." This was not the sentiment of every interviewee however, and some explained that the quality of their soil had noticeably worsened over the past few years. It was hard to decipher the truth among this conflict of opinions. It is possible that some soils did indeed continue to remain of a high quality, while others degraded over time. It is also possible that my question was not clear, that the participants did n ot respond honestly, or that the women did not pay attention to the health of their soil (although I doubt the latter to be true). Some attributed the good quality of their land to the fact that the soil in the area is known to be volcanic, making it naturally fertile. Others ascribed the decline of their soil to their overuse of the land, and their lack of fertility inputs such as manure. The head agronomist of the Rubavu sector Jean Claude, helped to clear up the matter a bit supporting the claims of the women and going on to explain them in a more structured sense. He maintained that the soil was known to be especially fertile because of the proximity to the volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains. When I asked about the level of erosion and land degradation in the Rubavu sector, he explained that the area does not have many hills (as compared to other regions of the country), but where they exist there is erosion.
! )+ He expanded on this by offering the local solution: trees and bam boo are planted in terraced rows along the mountainsides to protect the soil from washing away. This initiative is supported by a government program, the name of which translates to "combat for erosion." The initiative organizes individual farmers by their community, gathering them at the beginning of each growing season in order to teach the benefits of planting trees and conserving soil. Jean Claude explained that an estimated eighty five percent of the Rubavu sector's people respect the initiative. In re ference to soil quality, it is advocated by the district that individual farmers rotate the crops they grow on their land each season to protect the health of their soil. Either way, there was evidence of soil erosion and degradation in the farmlands surro unding Murara as expressed by my participants and Jean Claude. Hunger and poverty are issues of great concern in Murara. This became evident to me right away; with children running around me all the time, it was difficult not to notice their skinny bodie s and protruding stomachs, both a sign of malnutrition. It was common for children who claimed to be nine or ten years old to appear no older than five in my eyes. I also observed children chewing on small pieces of raw maize or sugarcane, but generally n othing else. The apparent pervasiveness of hunger in the village was reinforced during my interviews: when I asked the number of times each woman was able to feed herself and her family a day, the general response was twice. Many however, responded that th ey could only eat once a day. Even with my preconceived notions of hunger in the village, this reality was difficult to comprehend.
! )" Beyond this, participants' diets were generally limited to sweet potatoes, bananas, white potatoes, maize, and beans. The l evel of hunger in Murara was certainly affected by the number of people living in a single household: of the women I interviewed, the average number of children per adult woman was five. In most cases, t he women were the only working member of the househol d, feed ing four, five, six, seven individuals. In addition, the majority of the women I interviewed were HIV positive. So were their husbands and children, and although medicine was free and available, the status of the women's health had obvious limits on their abi lities to feed their families. Those whose health was better than others still complained of their inability to provide an adequate life for their families. As one woman put it, "t he health of my me and my family is good, there are no problems. Our only pr oblem is poverty." The Role of Agriculture, Ethnicity and Land Tenure in Murara What are the implications of this research and my time spent in Murara? For one, my findings help to illustrate the essential theme of this thesis, the central role agricult ure plays in Rwandan society. As made apparent through my interviews, as well as my observations, the maintenance of land and livestock is a critical part of daily life in Murara. In fact, the practice of agriculture is arguably the single most important e conomic and cultural activity performed in the village. The vast majority of the loans provided by RSF were invested into agricultural businesses, whether it was the renting of land, the raising of rabbits, pigs, or goats, or the wholesale purchase of food stuffs for re sale at market. In Murara, one of the only viable economic pursuits is to produce some sort of agricultural commodity to sell at market. The women I spoke to were dependent
