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04-06-2011, 03:22 PM   #1
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Development: Rwanda style.

QuoteQuote:
The term ‘Pygmy’ has gained negative connotations, but has been reclaimed by some indigenous groups as a term of identity. Each is a distinct people, such as the Twa, Aka, Baka and Mbuti living in countries across central Africa. Traditionally, small communities moved frequently through distinct forest territories, gathering a vast range of forest products, collecting wild honey and exchanging goods with neighbouring settled societies.

But many communities have been displaced by conservation projects and their remaining forests have been degraded by extensive logging, expansion by farmers, and commercial activities such as intensive bush-meat trading.

Few have received any compensation for the loss of their self-sufficient livelihoods in the forest and face extreme levels of poverty and ill-health in ‘squatter’ settlements on the fringes of the land that was once theirs.

QuoteQuote:
A Rwandan government programme to destroy all thatched roofs in the country is leaving thousands of Batwa ‘Pygmies’ homeless.

Hundreds of Batwa 'pygmy' families have seen their homes destroyed in recent months, forcing them to live in the open during the rainy season.

The authorities plan to destroy all thatched roofs in the country by May this year. Under the destructive scheme, families with means are meant to build new houses at their own expense.

The very poor (which include almost all Batwa) are supposed to be provided with iron sheets to replace the thatch, and the sick and elderly should be given completely new homes. But many huts have been destroyed without new homes being provided.

Among the most affected are the Batwa, the most marginalized people in Rwandan society. Rwandan Batwa are subjected to deep-seated racism and discrimination on a daily basis.

In Rwanda’s Southern Province, 30,000 thatched huts are said to have been destroyed in the last three months. Thousands of families have been left homeless.

The Governor of the Southern Province has justified the demolitions by saying ‘people were seemingly happy to stay in their thatched houses and showed no commitment to leave them.’ Survival has protested to the Rwandan authorities.

Stephen Corry, Survival’s director, said today, ‘Destroying Batwa’s homes, against their wishes, leaving them drenched by the rains, sounds like a sick joke, or the action of an enemy force. That their government is doing this ‘for their own good’ is deplorably arrogant. You don’t improve people’s housing by demolishing their existing homes and leaving them with nothing.’
Words can't express how stupid and depressing this is. No doubt the government officials who thought of this policy think, in some twisted way, that they are promoting 'more modern' development. In some African countries there seems to be embarrassment about people still living in traditional ways - for instance, the forced settlement of the San people in Botswana. It's criminal.

http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/7154

04-06-2011, 03:37 PM   #2
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Sounds more like ethnic cleansing than anything else.
04-06-2011, 04:46 PM   #3
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Rwanda has a history of ethnic cleansing
04-06-2011, 06:16 PM   #4
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so what exactly is the problem with thached roofs?

04-06-2011, 06:49 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by seacapt Quote
so what exactly is the problem with thached roofs?
They are just soooo third world.
04-06-2011, 07:08 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by seacapt Quote
so what exactly is the problem with thached roofs?
A way of meaning genocide without actually saying it, and therefore not be called liable for the result. Rwanda is such a troubled nation.
04-07-2011, 01:09 AM   #7
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I don't think the aim is genocide. Rwanda's government is at least 'formally' signed up to anti-discrimination legislation. The policy of removing thatch roofs and demanding people use corrugated iron sounds like trying to move people away from self reliance and traditional use of natural resources, to being dependent on commodities they need to buy, and therefore WORK for. The policy makes Rwanda's national coat of arms highly ironic:



Personally I feel that independent communities of people living in the traditional ways should be allowed to continue and given the space they need, and oppose the impulse to try and 'modernise them' - which usually means they end up living in slums with a shorter life expectancy, greater risk of alcoholism and disease, and a loss of their identity.

