Friday, August 2, 2013

The Hills Are Steep in Rwanda

We take for granted that agriculture in the US is on level ground. In Rwanda, and what I have seen of Indonesia and China, that is not the case for most of the arable land in the world. The United States is very fortunate to have the farm land we have. Honestly, we should import some people to bring the population density on arable land at least remotely close to that of other countries.
Our Host's House, Cut into the Hillside
In the panorama above you can see our host's house and compound. Also, notice the UN tarp that I mentioned a few days ago to the lower left of the house. The platform is cut into the clay hillside, by hand and with only three feet of space between the hill and the house, at the top the land cut away is taller than the house!
The Front of our Host's Compound
Similarly, the platform is also built up in front of the house, and this is what results. Those are banana trees in most of the picture and the fence is made of bamboo vertical pieces and wood horizontal pieces. This is all recent construction, that's why the lawn hasn't come in yet.

Tractors just will not work here. Besides the fact that most plots of land are less than a quarter acre, the hills are too steep for machinery anyway. There is some terracing, but it varies by region and even a terraced field may still be on a 15 degree slope with a 50 degree slope between fields. While that sounds inefficient to us, during the rainy season the last thing they probably want is a giant pond where their crops are. So the challenge is: how to make the land more agriculturally productive? Short answer, I do not know. Long and uncomfortable ecologically incorrect answer, terraform the country to make it less steep.

A tangent on all this is that if other parts of Africa are this hilly, and the Africans ever decided to go into the mountains to run trails or hike serious mountains, they shall utterly destroy the speed records.

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