! )# upon their crops for survival, and in a few cases, also as their only source of income. The cultivation of land is also embedded in the culture of the people of the Murara village. As I learned, agriculture is an activity that has been central to the lives of those in Murara for decades. One interview participant explained "I've farmed since I was a child. I would help my parents in their fields, I enjoyed it, and would look for them when I returned from school." A response like this was not unique almost every woman I interviewed expressed that she had practiced agricul ture as long as she could remember. This field research also gives a specific context to the issues of post genocide Rwandan society, those outline d in chapter two of this thesis, and in particular the connections between high population density, scarcity of land food insecurity and poverty. These are indeed real issues being faced by real people on a daily basis in Murara, and presumably in many parts of rural Rwanda. This case study of Murara helps to illuminate this truth, fusing together the more conce ptual components of this thesis and giving them substance. Murara is a microcosm of the cycle of poverty in Rwanda. Unable to support the food needs of large families through their own agricultural production, the women I encountered instead had to eithe r purchase food from the market or go without. As in most of Rwanda, subsistence agriculture in Murara is not sufficient to provide for the population s caloric needs. The end result for those in Murara has been deprivation: hunger, malnutrition, and an over all decline in health for the population This study of Murara also offers evidence that agriculture and pastoralism are practiced in conjunction with one another in Rwanda today, and not necessarily in connection to one's particular ethnicity or race, a p oint I aim to stress in Chapter One of this thesis. Most, if not all, of the women I interviewed both tended to the land and raised animals.
! )$ Many of my findings from time spent in Murara coincide with the broader trends of agricultural production and pover ty in Rwanda as expressed by established academics in the field. I find this to be rather remarkable, as I did not know what would come of my research when I left for Rwanda. In the end, many of my main research questions were answered. High population den sity in the village has created a struggle for available land; limited off farm income and a dependency on agriculture have led to severe poverty. This has created a number of problems for those who live in Murara. My trip turned out to be a great opportun ity, experience, and case study. Alt hough I speak extensively about issues of ethnicity in the previous two chapters of this thesis, the topic is missing from this profile of life Murara The absence of ethnicity from the discussion is for good reason, and is representative of my experience as an outsider in the village. For one, it would have been wholly inappropriate to ask any of my interview participants or the other cooperative members about their ethnicity, whether or not they once identified as Hutu or Tutsi, or on which side of the genocide they found themselves. In fact, the words Hutu and Tutsi were never brought up in conversation in the village In my position therefore, I had n o way of knowing an individual's ethnicity, and I would have never ventured to ask. To bring up the topic would have been too risky, and in the end the only reason to question would have been curiosity, which is an unjustifiable motivation. One exception to the rule was our translators and st aff members, three of who divulged a bit of their personal histories. The relationship between the RSF USA volunteers and the RSF Rwanda staff was much different tha n that between the RSF USA volunteers and the RSF fam ilies. Still, in the case of our interpreters and staff, it
! )% would have been inappropriate to ask about their pasts; instead, they told us their stories without us promp ting them. Two of the three were living outside of Rwanda during the genocide; one was a genocide survivor. All three were Tutsi. The lack of conversation about ethnicity while in the village is important. For one, it is a reminder to myself that all I learned, I learned as an outsider. I will never know the interworking's of life in Murara as intimately as those who call it home. While I may have gained knowledge about some aspects of Rwandan culture and society, there are still many mysteries that I will never understand. It is also an important commentary on the role of ethnicity in Rwanda post genocide in general. As I mentioned previously in this thesis, in the wake of the genocide it has become a tabo o to distinguish between people based on their previously held ethnicities. The people of Rwanda are no longer considered Hutu or Tutsi; in stead, they are all Rwandese. In spite of this new cultural norm, and based on the intimate nature of the genocide, it is my guess that the people of Murara are aware of each other s ethnicities. The community is small and the genocide so recent I cannot imagine that the people of Murara do not remember the histories of their neighbors. It is my guess that ethnicity remains an unspoken, underlying factor to all social interactions and issues. Despite the fact that inequality based on ethnicity is at least officially no longer a factor in Rwandan society, there still seems to be a hierarchy based on land tenure in the village. Only one of the women I interviewed owned land; the others rented from other landowners. Although I did not have the opportu nity to speak with any of these landowners myself, and did not to think to ask questions about the landowners while conducting my research, it is a fair guess that the landowners are of a higher economic
