in the heart of the African rainforests lies a country in the midst of
volcanoes, lakes, forests, hills and valleys.
Measured at 26,340 square kilometers, the Rwandese
Republic is roughly the same size
as Maryland. With a total population of 8.7 million
people, the average population density is over 330 people per square
kilometer. This statistic includes all
of the volcanoes and lakes within the country’s borders; if you take them out
of the total, you are obviously left with an overcrowding problem.
With the gross
domestic product of Rwanda
being $6.4 billion, and agriculture making up 44% of that GDP, it is not
surprising that the per capita GDP is poor.
Compared with other countries in the region such as, Uganda,
Kenya, and Tanzania,
per capita of $900 is similar to the $1,100, $1,500 and $710 for the GDP per
capita of those three countries, respectively.
Using Gini coefficients as a comparison reveals that Rwanda
has one of the best Gini coefficients in the world at 0.289. Interpreting this number shows that, although
the wealth in the country is minimal at best, there is not much distinction
between rich and poor people. In fact,
it is ranked 18th in the world in relation to Gini
coefficients. Of the three countries
previously compared with Rwanda,
Tanzania is the
next closest in this statistic, ranked number 50 with a coefficient of
0.381. To put this in perspective, the United
States’ Gini ratio is 0.401.
is composed of three different groups of people. Batwa were the first people to migrate to
this area sometime between 2000 BC and 1000 AD.
They live off of nature by hunting for their food and gathering berries
and plants throughout the forests of the area.
Today, these Batwa make up only 1% of the 8,700,000 people living in Rwanda. Another group in the region are called
Bahutu, or just Hutu for short. Between
1000 and 1500 AD, Hutu migrated into the valleys of the land and began to clear
it for cultivation. The Hutu comprise
90% of the population of Rwanda. Lastly, the Batutsi people took control of
the country between the 16th and 19th centuries. They were a taller race of people who used
their military power to overcome their lack of numbers. Making up only 10% of the population, the
Tutsi dominated the much more numerous Hutu with military tactics and economic
advancement. Soon the Tutsi became
chiefs and the Hutu became their “voluntary” slaves. The Hutu provided free labor and, in return,
they had access to the Tutsis’ pastures, cattle, and received military
protection from other aggressive Tutsi.
Since 1962, when Rwanda
was granted independence from Belgium,
there has been a power struggle between the two majority powers. This deep-rooted struggle between the Bahutu
and the Batutsi people has led to numerous wars, changes in authority, and has
truncated any attempt at improving the economy and the country as a whole.
transition in Rwanda
is very similar to other Sub-Saharan African countries. Rwanda
is currently only beginning the demographic transition. The total fertility rate (TFR) has dropped
quite substantially, but it is still way above the post-transition replacement
level of 2.1. There hasn’t been much
change in the crude death rate (CDR). It
has a long way to go before reaching its low point of around 10 per
thousand. Even with the sharp drop in
the crude birth rate (CBR), the natural increase (CBR-CDR) has only slightly
declined over this twenty-year time span. There are a number of reasons why
both the CBR and the TFR have decreased since 1980. A common reason for the high birth and
fertility rates throughout developing countries in Latin America,
Africa, and Asia is the need for
farm laborers. Although this is very
true in Rwanda,
this doesn’t mean that the decrease in the CBR and TFR are caused by a decrease
in the need of laborers or because of urbanization in Rwanda. This can be refuted with the fact that 93% of
the population lives in rural, agricultural communities still. Other factors that lead women to have fewer
children is a diminished infant mortality rate, easier access to
contraceptives, and education. The
infant mortality rate over the last 25 years has decreased from 133/1000 to
125/1000. This is partly due to a slight
rise in the standards of health care in Rwanda. There are 34 hospitals and 188 health centers
scattered throughout the country. Eight
out of ten people live within 5 kilometers of a health facility of some sort. Still, a decrease of eight over 25 years
isn’t a huge accomplish. Contraceptives
are gradually becoming available to the public.
Because the country is almost 60% Catholic it has been difficult to
administer any kind of birth control from the Catholic run health centers. Until Pope John Paul visited the country in
1990 and made no reference to birth control, good or bad, it was looked upon as
a sin. Now, Rwandan bishops are allowing
the health centers to use their own discretion when handling family
planning. The increase in demand for
women’s education, I believe, is the main reason for the decrease in the CBR
and the TFR. Women have been the true
workers of the family in Rwanda
for a long time. They didn’t have the
time to receive any formal education.
