Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘farmer’s’

Stealing the Land

The Truth About Land Grabs
From Oxfam America

We all rely on the land—our common ground—and farms to put food on the table. But the world’s farmland is at risk. Here in the US, we have been losing more than an acre of farmland every minute. In developing countries, the rush for land is even more intense.

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What’s a land grab?

Imagine waking up one day to be told you’re about to be evicted from your home. Being told that you no longer have the right to remain on land that you’ve lived on for years. And then, if you refuse to leave, being forcibly removed. For many communities in developing countries, this is a familiar story.

In the past decade, more than 81 million acres of land worldwide—an area the size of Portugal–has been sold off to foreign investors. Some of these deals are what’s known as land grabs: land deals that happen without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities that often result in farmers being forced from their homes and families left hungry. The term “land grabs” was defined in the Tirana Declaration (2011) by the International Land Coalition, consisting of 116 organizations from community groups to the World Bank.

The global rush for land is leaving people hungry

The 2008 spike in food prices triggered a rush in land deals. While these large-scale land deals are supposedly being struck to grow food, the crops grown on the land rarely feed local people. Instead, the land is used to grow profitable crops—like sugar cane, palm oil, and soy—often for export. In fact, more than 60 percent of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of feeding local communities. Worse still, two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with serious hunger problems.

Righting the wrong of land grabs

With your help, Oxfam has been campaigning on land grabs as part of our GROW campaign for food justice.

People like you successfully pushed the World Bank to commit itself to a new UN standard on how land is governed. This means they’ll work to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people have their land rights respected.

In 2011, 769 families were forced out of their homes and off thier land in Polochic Valley. Their crops and homes were burned. And three people died. Over 100,000 people signed to get the Guatemala Government to declare support for the Polochic communities and, to date, 140 families have had their land returned. The campaign continues.

To send a global message about land grabs, thousands of Oxfam supporters and Coldplay fans sent photos and videos of ordinary things out of place, echoing the displacement of land grabs. These clips were edited together into a music video that helped raise the profile of land grabs during the campaign targeting the World Bank.

What’s next?

Communities are already standing up and demanding their rights. And because big food companies rely on your continued support to stay in business, you have a rare opportunity to stand with local farmers as they struggle to retain their farmland. Visit BehindtheBrands.org and see how the 10 biggest food and beverage companies score on their land policies.

– See more at: Oxfam America.

Summer Of Hunger

Summer Of Hunger

August-Match-3-Mali-COBv3Survivors of last summer’s drought in Mali are facing another summer of desperate hunger – and a food crisis that targets the most vulnerable.

Instead of saving seeds for this year’s harvest, farmers cooked and ate them last year. Selling the family’s only ox raised money to buy a little food then – but left them without a way to plow the fields and grow more food this year. In a vicious cycle, last year’s drought means fewer crops this year – and hunger spread like wildfire.

In communities reliant on their crops for food, this is the worst time of year for hunger. In a few weeks, the harvest will come in and there will be more food to go around – but 4.3 million people in Mali need humanitarian assistance right now. They can’t wait a few weeks.

Your gift today will help CARE send supplies where they are needed most and fight the root causes of hunger. And thanks to our limited-time match, anything you can give will be doubled to have twice the impact.

The food crisis is affecting some of the most vulnerable: Pregnant women. Breastfeeding mothers. Very young children too hungry to do anything but cry. Disease and hunger are rampant and the situation is desperate – but we know how to step in and make a difference.

CARE has already distributed 10,748 tons of food in Mali, including rice, sorghum, corn, and cowpea, as well as fertilizer to help farmers boost their crop yields. But since the beginning of the year, the number of people who need immediate assistance has doubled.

Things in Mali are bad – but you can help change all that, and it takes less than you might imagine. It only costs $7 to provide a week’s supply of food for someone in crisis – and with our match, every dollar you donate will stretch twice as far. Will you step up to help those who are suffering in this emergency?