! )& status than those living in Murara. The landless poo r are in essence dependent upon these landowners for their very survival. This relationship is similar in structure to the relationship of the so called cattle owning Tutsi and landless Hutu of the pre genocid e era. In that sense, it could be seen that the hierarchy based on ethnicity has been replaced with one based on land. Although it exists in a much different context, it is important to note that such an inequality still remains within Rwandan society as it speaks to the continued centrality of land a nd agriculture. This is a topic that deserves more exploration, and in retrospection I would have loved to have had the opportunity to investigate it further while in Rwanda. Although not exhaustive or conclusive this research offers a unique on the grou nd experience that a library thesis could not. It supports the claims of previous scholars, and illustrates that (at least in Murara) poverty is indeed a very serious issue, and agriculture and pastoralism are central to society. It also lends an example o f efforts being made to help reduce poverty on a small scale, both from within and from abroad. In hindsight things are obviously clearer than at the outset and with more time spent in the village and a better organized research plan, many of my remainin g questions could have also been answered. These include: (as mentioned above) what is th e relationship between the land owners and the landless poor? W hat is the history of cooperatives in Rwanda, specificity agricultural cooperatives? Are there othe r nati onwide initiatives such as the cooperative movement that support commu ni ty restoration from the ground up? U pon further research, I would pursue these topics
! )' Conclusion This thesis aims to evaluate themes central to Rwandan culture through an exploration of the history of agriculture and its impact on ethnic conflict, land degradation, and poverty in the country. Through this evaluation, I aim to investigate the role agriculture has played in shaping the history of Rwandan culture and society o ver time. At the core of this inquiry is a keen interest in the con nection of people to the Earth and the interplay of humans and the environment. As I have come to learn through my studies at New College and beyond, humans are inseparable from the land th at supports them, and although in some cases we have created such vast separations so as to think we are independent of the nonhuman world, we are not. In Rwanda, the connection between people and land is obvious: Rwanda is predominantly an agrarian societ y. Ninety percent of the Rwandans practice agriculture, and are therefore in constant interaction with the fluctuations of the Earth's natural systems. The importance of the relationship between Rwanda's population and the land is evident not only by the d eep agricultural history of the nation, but also the primary issues of contemporary society. In the end, the intention of this thesis is to explore the role land and agriculture have played in shaping the culture of Rwanda and its people throughout its his tory and into contemporary times. The scope of this thesis is not limited to one argument; instead, it is an evaluation of the evolution of aspects of Rwandan culture over time. My approach in addressing such a large and extensive topic was to synthesize what I found to be the dominant motifs of Rwandan cultural history. In my research I found that many of these motifs have yet to be discussed in relation to one another. In light of this, I aimed to bring seemingly tangential ideas together; more specifi cally, I aimed to emphasize the role of land in the
! )( ethnic conflicts of the 20 th century, and t he issues associated with land post genocide In Chapter One, I explore d the historical importance of land and agriculture to Rwandan culture, and the function b oth played in shaping the political and ethnic makeup of Rwandan society prior to the genocide. In Chapter Two, building off this foundation, I trace d the impacts of the 1994 genocide on Rwandan contemporary society, particularly the ways in which it affec ted land availability and agricultural production. I then move d on to discuss the cycle of poverty, as it exists in Rwanda today, in part as a result of the country's deep ties to agricu lture. In Chapter Three, I brought a voice to the issues of the rural poor by exploring my time spent in the Murara village. Chapter One established a central motif of the thesis, the deep connection of Rwanda's people to land, through an examination of the part agriculture (and pastoralism) played in shaping the ethnic te nsions of the 20 th century. I took a long view at the history of Rwanda, beginning with ancient agricultural history. In the region now known as the Republic of Rwanda, people have tended to the land and raised animals for at least 3,000 years. During thes e times, and into the dynastic period, the production roles were fluid: people practiced both agriculture and pastoralism in conjunction wit h one another, with the difference dictated by the microclimate they lived in. With the rise of the Nyiginya dynasty and the centralization of the Kingdom of Rwanda under one ruling elite, power became associated with cattle, and the class called the Tutsi; the landless poor were considered Hutu. During this time, and until the 1930s, the designations of Tutsi and Hutu were also fluid the ruling elite were Tutsi, the poor were Hutu. One's status as either could be adjusted as necessary.