Working at a young age on the farm and then becoming baby machines, by
age 15 or so. Women are not only asked
to care for the children, they also do the sowing and weeding of the
fields. They help in harvesting,
transporting, drying, sorting, and storing the food crops. All of the housework including, meal
preparation, cleaning, and fetching wood and water entail a day’s work. It is no wonder that women didn’t have time
for education. Now there has been a new
consciousness of the injustice of their position in the household. Women’s groups are being formed and strides
are being made in the legal aspects of their lives. This is a big reason for the decreased total
fertility rate. Another big factor
associated with population growth, CBR’s, CDR’s, and TFR’s is total migration. That is a huge, incalculable number in Rwanda,
but it has a great effect on population growth.
fluctuations in GDP per capita growth rates have been extreme over the past two
decades. The 10-year average of GDP
growth between 1975 and 1985 was 6.1.
This was during the time of the Second
Republic, when many economic
reforms were being made and internal strife in the country was minimal. The average between 1985 and 1995 was –4.8. Taking a more in-depth look at Rwanda’s
exports and imports will allow us to determine why this number is
decreasing. In order for Rwanda
to pay for imported goods that they cannot produce nationally, they must be
able to export goods that they can produce.
By far, Rwanda’s
export market consists of mostly coffee.
It makes up almost 80% of the total export earnings with tea earning
about 15%. In the mid-1980s, the
government of Rwanda
set a price ceiling on all coffee exports at 125 Rwandan francs per kilo. During this time, the prices of coffee were
higher than the 125 set by the government.
Because of this, the government was able to take the excess revenue from
exports and use it to their own benefit.
They did use some of it for infrastructure throughout the country,
especially in the capital of Kigali. But, by the end of the 80s, the price of
coffee on the world markets fell dramatically and the Rwandese government was
forced to subsidize the Arabica farmers throughout the country at the existing
price of 125 RWF. In 1989, the
International Coffee Agreement, which used to uphold prices to producing
nations, disintegrated. This caused a
snowball effect all through the world.
The price of coffee on the London
international market plummeted to half its 1980 level. Large coffee exporting countries, such as Brazil,
began to unload their surplus. This
sudden gigantic increase in supply decreased the market price even
further. Price taking countries, like Rwanda,
had the roughest time with this because coffee was their main export. The drastic fall in price ran up enormous
debts for the government.
factor influencing the negative growth of GDP per capita in the early 1990s was
an internal genocide. Civil wars have
long been a part of life in the country of Rwanda. In 1990, Rwandan society was more violently
divided than at any time since they voted for independence from Belgium
in 1962. The civil war between the Hutu
and Tutsi grew to a climax and caused unbelievable amounts of damage to the
already poor economy and the environment.
It began with the invasion of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), a
group of exiled Tutsi living north of Rwanda
in Uganda and
the Democratic Republic of Congo. Peace
agreements were negotiated in Arusha, Tanzania
in August of 1993. The Arusha Accords
called for power sharing among the existing internal opposition groups and the
RPF. The agreed upon treaty never was
carried out even with the help of United Nations troops, who were deployed to
help. A series of assassinations pitted
the two rival groups once again. In the
spring of 1994, all hell broke loose in Rwanda. The assassination of the Hutu President, in
signaled the instant beginning of a nationwide plan to completely eradicate the
minority population of the Tutsi population.
Within four months, 800,000 people were slaughtered. On top of this horrific number, another 1.7
million people fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries, such as Zaire
and Tanzania. The war and personal survival took priority
for all Rwandans in the early and mid-1990s.
Once the RPF took over Kigali
in early July 1994 and the war was won, an already weak economy was
devastated. A new government of National
Reconciliation was created and their desire was to return normalcy to Rwanda. The new government was composed of ministers
from all political parties. Between 1998
and 2000, signs of advancement and growth began to appear with an average
annual growth in GDP per capita of 5.8.
Much of this increase is due to foreign aid given to Rwanda
for reconstruction after their civil war.
still has an unstable look into the future.
The possibility of the “Dutch Disease” entering Rwanda
is high. This “disease,” refers to the
economic deterioration that occurs within a country as a result of an unusually
high inflow of foreign investment or foreign aid. Because of this so-called disease, it is
difficult to determine a true GDP per capita for Rwanda. Much of the improvement in the country is a
result of this financial aid and now, it is time to begin repayment of the
loans. Refinancing is about the only way
to do this because of a lack of internal production.
population growth rate is one of the highest in the world, at 3.1% each
year. As previously mentioned, the total
fertility rate is around 6. This rate,
along with the fact that half of the population is under the age of 15,
indicates that the 3.1% is not at its peak.
Because of the young population, a phenomenon known as demographic
momentum will continue to increase the population growth rate. This trend occurs because as the young
population approaches childbearing age, even more babies will be born. Until the age distribution of the population is
relatively uniform, the population growth will show no signs of leveling off.
one thinks of African rainforest countries, they usually think of the public
service advertisements of starving children who need their help. In 1991, the population density of Rwanda
was 271 people per square kilometer.