Please donate today to make a difference in the lives of children and families in crisis. With our match, your gift will go twice as far.

Thank you for all that you do to improve the lives of those in need.

Sincerely,

Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH
President and CEO, CARE

Working Hand-In-Hand

Dear Gabriel,

What would you do if your income was suddenly gone – and at the same time every single store raised its prices?

In Mauritania, many families’ crops died in the fields; then, because food was scarce, food prices skyrocketed. In Senegal, a poor harvest forced some farmers to eat their seeds simply to survive – leaving them with little left to plant.

It’s a story that repeats across the Sahel region of West Africa and around the world: when crops die, food prices go up. Families are faced with the terrible decision to sell or eat whatever they have simply to survive – even though selling their goats, plows and other resources will make rebuilding or weathering the next crisis even harder.

To make a difference in a disaster like this, we need to be there before it strikes and stay long after other groups leave. That’s what Oxfam supporters make possible – not only helping families access emergency food and water, but also restoring wells, providing veterinary support for livestock, supporting women-run small businesses and more – all to create lasting change.

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Before the year ends, we need compassionate people like you to stand with us and be counted – without you, none of this happens. Can you help now?

Your gift of $50 today will help families build a life free of poverty, hunger and injustice from the Sahel to Haiti and beyond. Please donate now.

As an Oxfam supporter, you understand that a long-term commitment is key to saving lives when the toughest times hit and righting the wrong of hunger and poverty in the first place. You get why we have to be in this fight for the long haul.

You want to fight root causes – not just symptoms. When emergency aid is what’s needed, you’re there to help. But you know that the root causes of hunger are poverty and injustice. Together, we work to empower communities, giving people the information, tools, training and help they need to change their situation – for the next harvest and the next generation.

You know the power of working with local communities. Instead of telling people what to do, we listen to their ideas. Then, together, we provide the resources and work hand-in-hand with local partners to improve their communities together.

You want charities to be careful with your money. We design all our programs to be efficient and effective, and we constantly measure results. In the years since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, as international aid slowed, Oxfam has carefully identified where we can do the most good – and focused on the critical need to boost rice agriculture so farmers can make a living and help the country better feed itself.

img_savinglivesAnd finally, when you know you can make a big difference, you don’t stand on the sidelines. There are families going hungry, mothers struggling to serve their children even flour and water. In a world as rich as ours, we all know this is wrong. And we know that together, we can do what’s right.

We need to raise $2.6 million by midnight on December 31. Can you help?

Your gift will help fight poverty, end hunger, stop injustice and change lives. I hope you’ll make a generous commitment to Oxfam before the end of the year.

Sincerely,

Raymond C. Offenheiser
President
Oxfam America

Feeding the World

Dear Gabriel,

As the election season builds to a finish here in the U.S., the farms across the developing world have been plagued by drought, with the often before seen results of hunger and despair for millions of people. Though they may be far away, you can make a difference for these millions. The decisions we take – or shirk – have real consequence, and not just at home. Today, you can take action designed to help end extreme world hunger forever.

Yes, of course we need governments to focus on the causes of extreme hunger and to help local farmers grow their way from dependency to self- sufficiency. But at FINCA, we don’t wait for governments to solve problems – we take direct action, and we invite you to join us today.

The U.S. State Department has confirmed what FINCA has witnessed for years. Although women in many countries frequently make up a majority of those working in agriculture, they are a tiny minority of land owners. Moreover, poor women are frequently denied access to credit, preventing them from hiring employees, buying seed and fertilizers, and expanding or improving the land that they work.

This is not just hurting women. It is strangling the economies of poor countries and the prospects of thousands of families struggling to escape poverty.

The exclusion of women from a full and equal role in farming leads to the loss of as much as 20-30 percent of crop yields according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). When so many families are just one drought from disaster, the marginalization of women farmers is not just a tragedy but a preventable scandal.