! )) Colonial ru le greatly impacted the so cial hierarchy within the Kingdom. Belgian and German colonists took what they perceived to be the distinct separation of Hutu and Tutsi as different races and cemented them as such. The Hamitic Hypothesis, supported by the British explorer John Hanning Sp eke, purported that the Tutsi were migrants to the region, descendants of a lost race of white Christians. This idea has been found by many scholars to be untrue, an example of scientific racism. Proof against the hypothesis exists in the fact that the an cestors of modern day Rwanda practiced the same religion, spoke the same language, and shared the same culture for centuries. In the 1930s, the Belgians solidified this idea by assigning a race to all Rwandese people, Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa. There was no lon ger any room for movement from one to the other. Over time and through the many phases of political upheaval, the Rwandese people began to internalize the racialization of Hutu and Tutsi, eventually identifying with one or the other. This culminated in gen ocidal propaganda against the Tutsi: the Tutsi were pinned as elite outsiders who needed to be exterminated as a means of putting the country back into the hands of its rightful owners (the Hutu). This eventually resulted in the slaughter of nearly one mil lion Tutsi and moderate Hutu in the spring and summer of 1994. From this chapter, I hoped to make clear the point that the history of agriculture and pastoralism in Rwanda was a driving force behind the motivations of the genocide, and from this, that agri culture and pastoralism are central to Rwandan history in general. In Chapter Two, I drew the connection between the history of the genocide and issues of post genocide society by exploring the continued role of agriculture. I began by discussing the dire ct impacts of the genocide on population migration and land availability. The violence of 1994 left the country absolutely ravaged, economically,
! )* structurally, and agriculturally. After the killing ceased, a large percentage of Rwanda's people were living as refugees or internally displaced persons. After some time, this population in exile began to migrate back into the country, desiring homes and land to cultivate. The mass movement of people into Rwanda created a serious competition for land. This bring s us to contemporary times. Rwanda exists today as a culture of agriculturalists with little land to cultivate. The exploding population growth, combined with the limited land base has created a cycle of poverty difficult to escape. Desperation has led peo ple to farm the land at a greater intensity, which has in turn led to soil degradation and erosion. The result for the rural poor that depend directly on the land is severe poverty and deprivation. With this evaluation of contemporary issues of land, I aim to make salient the idea that agriculture and pastoralism continue to affect Rwandan culture and society. The main problems facing Rwanda's rural population are created by the people's deep conne ction to t he land. In Chapter Three, I brought in a case st udy of life in rural Rwanda, the Murara village. This chapter is in part a recap of my time spent with the Gainesville and Gisenyi based nonprofit Rwanda Sustainable Families. It is also a brief profile of agriculture and poverty in the village: the crops grow n, the quality of the soil, the level of food insecurity and hunger. This experience provided specific examples of the themes noted in the first two chapters of this thesis. It also gave a specific context to the issues of rural Rwanda discussed in Cha pter Two. The observations made in Murara provided evidence to the fact that agriculture is central to Rwandan rural lif e, that the cycle of poverty doe s exist, and that creative strategies of poverty reduction must soon be implemented. It also
! *+ provided ev idence that rural Rwanda far m ers are already pursuing their own strategies of poverty reduction. On a larger scale, the overarching themes of this thesis are important to the general environmental and anthropological discussion because they reiterate the idea that agriculture is central to human society and culture. As I expressed in the introduction to this work, problems of the environment, by default are also problems of humanity. In other words, because humans are inextricably tied to food and land, is sues of the environment and issues of humanity are one in the same. Therefore, the fate of both the human race and the nonhuman environment are deeply intertwined. The problems of our time are global and complex; overpopulation and industrialization have s et today's societies on an accelerated path toward destruction, unparalleled by any previous time in human civilization. Finding the solutions to these problems will require humans to work closely with the processes of the E arth. Again, this brings