East Africa Trust
is a charity working to promote sustainable healthy lifestyles through appropriate technology, consultation, and hard work.
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Rwanda joined the East African Community, EAC, in 2007, joining Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi in a union aimed at providing cooperation in terms of political, social and economic issues between its members. It is to be expected that Malawi and perhaps other east African countries will join EAC in the future to provide an equivalence to the EU.
Rwanda Aid has been active in Rwanda for several years and today runs several important programs providing development and welfare in the South West of the country. Situated beyond the Nyungwe rainforest, SW Rwanda is a densely populated region which suffered severely during the 1994 genocide, was a neglected part of the country and even today there remains a feeling of isolation.
The visitor might take a short flight from Kigali to Kamembe, the main town in the region of Cyangugu, but most people will use the bus, costing about £5 for the 5 hour drive. This journey winds its way through well-cultivated and terraced hills before climbing perhaps 1000m into the dense Nyungwe rainforest. The constantly twisting road is riddled with potholes, now being crudely repaired with mud and stones which will surely rapidly disappear under the onslaught of torrential rain and truck tyres. Beyond the Nyungwe, we drop progressively to about 1800m and the hilly terrain typical of SW Rwanda: tea plantations, rice fields, fish ponds and a variety of vegetables and tropical fruits feed this most densely populated of Africa’s countries.
The Cyangugu district experienced a significant earthquake in February this year, with many mud and timber buildings being shaken apart, brick and cement structures cracking badly or falling down completely Nkombo Island, a brief boat ride across Lake Kivu, suffered badly and today many families shelter in temporary shacks of corrugated iron sheets, tarpaulins and sticks. Rwanda Aid is active on the island providing replacement housing for five homeless families in the first phase of rehabilitation and, funds permitting, more low-cost and appropriate housing will follow. Improved sanitation using composting toilets, rainwater harvesting and fuel efficient stoves bring marked improvements to peoples lives on the island; but it is a slow process.
In Kamembe, our 2 volunteers, Frances and Romi, are training local ladies in the use of sewing machines, fabric and card printing and necklace making, giving them new skills and the hope of an income from products for export to Europe.
Plans are well advanced for us to build a modest village for 50-60 disabled children in nearby Ntendezi – an interesting challenge to provide accommodation, showers, toilets, kitchens and accessible gardens for these unfortunate youngsters. If we can surmount the usual bureaucratic hurdles, this project can be underway during the next few weeks.
Rwanda Aid is rapidly becoming known for its drive and expertise in moving this region forwards in terms of schooling, housing, training, welfare and sustainable agriculture. Local mayors recognise RA’s potential to develop previously neglected areas and are willing to expedite the formalities so that we can make good progress with projects without undue delay.
Toady, we visited two possible future projects: a large warehouse is available which the mayor would like to convert into a community and IT centre – with wireless internet now available through the mobile phone network, such a centre is viable, given good quality IT equipment. There is also a former technical school, situated in a stunning hilltop location overlooking Lake Kivu, terraced countryside, tea fields and the distant Congo. Abandoned since the genocide, this site has considerable potential as a cultural and training centre, perhaps offering courses in crafts, music, agricultural training and appropriate technology. Given suitable accommodation, it could also attract visitor looking for a serene retreat and picturesque location, bringing in a modest income and possibly other skills to help the centre.
Rwanda and Malawi share many characteristics and problems common to the region. Rwanda Aid and the East Africa Trust have the same goals in terms of development and improvement and by working in unison here in Rwanda, we aim to benefit the region and work towards the Rwandan governments Vision 2020: a bright future for the country where the people will enjoy a much better standard of living, better health, a good education and increasing prosperity.