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Rwanda – July 31st 2008

Early start this morning, as promised. Mind you, slept very well and wasn’t too keen to be awake to be honest…this sleeping in a mozzy net is all a bit strange really. Bit like sleeping in a wedding veil, I guess…not that I have ever done that! We were on the road by 7.15, in Henry’s Toyota Hi-Lux. Seems like all the vehicles over here are Japanese, and mainly Toyota at that, with a smattering of Land Rovers, just to keep me feeling happy!

We were visiting a group near Butare in the south of the country, over 170 km away, so we toiled along the roads, which are very good actually, with a lot of investment going into the infrastructure since the events of 1994, however the lie of the land, which is very hilly and thus making the roads twisty, doesn’t make in easy for overtaking, especially when you are not sure what the bus or wagon ahead is about to do. They seem to have automatic swerve set on them, so that anytime the vehicle behind pulls out, they have to too. Perhaps there is a magnetic force around them or something. Then there are the people. Lots of them, all over. You only need stop for ten seconds to take a photo and you find suddenly ten children jumping in front of the camera, with streams of them pouring down the hillside to see what Mawundi (white man) is doing!

The best are the motorcyclists and pushbikes. They weave in and out of the traffic with seemingly no thought of anyone’s safety, piled high with passengers and goods. It has to be seen to believed what they can actually carry on a bicycle. Not that they can actually ride it when full, but they push them along as a beast of burden. The wagons are very interesting too, pushing out plumes of black smoke as they trundle up the hills in bottom gear, then down in bottom gear too, because you can’t always trust the brakes!

The area we visited had received around 300 head of cattle, in several different projects, last nov-dec at very short notice from the government, who help supply the cattle, which hindered the initial training of the keepers. Henry was very keen to see how it was all going as he hadn’t been down properly since the hand over. I think it is fair to say he was very impressed.

The first recipient farmer we visited had his cow but it hadn’t calved yet. It was due in September. She was looking very healthy, but the most impressive thing was as a peer farmer in the village, he had been taught the virtues of a “Key Hole” garden, where soil is piled up around a centre chamber where compost is kept, and that is where the water also goes, allowing the nutrients to be drawn into the soil and also retain the moisture better. Nearly every villager there had one of these “New Fangled Ideas” in their garden as they could see the positive benefits of it in just one short season of use, with healthier, heavier yielding crops.

The next farmer we went to see from another project had a cow which had calved and he was receiving 14 litres a day from her, which can be sold at around 14p/l. I’m not sure if he was selling any, or was using it feed his family etc, but the milk would be a great addition to their diet in any case. His house was at the end of a long dirt track which we managed to traverse via our 4x4 following Charles the Extension worker on his little 125cc motorbike. I mentioned to John, one of the other SAC staff with us about there not being any children here but he said, don’t worry, there will be…they will be running down the track behind us. And he was right. We ended up surrounded by 20 or more children!

The last farm we visited was about a mile walk up a dirt track, trampled solid by generations of people no doubt. It seemed like we were not really going anywhere when a huge valley opened up at our feet, and there we were at this very tidy farm, complete with home built barn, with cement floor, all cement having been carried there by hand. What a view they had over the valley and surrounding countryside. One thing really strikes me when here is the amount of time people have to spend on food. They travel to buy or sell it, grow it, tend the crops, water it, eat it and survive. We just pop to the shops without a second thought at all. I’m sure we would value you it a lot more if we had to invest so much time and energy in feeding ourselves. Perhaps there should be a bit more thanks for the farmers at home who do all that for us?

Back to food…I ate at the hotel tonight. Ordered half a chicken with rice. I knew would be quite a wait so took a book to read whilst I was waiting. Took about an hours for the food to arrive, but that was ok as it was a decent book (Inspector Rebus if you are at all interested…if your not, don’t bother reading this sentence…opps, too late, never mind!) Well, the BBQ chicken arrived. Chicken? Looked more like curlew too me! All the leg was there..I mean ALL the leg and complete to the skinny wing tip too. I think I got around 3 grams of meat off it. Think I will try rabbit tomorrow…mind you; it might just be the ears for all I know. The rice and veg were excellent though, thought I better add!


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