me back to one of the main motifs of this thesis, the interconnected nature of all living things, humans, plants, water, animals, soil, and air included This idea helps to give context to environmental issues worldwide The example of Rwanda is not necessarily u nique, as many other cultures around the world rely almost exclusively on land and agriculture for survival. While the history of Rwanda is specific to the country and its people, communities worldwide experience struggles similar to those of the Rwandan p eople. The overuse of land internationally as a result of overpopulation and desperation has led to a decline in soil fertility creating a perpetual cycle of poverty. Although humans exist as a part of nature, our manipulation
! *" of the land through agriculture, pastoralism, and deforestation has serious consequences for the sustainability of land as a renewable resource. In the post modern globalized era, it is easy to forget the truth that food comes from the Earth, that our actions as living being s relate to the cycles of nature, and that we depend upon the health of the land for our very survival. In Rwanda however, these truths are impossible to ignore, in part because the bulk of the population lives in such close contact with the land. This is based on necessity, but is also due to the long history of agriculture in the region. Because Rwandans are dependent upon the land for daily survival, the health of the environment (or the decline of health) is more apparent, and is reflected in the health of the people, as it would be in any ecosystem. The relationship between people and land in Rwanda is the very reason issues of land degradation and soil erosion are hitting so hard. Unlike in the United States, in Rwanda there is no other option than to ebb and flow with the will of the environment. While all humans are dependent upon the Earth for survival, in Rwanda the health of the environment is all the more important. Rwanda is therefore a perfect example of the fact that issues of the environment a re issues of humanity, that humans and nature are inseparable; it is also a prime model of the affects of overpopulation on the natural environment In response to my experience in Rwanda, the case of Murara is an important example of the need for suppor t in rural communities, either from the government, domestic and foreign nonprofits, or cooperatives. My time spent volunteering with Rwandan Sustainable Families was highly rewarding and enlightening to say the least. For one, it was my first experience w ith a development NGO in a foreign context.
! *# Because of this, I was able to learn so much not only about the operation of a foreign aid nonprofit but also about my personal morals and values in regards to foreign development aid. Although I have no other pr actical experience with foreign aid, I know from previous academic research that aid is often m isguided, and even if the intent ions are good, it can often lead to dependency. In the worst cases, foreign development aid is a form of neocolonialism. Rwanda n Sustainable Families was born out of love and compassion. The idea behind the microfinance model is that it is said to discourage dependency and encourage self sufficiency. The mission of RS F is "to help Rwanda families in starting small, sustainable bus inesses and to support education for their children as a means of ending the cycle of poverty." The microfinance model was chosen for Rwanda Sustainable Families because it seemed to best fit the ideals of the new organization. The first initial loans of 1 25 USD were given to twenty seven individual s on the basis that they pay back fifty percent of the loan within the next year. Upon return to Rwanda in the summer of 2012, the loan program was in a state of disarray: regular business meetings had fallen to the wayside, follow up loan evaluations meant to be conducted by the RSF Rwanda staff were at a pause, and only a few of the borrows had paid back any mone y at all. In order to continue as a successful aid nonprofit, the RSF model had to change. This took at least a month of around the c l ock troubleshooting and brainstorming dedicated to revamping the credit program. What came of the hard work was a new loan model with a greater built in support system. Any new loans awarded under the new program were exp ected to be paid back in full, with ten percent added interest (the old borrowers are still expected to pay back only