The FAO asserts that the equal access of women farmers to credit, farming tools and land rights, “could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 4 percent and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by as much as 17 percent, up to 150 million people.” That’s almost half the population of the United States.

And let’s be clear, the term “hungry people” is very literal. These are hard-working women, men and – far too often – children, whose ability to plan for a better future takes a distant second to planning for their next meal. It’s not right, it’s not necessary and, with your help, we can change this.

FINCA is not campaigning for equal access to credit for women farmers – we are providing it, making loans in rural communities from Mexico to Malawi that help women put food that they have sown and grown on the table.

As we stand on the verge of funding our one millionth microfinance client, you can stand with us.

Together, we can end the injustice of women farmers being denied access to life-changing credit solely because of their gender. By providing micro-loans, we can reap life-changing yields in agricultural output. Please help FINCA support women farmers today.

Thank you for your support,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President,
New Business Development

Honey Bee Crisis

Gabriel,

Since 2006, our honey bees have been dying off in droves. Billions of bees have disappeared in the U.S. with losses estimated at 30% per year.

And if the destruction of a species is disturbing enough on its own, the collapse of honey bee populations also threatens the security of our food supply since honey bee pollination is crucial to the cultivation of a full 1/3 of our food here in the U.S.

Urge the EPA to stop dragging its feet and take steps NOW to stem the collapse of honey bee colonies across the country.

Scientists have been scrambling to figure out what is behind this crisis – termed Colony Collapse Disorder – and believe it is probably the result of many interacting factors, including one widely used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

One such chemical, called clothianidin, is produced by the German corporation Bayer CropScience. It is used as a treatment on crop seeds, including corn and canola which happen to be among honey bees’ favorite foods.

Unfortunately, the EPA is refusing to make any changes until it completes its review of the safety of clothianidin in 2018 – but our honey bees (and bee keepers, rural communities and farmers) can’t wait that long.

Tell the EPA: Ban the use of this pesticide that may be wiping out our honey bees before it’s too late.

Shockingly, no major independent study has verified the safety of this pesticide. While clothianidin has been used on corn – the largest crop in the U.S. – since 2003, it was officially approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 on the basis of a single study, conducted by Bayer.

But leaked EPA documents2 expose a more sordid story. Agency scientists who reviewed Bayer’s study determined that the evidence was unsound and should not have been allowed as the basis for an unconditional approval of the pesticide.

Additional independent studies have shown that neonicotinoid pesticides like clothianidin are highly toxic to honey bees, providing compelling evidence that they should not continue to be approved by the EPA.

France, Italy, Slovenia, and Germany have already banned clothianidin over concerns of its role in Colony Collapse Disorder.

The stakes are far too high to continue the use of this chemical without independent science verifying that it is safe to use.

Thanks for helping to protect our bees.

Mike Town
Director, SaveOurEnvironment.org

Drought Compounded by Law

Dear Gabriel,

We’re in the middle of the worst drought in more than 50 years. American farmers are ringing warning bells: their crops are dying by the acre.

The US is the world’s largest exporter of corn, wheat and soybeans – so when our crops suffer, the world pays higher food prices and families go hungry.

What’s making matters even worse? The EPA’s mandate for corn ethanol – a rule that requires a large portion of US corn crops to be used to make ethanol. Instead of being eaten by hungry families, those crops are burning up in our gas tanks.

Higher food prices could cause severe food crises, like the current one in the Sahel, to spread to other regions of the world. We can’t wait any longer to take action! Join us in calling on the Obama Administration to waive this mandate.

We need your voice: Tell the Obama Administration to waive the mandate for corn ethanol NOW.

With a shrunken harvest this year in the United States, global food prices could skyrocket. As food prices continue to rise, people in poverty around the world – many of whom already spend a majority of their income on food – won’t be able to buy enough food to eat. Climate shocks are destroying crops simultaneously in multiple parts of the world, creating a perfect storm for hunger.

