Identifying Methods to Improve the Food and Water Supply in Rwanda
The recent events following Hurricane Katrina served to emphasize just how important clean food and water are to the American public; fortunately, though, the profound deprivations in New Orleans were short-lived, but the same plight is faced on a daily basis by the peoples of many developed countries of the world. Tens of millions of people continue to go without adequate nutrition and access to safe water supplies, and the deaths and diseases associated with these inadequacies in basic human needs are well-known. While the problems facing policymakers and nongovernmental agencies seeking to improve food and water production capabilities in emerging nations are profound, there have been some methods identifying in the past that have proven effective for these purposes. To this end, this paper provides a plan to assist the developing country of Rwanda in improving its food and water production methods, followed by a summary of the research and recommendations in the conclusion.
Review and Analysis
Background and Overview of Rwanda.
Although Rwanda continues to experience chronic shortages of food, there is intensive cultivation practiced throughout the country, resulting in a large variety of food crops being produced. The primary indigenous crops include sorghum and eleusine; however, corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cassava, dry beans, and plantains are also grown. Although eleusine is harvested in May and sorghum in July, bananas and plantains can be grown the year round (Lemarchand, 2005). In addition, Arabica coffee (first introduced by European missionaries), tea, tobacco, and pyrethrum are the principal cash crops, with coffee representing the country's main export. The majority of the land that remains is comprised of natural forest that is found on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the northwest (Lemarchand, 2005). Fishing is also a common practice on Lake Kivu as well as in the smaller lakes of the interior, particularly Lake Muhazi and Lake Mugesera (Lemarchand, 2005). Methane gas from Lake Kivu is also used as a nitrogen fertilizer and is likewise converted into compressed fuel for use in trucks. The Mukungwa hydroelectric power installation is Rwanda's major source of electricity, but this facility only produces a portion of the country's energy needs, with much of the remainder being imported from Kinshasa (Lemarchand, 2005).
Critical Issues Facing Rwandan Food and Water Production.
In spite of Rwanda's potentially fertile ecosystem, food production frequently fails to maintain pace with the country's population growth, resulting in the need for food imports; Rwanda also continues to receive substantial aid money and was approved for IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative debt relief in late 2000 (Rwanda, 2005).
The country's current leadership has devoted an enormous amount of resources to defense expenditures, resulting in continuing tensions between the Rwandan government and international donors and lending agencies; furthermore, political instability in the region and a paucity of transportation infrastructure further constrains food production. In addition, there remains a critical problem with food and waterborne diseases in Rwanda, such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever (Rwanda, 2005). Finally, diminishing sources of clean water will likely become a prime cause of civil and international instability during the 21st century (Enhancing Support of African Development, 1996).
Alternative A. According to Chen, Kleinman and Ware, the relationship between economic development and individual mortality has been shown time and again to depend on income distribution, availability and price of food, and average living standards; although more research is needed to better understand how seasonal and chronic food shortages affect health behaviors as well as dietary intake or body weight. "These studies could suggest ways in which food and agricultural development programs could be modified to better protect families' health in case of food shortfall," the authors note (Chen et al., 1992, p. 9). Studies of environmental sanitation conditions have also consistently demonstrated that clean water supplies, waste disposal systems, and disease vector control programs affect mortality levels independent of the aggregate income effect and some experts believe that the provision of infrastructure and sanitation services should be the first step in promoting improved food and water production in the long-term (Chen et al., 1992). Therefore, this alternative represents a potentially viable approach to improving the ability of this emerging nation to meet the basic needs of its citizens in the future.
Alternative B. Because one of the fundamental constraints that continues to adversely affect Rwanda's ability to meet its domestic food and water production needs is the political instability in the region that is being amplified by the ethnic divisiveness that has rocked this African country in recent years. The genocide that occurred here in also well-known; from April to July 1994, members of the Hutu tribe murdered over 800,000 members of the Tutsi tribe (Scharf, 1999). The legacy of this violence continues to affect the national consciousness; more importantly for the purposes of this analysis, though, these instabilities combined with the constant drain of the nation's already scarce resources makes any substantive reform efforts meaningless until a change in the country's power structure takes place. Therefore, Alternative B. would be a regime change effected by the international community or, as a last resort, the U.S. And perhaps NATO acting in concert to bring a peaceful resolution to the ethnic divisiveness that does not appear to be dissipating in any meaningful way.
Alternative C. Because the issue under consideration herein involves both food and water production, Alternative C. is comprised of two parts. The first part of this alternative involves the provision of soy supplements to the people of Rwanda; this initiative is already underway in an experimental fashion in some developing countries, with consistently positive results shown to date (Goldstein & Goldstein, 2002). Furthermore, soy supplements have been shown to be a superior but low-cost food supplement. According to Henkel (200), "Soy protein products can be good substitutes for animal products because, unlike some other beans, soy offers a 'complete' protein profile. Soybeans contain all the amino acids essential to human nutrition, which must be supplied in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the human body" (p. 13). Soy supplements can replace traditional animal-based foods- without requiring major adjustments elsewhere in the diet, an important consideration when cultural differences are taken into account; in addition, U.S.-grown soy supplements mean that domestic producers will benefit from this initiative as well.
The second part of this alternative involves providing the people of Rwanda with an ability to acquire fresh and safe water in the immediate future. Groundwater in many rural parts of Rwanda represents the primary source of water for both human consumptions and agricultural purposes (Goldstein, 1990). The nations of Africa have historically been wracked by periods of drought that have adversely affected their aquifers and their ability to secure adequate water resources from time to time. As a result, it is important for the people of Rwanda to learn how to use what scarce water resources they have more efficiently, and to be able to treat it so that it is safe for use in both applications. These efforts will be supported by freshwater assessments to provide Rwandan authorities with accurate information on the quantity and quality of water as a prerequisite for its future development. Finally, improved water management practices in Rwanda will be encouraged to help ensure adequate water for food production. This step will include encouraging irrigation development and adoption of appropriate technologies (Enhancing Support of African Development, 1996).
Clearly, complex problems such as those facing Rwanda today demand complex solutions. In reality, a combination of all of the foregoing alternatives -- and much more -- would be required to effect any substantive changes in the food and water production capabilities of this developing nation in the near-term. While…