! *$ fifty percent) The idea of charging interest came from studying other microfinance institutions, many o f which charge upwards of 40 perce nt; the interest would also serve as an investment into providing more loans for the community in the future The loan is still expected to be spent on a new business, as well as the supplies needed to put one child through school for the year. Accompanyin g the loan now is the support system of monthly business meetings with other borrowers, business skill training, and frequent check ins from the RSF Rwanda staff. The borrowers are expected to make payments on their loans twice a month. This infrastructure provides the necessary support to get the families on their feet again, or for some, for the first time. Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) the Grameen Bank in particular, have been heralded as the best new form of development aid for p overty reduction. However, there are many criticisms of MFIs, an d it should be made clear that they are far from being considered universally beneficial. This is important to note in light of my experience with Rwanda Sustainable F amilies. The idea behind microfinance is that instead of giving "hand outs to those in need, assista nce is best delivered through loans that allow market participation. This idea is misguided as it assumes that the market is a "fundamentally egalitarian space of economic engagem ent with which anyone who has access to capital can succe e d through hard work" ( Cons and Paprocki 2010: 639). It also assumes that capit al gains are the solution to poverty, when in fact poverty is the result of a plethora of social, political, cultural an d economic factors as this thesis illustrates (Ibid. 640) It is also argued that mi croloans do not help the poorest of the poor; instead, they are of greater benefit to those living above the poverty line because clients with more income
! *% are more willing to take the ri s k involved in taking a loan (Hermes and Lensink 2007: 463) Many MFIs are also seemingly more concerned with the sustainability of their program and therefore charge very high interest rates. The burden of paying back the loan plus the interest can cause great hardship for the clients, pushing them even deeper into debt In many cases, loan recipients find themselves in a position of greater poverty and dependency than befo re they received the loans I t has also been argued that microcredit programs undermine traditional and local coping strategies, as well as native loan system. As to be expected, many locations where MFIs have established themselves already have their own programs and systems that work to help reduce poverty fro m within. In some cases, through their very existence MFIs have taken away from the success of said local initiatives (Cons and Paprocki 2010: 644) Microcredit programs are also generally targeted at women, with the idea that access to a loan will result in women's empowerment Under some circumstances however, the loans can actually lead to greater inequality, as women are forced to give the loans over to th eir husbands and must still find a way t o earn enough money to support their families and pay the loan back. Microfinance alone cannot overcome ingrained patriarchal systems of control (Ibid. 646 Hermes and Lensink 2007: 464 ). This critique is important in the context of my work with R wanda S ustainable F amilies. While I do not necessarily believe that the RSF microloan program affected the community of Murara in the ways discussed above it is important to be aware of the possibly negative consequences of the organization's presence in the vil lage. Insight into these issues could have helped forego some of the problems RSF encountered with its
! *& loan program. For all the love invested in the organization, I still take issue with some aspects of it, and foreign aid in general. Although the model o f RSF is meant to promote community building, self sufficienc y, and hard work, I am still uncomfortable with the idea that the support is coming from a foreign entity. As an outsider, it is very easy to miss the slight cultural norms that make up the fabri c of interpersonal relationships and Rwandan society in general. This was the case time and time again while in Murara. Many of the challenges we faced as a team on this trip came as a result of the fact that those in charge did not have a deep understandi ng of Rwandan culture, as someone native to Rwanda would. For example, at the start, there were many issues with borrowers not paying their loans back. I inter preted this to be based on the reality that many of the bo rrowers had little education or knowled ge of a credit system. To citizens of the United States, the concept of a loan is almost intuitive; in Rwanda it is much less so. This lack of sensitivity to this detail is due to the fact that the Rwanda Sustainable Families team is for the most part comp rised of American citizens. A domestic organization may have had the insight to offer business training before dispersing the loans, may have realized that other forms of aid are more appropriate, or may have simply been able to better communicate without the language barrier (this was one of the most challenging issues for RSF while I was involved). Again, a better understanding of both the culture of Rwanda and the history of MFIs could have eliminated much of the complications the organization has faced. The hard work invested in the summer 2012 t rip did much to restore the loan program. And it was a good thing it did; the loan program was close to collapsing. If it had collapsed, it would have been a huge disappointment to the people of Murara. To