Last year, 40 percent of the corn produced in the US was made into ethanol because of this mandate. We’re burning up millions of bushels of corn for fuel – and what’s left over to meet demand is so expensive that millions of poor families can no longer afford to feed themselves. That’s just plain wrong.

By waiving the mandate for corn ethanol to allow more of this year’s harvest to be used as food, we can take some of the pressure off the global food market and stop food prices from rising out of control. Will you ask the Obama Administration to stop a global food crisis?

Send a message to The White House: Tell President Obama to waive the mandate for corn ethanol now so the world can afford to eat.

Thank you for standing with Oxfam’s GROW campaign. Together, we’re helping to fix our broken food system to ensure that everyone on the planet has enough to eat, always.

Sincerely,

Vicky Rateau, GROW Campaign
Oxfam America

A Woman of Heart

Excerpt from the beginning of the wonderful novel by Marcy Alancraig titled A Woman of Heart.

Back cover description:

After breaking her hip, 78-year-old Rheabie Slominski realizes that it’s finally time to share the secrets of her life with her granddaughter, Shoshana. Rheabie’s tales about the Jewish chicken ranchers of Petaluma, California, a vibrant cluster of Zionists, anarchists and communists struggling to survive the Depression, are populated b the most surprising characters: unhappy family ghosts, mysterious Guardian spirits of the land, and strange Uncle Mas.

“Could Grandma be slipping into Alzheimer’s?” Shoshie wonders. Yet, when the Guardians begin to show themselves to Shoshana and she stumbles on even deeper family secrets, everything she knows about herself and her history is called into question.

Chapter 1 – Unexpected Stories

RHEABIE

Every morning the past week, a wolf wakes me up from the kitchen. The minute I open my eyes, I hear it, walking back and forth. Yes, Shoshana, it’s you I’m talking, pacing like a caged animal. I know it’s hard to be here, taking care of a sick old woman, but enough already! Maybe you should relax a little? Just sit down?

I want we should visit. Listen, how often do I get the pleasure? Three stays in twelve years – and never more than a week. It’s not much.

Now, don’t get huffy. Did I say it should be any different? I know from the restless in you, my woman-what-loves-the-road. That itch to travel – it’s in those eyes of yours. Green – like the trees you love so much in Washington State. Seattle, Berne, Lydon – all the rainy places you’ve lived, they show in your face.

So listen, I understand how it must be hard, all this California sun here in Petaluma. September is the worst month, so hot and no fog. Still, we are trapped together in this little house, until my broken hip should get better, or I give up and die like your grandfather. You know the tsuris what happened the night I broke it. Giving up I don’t do. So maybe we can pass the time, telling each other stories? The truth, I’m talking. The real business of our lives.

I don’t mean the “everything’s fine, don’t worry” we both of us tell your mother and sister. I mean the big deal, Shoshana. All those surprising afternoons with a lover, for instance – I know you’ve had them – full of juicy business. Or those nights that broke apart in the sink maybe, like a tea glass whose pieces you couldn’t find.

Yes, of course, I’ve known my share and more, those kind of moments. These stories I’ve been waiting all your life to tell. Why? Because it was promised a long time ago, you should listen. By who? Never mind. That’s coming. And because even as a baby, the way you tapped your feet – so cute in those red corduroy booties – I could see you knew from restless. Only one year old and walking already. You lived with the same hurry and push what was born in me.

You don’t believe? All right, I’ll prove. Get out the photo album. The one what your grandpa put together – our early days on the ranch. You remember where it is? The left-hand book case, third shelf down. That’s right. Ach, so many memories. Look. This one, taken five years after we started here. You see? Me, feeding the pullets, in a hurry to get back to the kitchen. So much to do that day, for the camera I didn’t have time. “Enough already!” I swore at your grandpa. “The borsht is waiting!”

“Just one more,” he begged. “Smile.”