Last edited by ihasa; 04-07-2011 at 01:37 AM.
04-07-2011, 08:49 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by seacapt Quote
so what exactly is the problem with thached roofs?
Well, they do have certain problems, but more than that, if you want to see sinister motives among the lot, while they blame 'conservation,' ...Well, as dependence and assimilationist/eliminationist agendas go, it's not the *materials* so much as the traditional *skillsets.*

I'm not sure exactly what they use, but you can *make* thatched roofs if you're growing the right sort of crops anyway. If there's a 'valid' reason for wanting people to get away from that, it may have to do with those crops being an issue about the remaining jungle.

It's funny, cause I had a notion I submitted to a little call-for-ideas for some sort of 'eco-solutions for the third world' contest that a college was participating in, and it actually involved thatched roofs. A lot of waste is out there, dumped by the West or landfilled by the local cities that could be recycled into job-producing *artificial straw,* basically just extrude the stuff, cut it, bundle it, bingo.

Except for the hard parts, which is why it'd be an idea for lots of bright young materials engineers: some of these problems are inherent to thatch but usually moderated by the fact that thatch needs to be replaced periodically, some have to do with issues like any outgassing and actually getting the insulation properties, can it be made light enough, etc.

The upside being it's something that both applies to both traditional skills and could be really helpful economically.

But, eh, that area's always been prone to 'eliminationist' solutions, and the missionaries stirring up witch-hunts and pogroms against LGBT people, etc, sure aren't helping matters. You know they don't like people living traditional lifestyles, and there's *always* the fact they by definition won't be the same tribe/ethnicity as the guys wielding the government and religious power.

Genocides and atrocities like Rwanda has seen (Not the first in that region's colonial/post-colonial history) *traumatize* peoples, for at least some that'll come out sideways at best.

04-07-2011, 10:29 AM   #9
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The environmental impact of hand-gathered thatch like these guys use is inherently a lot less than that of sheet iron - locally produced, sustainable, provides habitat, doesn't require fuel to transport or produce, no mining... in fact, it must be effectively zero-impact. The source crop is grass, which grows naturally, and regrows when cut. It's also a great insulator (the phrase is 'cat on a hot tin roof' not hot thatch roof lol)...
04-07-2011, 11:50 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ihasa Quote
The environmental impact of hand-gathered thatch like these guys use is inherently a lot less than that of sheet iron - locally produced, sustainable, provides habitat, doesn't require fuel to transport or produce, no mining... in fact, it must be effectively zero-impact. The source crop is grass, which grows naturally, and regrows when cut. It's also a great insulator (the phrase is 'cat on a hot tin roof' not hot thatch roof lol)...
Right.

I never said we were dealing with honest people here.
04-07-2011, 01:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ihasa Quote
I don't think the aim is genocide. Rwanda's government is at least 'formally' signed up to anti-discrimination legislation. The policy of removing thatch roofs and demanding people use corrugated iron sounds like trying to move people away from self reliance and traditional use of natural resources, to being dependent on commodities they need to buy, and therefore WORK for.
To me that 'intent' is just smokescreen for the ulterior motive, which may not overtly be considered genocide, but something in me says that those in power wouldn't bat an eyelid if that was the outcome. The same goes for similarly covert oppressive policies that get snapped up in some corrupt governmental/council meeting in other African nations. This is not a new phenomenon, and I smell a rat.

QuoteQuote:
Personally I feel that independent communities of people living in the traditional ways should be allowed to continue and given the space they need, and oppose the impulse to try and 'modernise them' - which usually means they end up living in slums with a shorter life expectancy, greater risk of alcoholism and disease, and a loss of their identity.
There's nothing wrong with that picture - it happens even here in Australia with the indigenous Australians who want their traditional life and all the benefits it provides (but don't flinch if offered some of the benefits of a more developed society...)

The issue to me with the under developed lifestyle is the sequelae of what it entails - poor education and non-empowered women; rudimentary health care and a high rate of preventable conditions such as perinatal death, fatal and chronic infectious diseases and malnutrition; and a general lack of standards in all facets of life, abetting covert oppression by those in places of influence over people who wouldn't know any better.