! *' esta blish an aid initiative t hat involves the lending of money without the knowledge or foresight of possible challenges is irresponsible. Most of the issues associated with the program came directly out of a lack of experience in microfinance, and nonprofit w ork in general. There is something very important to be learned in this: benevolent aid is not always okay It can be imposing and in the end, possibly more harmful than helpful. While the RSF USA team, myself included, was able to observe many things thr ough our time spent in Murara, we will never be able to know the true extent of them. This can be attributed to our position as outsiders, but also to the fact that many Rwandan seem to live out much of their sorrows in private. Although everyone smiled an d laughed in our presence, I knew that there was much sadness behind such joy. The tragedy of the genocide is still very real for most of the population, and in many cases a living night mare, as perpetrators and victims live side by side. Another layer to this is the fact that foreigners, mazungus are venerated, and often unrightfully treated as celebrities would be in the United States. In some cases, I got the impression that many of the RSF borrowers were feigning their successes (or failures) because they felt it was the appropriate thing to d o in the presence of those that were providing them with support (money, essentially). This power structure of giver and receiver made me uncomfortable, and the language barrier did not help ease such feelings. Nonetheless, many life changing opportuniti es have come of RSF's work in Murara. One of the most remarkable is the establishment of two artisan cooperatives Komera and Umugisha (Kinyarwanda for "be strong" and "blessing", respectively). As I mentioned in the introduction to this thesis, the Komera Cooperative was created by an
! *( ambitious RSF borrower, without influenc e from the RSF USA team. This woman took the initiative to seek out other borrowers, and gather the funds they would have otherwise paid back to RSF, in order to start the cooperative. S ince its beginnings, Komera has come a long way: it now has 40 plus members, working together to produce marketable products such as clothing, bags, woven mats, and baskets. In 2012, with support from RSF Rwanda Project Manager Felix, RSF borrowers and oth er community members established a second cooperative, Umugisha. This second organization is comprised solely of HIV positive women, and represents a n economic support group as well as a community of united individuals. The successes of Komera and Umugisha of course, could have not come to be without the love and support of Rwanda Sustainable Families. However, foreign donors do not always know best, and he inspiration behind the establishment of both groups came from within the community. In contr ast to fore ign development aid, even micro finance, cooperatives are ideologically built upon the idea of community fostered independence and economic stability. The International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as an autonomous association of p ersons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise ( Mukarugwiza 2010: 2). Cooperatives, as institutions, have specific values that include se lf help, self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity ( Ibid. 2). In the attempt to live up to such values, the cooperative movement has developed specific principles that guide their activities: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, cooperative autonomy and independence, education, training and
! *) information, cooperation among cooperat ives, and concern for community (Mukarugwiza 2012: 3). Cooperatives stand as an important alternative to the typical the donor recipient complex central to foreign development aid. For one, cooperatives are open to all persons willing to accept the responsibilities of membership. Beyond this, they are controlled directly by their members, who are required by default to participate actively in the decision making process. Cooperatives therefore attract individuals who are interested in making a positive difference in the organization, or in their lives in general; becoming a member of a cooperative is an intent ional act toward the betterment of one's life. Cooperatives also exist as savings institutions: members contribute equitably to and democratically control the capital of their cooperative, and thereby have a say as to how the money will be spent. It is a g eneral rule of thumb that some portion of the group's money be reserved as the common property of the cooperative. Members