Notice the grin on my face, dolly, so strong and stubborn. Like I was biting back a curse, so much hidden behind those teeth. And did you ever wonder what I was seeing? Look at my eyes turned sideways, lost and lonesome. Hungry I was – for a glimpse of the Ukraine, a bissel of Terlitza, what I hoped might appear behind the barn. Oy, those were hard days. Like you, I was woman what did not know from home.

It’s not an insult, lovey, only the truth about us. Take a look at this one. Bent over the garden, showing my tuchis to the world. I was bigger in those days, yes, by a good thirty-five pounds; you could see me coming. I liked having hips back then, curves what meant something. Afraid I never was of zaftig thighs. But sorry I am to say, all that weight – it wasn’t all my body. Here’s the truth, dolly: I was a woman made big from carrying the dead.

Yiddish definitions:

tsuris – trouble, woes, worries, suffering
bissel – a little bit
Oy – a lament, a protest, a cry of dismay or joy
tuchis – buttocks
zaftig – juicy, plump, buxom

READ MORE OF A WOMAN OF HEART.

Ashita (Tomorrow) – Part 1

Excerpt from Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

Ashita (Tomorrow)

Toward the end of my academic studies I began to obediently panic about my future. “Where would I go? What would I do? Who was I? What would become of me? Would anybody care?”

They were never-ending questions of my age, without any answers except for one. I knew, without any doubt, that I had to leave Hamatombetsu, our coastal town of farmers and fields, where life revolved around chores, children, worship and gossip. Our small enclave of tradition was squeezing me like a bamboo noose. I wanted to explore, expand, walk unfamiliar streets, smell unknown scents and meet people I hadn’t known since pre-school! Except, of course, my dearest friend Kiri.

Kiri and I were inseparable. Our mothers said that they often saw us go to a corner of the playground when we were little, immediately squat down and talk or play together for hours on end. They said it seemed like we were in our own little world. And they were right. There is nothing about my life I haven’t shared with Kiri or she with me. We know each other like our favorite children’s books. She was the only other person who knew of my desire to leave.

At nine years of age I’d gone with my Chichi (father) to Sapporo and seen the sights of the grandest city on Hokkaido. We saw the parks, the baseball stadium and the buildings that were taller than any trees I had ever seen. Chichi had gone to see an old friend named Shogi, who lived in the suburbs. Shogi had treated me like a princess and taken us out for ice cream and treats every day we were there. He’d told my father how lucky he was to have such a beautiful little girl and I’d soaked it in, all the time feigning humility and giggling behind my hands.

Shogi worked downtown and had taken Chichi and I with him one day to see his office. I had never been on an elevator. When it first lifted, I’d felt my stomach fall and grabbed Chichi’s hand, but after the starting moments, was soon asking if we could up and down again and again.

The view from Shogi’s office was unbelievable! My mouth dropped unceremoniously open when he ushered us into his small office with a floor to ceiling window. I remember being careful to not stand to close, afraid that I’d surely fall off the side. The window was so clean I couldn’t see it.

One night Shogi took us to a place called a Karioke Bar. At first Chichi and I watched dumbfounded as people got on stage and sang along with the music. Some of them were so serious and so bad that we couldn’t stop from laughing. Shogi and Chichi must have drank a lot of sake, because it wasn’t long before they were up their grinning from ear to ear and singing like pop stars. They pulled me up to join them for a song. I was mortified at first and hid between their legs, but after some people started applauding I came out and joined them for a few versus. I don’t recall ever seeing my Chichi as happy as he’d been that night.

On our way home the next day my Chichi said, “Shogi is a lot of fun isn’t he?” I smiled. “And you liked the city, right?” I nodded emphatically and looked out the bus at the passing countryside. Then he said, “But don’t you EVER even THINK of us moving there.”
I looked at him in disbelief, asking “why” with my wide-eyed expression.

Without daring to look me in the eye he explained, “It is no place to raise a family. Many in the city are lost. They don’t follow the Buddha’s ways. They’ve made life complex and crave material goods.” He took my hand in his. “Promise me you will NEVER leave Hamatombetsu, OK?”