This was the highest in the entire continent of Africa. The actual agricultural land available would
have to support an average of 422 people per square kilometer over the entire
country. This seems like it would work,
but this would require maximum production of the land and a uniform
distribution of the population. In 1984,
the agricultural population in Rwanda
was almost 5.5 million. On average, they
consumed 49 grams of protein per day, 10 less than the recommended minimum of
59. By 1990, the agricultural population
had increased to 6.5 million, but the protein consumption was down to 36. Throughout the country, rainfall,
temperatures, soils, and slopes vary extensively. Taking only these into account, it is still a
complicated decision to make when deciding on what crop to plant. Even more fluctuating than climate, are the
social and economic factors which influence what to plant and where. Limited fertile land and increasing
population are causing food demand to skyrocket. It is difficult to use the standard supply
and demand curve for Rwanda. People work the farms in order to survive and
to raise families. Prices are irrelevant
to them because they grow what they eat and have little use for hard currency.
there have been attempts to extensify agricultural land. This expansion has mostly occurred through
extending cultivation into the 9% of Rwanda
that is woodlands. This happens at the
expense of the Batwa people, the hunter-gatherers who previously used this
land. Further expansion is limited
because of environmental reserves such as the Nyairongo
Valley, the Akagara
and the Nyungwe Forest. A policy of regional specialization was
designed to maximize national output by promoting those crops best-suited to
each area; for example, potatoes in the mountains to the north, cassava in the
central near Gitarama, and bananas in the southeast. Although this seems like a good idea and is
still in place, the government and the country as a whole are the benefactors
of such a plan. The essence of the
agricultural production is in the hands of the individual farmers. They are not worried about raising exports or
feeding people on the other end of the country.
Their main concern is personal food security for the present and for the
future. Rwandans are limited to only a
certain variety of crops, due to soil type, climate, and other demographic
features. Basically, farms are comprised
of coffee and tea for export purposes and potatoes, squash, and bananas for
personal consumption. More than 50% of
the area under cultivation is intercropped.
This means that two and, sometimes, even three different crops are
planted together in the same field. With
the increase in food demand eminent, Rwanda’s
future doesn’t look bright.
food security problems stem from many different reasons. Although production problems need to be
addressed and corrected, poverty is currently the main issue regarding food
security. A peasant farmer’s life is
that poverty of itself only causes more poverty. The average cash income of a farming
household is only 187 francs a year. In
addition to this low income, plot sizes and soil fertility have both declined,
so poverty has increased. This has
become part of the problem of agricultural production. Once again, survival takes top priority,
forcing farmers to rely on short-term antidotes to their problems. Poverty also means that farmers have no
capital to invest things like fertilizers, pesticides, or improved seeds. On top of this, farmers worry about
unpredictable rainstorms, civil war, and plant epidemics. The government of Rwanda
is more concerned with the few large farms that produce the coffee and tea for
exporting. Two-thirds of the farmers are
seen as growing only for themselves and are considered low priority for
agricultural research and other forms of support.
of the small size of their holdings, Rwandan farmers can no longer afford to
let their land rest and recover from periods of cultivation. Plants are continually extracting nutrients
from the soil without a break, thus reducing its fertility. Soil is eroded, along with its nutrients, by
rainfall and the production of steep slopes with already fragile soil. Half of the farming done in Rwanda
is on slopes with a grade of more than 10%.
In Europe, this extreme farming has been
abandoned because they were able to use intensification on their most
productive fields. Because Rwanda
is unable to use these same methods and lack many productive fields, they have
no choice but to use these steep slopes.
The torrential rainfall, along with the resulting flooding of the rivers
cause more than 12 million tons of soil to be naturally exported per year. The soil is so lacking in organic material
that it would be difficult for farmers to use chemical fertilizers even if they
were available. Policies that have been
imposed and tested out include increasing animal husbandry and cultivation in
order to provide more manure. Others are
trying to develop plants known as green fertilizers, which replenish rather
then deplete the soils they are grown in.
In the short term, agriculture in Rwanda
is aimed at maximum yields to sustain survival.
The ignorance of ministry officials, who still favor the high-tech and
high-input solutions to the soil problems, hinder any approaches that would
recognize the ability of the majority peasant farmers to develop their own
is a country with many problems, but also much potential. Once the political and racial problems have
been resolved, the character of the working peasants will hopefully be
recognized. They are a hard-working,
determined group of people who can make a difference in any economy. With the help of foreign aid and research,
things will hopefully get better in this small Sub-Saharan country. A need for family planning, increase in food
production, and peace are still prevalent and necessary for Rwanda