then make decisions as a group on how to spend the surplus, which can be allocated to any purpose they see fit ( Mukarugwiza 2012: 3). Most strikingly, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities (Mukarugwiza 2012: 3). In the case of the Murara village, and rural Rwanda in general, cooperation within the community is one of the most important steps toward pove rty reduction. Although RSF is working hard to provide support in Murara, much of the planning behind the organization is still done from the United States. As it stands today, the programming of Rwanda Sustainable Families cannot compare to the direct eco nomic and emotional support of one's neighbors and friends that the members of the two cooperatives receive. I will not venture to assume the histories of the many
! ** RSF borrowers and co operative members beyond the likelihood that nearly all of them are surv ivors of the genocide in some form or another. In light of the events of 1994, and the years of institutionalized hatred and violence that preceded the genocide, it is remarkable that the individuals involved in the Komera and Umugisha are successfully working together to achieve common goals. The fact that their involvement in the organizations has also created a support system built on love, respect, and camaraderie is a near miracle. As for the "success" of the loan program, the out come has been varied. Only two of the initial twenty seven loans have been paid back in full. Upon their request, these two women were granted second loans to expand their businesses. Five individuals have made zero payments on their loans. The rest have p aid back portions, but not the full amount. However, to measure the success of the program solely on loan paybacks is shallow, and misses the many subtleties of success exhibited in the efforts of the people of Murara. Although Rwandan Sustainable Families has had many administrative shortcomings, it has supported the families in their eff orts to support themselves. It should be made clear : the people of Murara are not helpless. Al though RSF has done much to aid the people, t hey are fully capable of helping themselves. In fact, they are working every single day to bring themselves out of poverty, and to create a better life for themselves. Among the greatest successes of the program are the two cooperatives, initiatives created for the people, by the people. In this case, local coping strategies were employed to help see a community out of poverty. Success in Murara should instead be measured in social resilience, in community restoration, and in women's empowerment
! "++ Although I cannot assume that cooperative s can solve all problems of rural Rwanda and the issues embedded in Rwandan culture and society, I believe they stand a fighting chance as the best possible approach. They represent an opportunity for personal liberation from the cycle of poverty, and one that does not require the ties of foreign development assistance. Where does the future of Rwanda's rural poor lie? I have no idea, and I will not presume to have an answer to this question. From my experience in Murara I can clearly see that the road is l ong, and that the struggles are very, very real. However, with support from neighbors and the will, the hope, and the strength to good for one's self and one's family, I believe that there can be slow, positive change. Strength in community is what I obser ved in Murara, and it is making a valuable difference in the lives of those involved. And let's be real, if anyone is strong, it is the people of Rwanda. Komera F igure 13 The women of Komera with the RSF USA and RSF Rwanda volunteers on a day of celebration. Locicero, Audra, 2012.
! "+" APPENDIX : INTEVIEW QUESTIONS Agricultural Practices 1. How long have you practiced agriculture? 2. Do you raise livestock (keep animals)? To you raise them to sell, or use them for milk? 3. What crops do you cultivate? 4. What is the best growing season/ part of the year to grow? Land Quality/Degradation and Awareness 5. Are you aware of the quality of your soil? Is it good? 6. Do you add anything to the soil (manure or fertilizer)? 7. Do you plant all year r ound? Do you let your fields lay fallow? 8. What do you use for fuel? Where do you get it? 9. What do you do for food in the off (dry) seasons? Economics, Food Security, Food Availability 10. Did you receive a loan from RSF? Are you a part of Komera? 11. If yes to RSF, how did you use your loan? To rent land? 12. Do you own our on land? 13. Do you sell your crops, or simply eat what you produce? 14. Are you able to purchase food nearby? How far from your home? Household/Health Information 15. How many peo ple live in your home? 16. Do any other members of the family work? 17. What is your typical diet? How many times a day do you eat? 18. How is your health? Do you have health insurance?
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