What could I say? I was a little girl who loved her Chichi and didn’t understand what he was saying.

“I promise.”

CONTINUED TOMORROW

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Bombs Away

Excerpt from biography Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

Fred Branfman emerged from the jungles of Laos carrying a heavy load. He wasn’t weighed down with ammunition, guns or rations. The international volunteer, who had been in and out of Laos for over three years, was burdened with something far greater than goods or a heavy backpack.

What he carried were photographs, drawings, documents and stories of the Laotian people and the devastation that had been inflicted upon them by United States bombs – bombs that officially didn’t exist; bombs that burned flesh and chopped off limbs; took the lives of mothers, children, elders and babies; bombs that destroyed homes, crops and entire villages; bombs that were intended for the communist Pathet Lao.

If was 1969, and the war in Vietnam was in full swing, though much of the fighting had been diverted from ground troops to killing by air. From 1968 through 1974, Laos had more ordnance, including cluster, fragmentation, Napalm, and 500 pound bombs – dropped on their lands and their people than did the Koreans, Europeans and Japanese during the entirety of the Korean War and World War II. The Pentagon estimated that they were dropping about six million pounds of bombs per day. Historically a gentle land of farmers, most Laotians had no idea what was happening or why America was trying to destroy them.

Few Americans had heard of the destruction taking place on The Plain of Jars and its 50,000 inhabitants, let alone that Laos and the U. S. government was intent on keeping it that way. U. S. reporters were not allowed on bombing runs into Laos and were restricted from speaking to military brass. Everything surrounding the raids was classified, but not all the people who witnessed or knew of the carnage could be silenced.

Fred Branfman carried pictures of people on the ground, the victims of impersonal high altitude air strikes authorized by U. S. Ambassador Godley and frequently directed by the CIA. He had close-ups of unexploded bombs bearing the symbol of the US; bombs dropped by American pilots who had never met a Laotian, let alone knew one. But Fred knew them personally; he had been to their homes, talked to the elders, and shared meals with families and communities. Fred was in bed, not with the military, but with the stories of the Laotian people. He was embedded with scenes and images he would rather not hold. He was embedded with unbearable atrocities that had been committed by his fellow Americans and was determined that the truth of these events not be buried with the Laotian people or minimized by U.S. propaganda that denied civilians were ever targeted.

Some Laotian Peace Corps friends of Fred’s told him about a young captain in the Air Force who was going to Washington to testify about the bombing of Laos to the Fulbright Foreign Relations Committee, the most powerful committee in the senate, chaired by Senator William Fulbright. They’d said this captain was a physician at the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base In Northeast Thailand, just over the Laotian border. The base was a hub for the US and CIA aircraft that were bombing the very people he held so dear. This officer had put out the word, through his civilian friends and employees of Air America (a front for the CIA), that he was looking for informational ammo about the situation in Laos.

How this captain had been so blatant about his mission and survived being thrown out of the Air Force was beyond Fred’s comprehension. He was just glad there was somebody sane enough to listen, someone who might be able to help stop the madness.

In late fall of 1969, Fred Branfman met Capt. Arnie Leff, MD, USAF, at The Bungalow, a counter-culture way station for off-duty military and civilians traveling throughout Southeast Asia. He entrusted all his papers, files, interviews and photographs about the bombing of Laos to Dr. Leff, a passionate Jewish-American kid from Brooklyn who had the guts, chutzpah, or naivete to stand up to the U. S. military and political regime and say, “This is wrong. This isn’t the America I believe in.”

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Eco Tourism In Rwanda

When most people think of Rwanda, the first two images that come to mind are usually Hotel Rwanda and the gorillas. If you asked them where in the country the gorillas reside (on the northern border of The Congo and Uganda) or when the genocide occurred, the majority of respondents must admit ignorance. If you told them the gorillas have been flourishing, as well as the country, they may think you are pulling their leg. Sixteen years since the 1994 genocide and several decades after the murder of Dian Fossey is a tiny blip in historical time, but centuries in the changes that have occurred in Rwanda.