But yeah, Will, I've spent some time under a thatch roofed home in Africa, and it is definitely cooler than even insulated colourbond (corrugated sheet iron) roofing.

Last edited by Ash; 04-07-2011 at 01:21 PM.
04-07-2011, 01:55 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
The issue to me with the under developed lifestyle is the sequelae of what it entails - poor education and non-empowered women; rudimentary health care and a high rate of preventable conditions such as perinatal death, fatal and chronic infectious diseases and malnutrition; and a general lack of standards in all facets of life, abetting covert oppression by those in places of influence over people who wouldn't know any better.
I think we need to make a distinction between people living authentically traditional lives with their own cultural system, and people who may have vestiges of that but are on the bottom rung of our cultural system (lets call it Globalism).

Some of the Batwa are still living as their ancestors did, and the problems they face are from outside, and have nothing to do with their way of life. Its a misconception that tribes who have maintained their traditional way of life suffer worse from diseases and malnutrition etc than anyone does in third world countries - the reverse is actually true, they do much better. And women are not necessarily less empowered within their societies than they are in the 'mainstream' societies of the countries they live in - sometimes the situation is better, and sometimes somewhat worse.
04-07-2011, 02:14 PM   #13
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That I can agree to Will. I have seen and lived first hand the bountiful life the traditional system can provide in all sorts of African communities (but not the Batwa - mainly western Kenyan and central and southern Ghanaian), and it is quite fulfilling without the need for technology. Education is passed on verbally and children are taught life skills from a young age. Health care may be there from the local witch doctor, but it's not what I consider appropriate health care; access to a medical doctor is sparse in such communities and transport is both unreliable and slow. I have also seen first hand the reality of the higher death rate from infectious diseases (not just HIV) and lower life expectancy - this is in relatively well-functioning and not so poor subsistence communities.

Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, the usual vices such as greed still exist and get in the way of the more communal/socialist lifestyle offered in the traditional setting. Indeed some societies thrive in this traditional lifestyle, but most don't do all that well in those simple measures of quality (and quantity) of life.
04-07-2011, 02:42 PM   #14
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I am talking from extensive reading rather than experience, but it sounds like you have some first hand knowledge. I am guessing the tribes you stayed with were farmers, the sort of people the Batwa do odd jobs for if they need something hunting and gathering can't deliver. The big downwards drop in life expectancy comes with shifting to an agricultural economy - it takes more work to produce food, you're probably reliant on a limited number of crops which might fail, and your diet is also probably less balanced (rice, rice and more rice).

QuoteQuote:
Post-reproductive longevity is a robust feature of hunter-gatherers and of the life cycle of Homo sapiens. Survivorship to grandparental age is achieved by over two-thirds of people who reach sexual maturity and can last an average of 20 years.

Adult mortality appears to be characterized by two stages. Mortality rates remain stable and fairly low at around 1 percent per year from the age of maturity until around age 40. After age 40, the rate of mortality increase is exponential (Gompertz) with a mortality rate doubling time of about 6-9 years. The two decades without detectable senescence in early and mid-adulthood appear to be an important component of human life span extension.

The average modal age of adult death for hunter-gatherers is 72 with a range of 68-78 years. This range appears to be the closest functional equivalent of an "adaptive" human life span.
Longevity among hunter-gatherers: a cross-cultural examination. | HighBeam Business: Arrive Prepared
04-07-2011, 05:40 PM   #15
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Indeed, I have also made no mention of the increasing prevalence of chronic 'lifestyle' (non-communicable) diseases that are creeping into the third world, which is now also not just affecting the affluent in those countries.

But you're absolutely right - being heavily reliant on subsistence farming (those communities I have spent some time in) means that there are usually enough calories (macronutrients) but not enough of vitamins/minerals (micronutrients). Bartering has been of great benefit in these communities and does help curb what would otherwise be pandemics of pellagra, scurvy and kwashiorkor but it's not a perfect system as I've alluded to earlier as a result of greed.

Last edited by Ash; 04-07-2011 at 06:54 PM.
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