In a country known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is becoming increasingly known for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for protecting and expanding the parks and educating the people living in the surrounding towns and villages, has been nurtured, supported and expanded. There are now over 700 mountain gorillas (minus the recent killings of several gorilla families in the Democratic Republic of Congo) living in an area that once saw them close to extinction. But how has this rapid change and growth been impacting those directly involved, both those in the tourist industry and those living in communities that surround the Volcanoes National Park, where the gorillas reside?

As we descended from the world-renown sanctuary (which includes the Dian Fossey Research Foundation) through the village of Sacola, a local farmer named Dagazay Ma replied to such questions by adamantly stating, “The tourists and park don’t help our family, but I think it is important to protect the gorillas and it gives hope for Rwanda.” Another man named Jimmy Ma leaned on his hoe at the corner of his field of vegetables and said, “The gorillas are very very important for our country because they help the country and local people. If you get the tourists, they buy from shops. Life has gotten better since more tourists arrived.” Jimmy has two sisters and one brother he helps support, as both his parents are no longer living. He is in his early twenties and says he goes to school during the week and works on the farm on weekends and evenings.

Our park guide Fidel, who has worked as a ranger at the park for 13 years, added, “A portion of your fee (500 U.S. per person) goes to fund community projects, schools and local arts and crafts. The stone wall around the park was made by local villagers who were paid for its construction.” The wall keeps buffalo from leaving the park and trampling the farmer’s fields, as well as providing a delineation point for the park boundaries. A portion of the fee also pays for the rangers, who are on 24 hour patrol throughout the park, as well as continuing research by the Dian Fossey Foundation and other conservation organizations (both national and international).

The majority of tourists arrive from America, England, France and neighboring African countries of Uganda, Congo, Burundi and Kenya. Kamanzi Alloys, who drove us from the Rwandan capital of Kigali to Ruhengari (the largest city in the north) said, “People in town like the money tourists bring into their shops. More and more people are learning English as a result. I learned English in school. Our country is safe and people are happier. Tourists go to the national park and Lake Kivu (on the western border of Rwanda) for all their natural beauty.”

Because of the current level of safety, government stability and support for the environment, numerous international businesses and non-governmental organizations are finding their way to Rwanda. It is centrally located, has one of the best communications systems in Africa, especially for wireless phone connections and has a political climate that has opened the door for investment and entrepreneurs. Some of the companies investing in Rwanda include Starbucks, Costco, Bechtel, Columbia Sportswear and Google. Rwanda is also one of the first countries to participate in the One Laptop Per Child Program that intends to provide a revolutionary new computer with internet access to every child in the country. Other nations and organizations have also committed funding for Rwanda’s energy needs, education and health care. All of the people involved with these agencies, companies and organizations bring goods, services and capital into the country. Combine that influx of capital with the money tourists spend on food, lodging, transportation, entertainment and merchandise and you can see why it would be difficult for most Rwandans to turn off the cash faucet and say “No”.

Even with this influx, not everyone is partaking of the bounty; not everything is “trickling down” or even started to flow. Less than five percent of the population has computers or internet access and the majority of this agriculturally driven economy are still poor farmers tilling every inch of land available. Rwanda is the most densely populated country per square mile in all of Africa. Thousands of orphans continue to live on the streets and the middle class are just beginning to see the benefits and climb out of poverty themselves.

Rwanda is not picture perfect, but for those directly and indirectly impacted by tourists visiting the Volcanoes National Park and the rare mountain gorillas within their midst, life is looking pretty good. Compared to the recent past, Rwanda is becoming a Shangri-la in the middle of Africa and all of those involved in the tourist industry are climbing aboard, holding on to and leading the tourist’s coattails, with hope for continued prosperity and a better tomorrow.

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