Thursday, February 15, 2007

Local Production

Had a meeting with GTZ today, the German development organisation (one of them). They do some very interesting projects in some far flung corners of Rwanda, where cooperatives of women make different types of products, for the local market, and now increasingly for the export market; which means using non-toxic colours etc. GTZ has helped them to really improve the quality of their output, and supported the development of local cooperatives and a union of cooperatives. The system is very close to self-financing, and now some of the cooperatives even act as consultants to potential cooperatives in neighbouring countries. A website, www.rwanda-art.com, has also been developed. One of their products, a kind of wall decorative panel, called imigongo, is made from cow dung. It is specifically Rwandan (as are all their designs) and they are trying to trademark the name.

They have also become involved with trade fairs, including Import Shop Berlin, which will next take place from 7 - 11 November (for those of you who live in Berlin). They are also looking for designers to help them make even more creative use of their outputs.....About 1300 women are involved, with a monthly income similar to that of a teacher, which is considerably more than they had before (in Rwanda, unlike in the less reformed countries of the former Soviet Union, teacher's salaries are not below the poverty line). Sounds like a grand project, and it exemplifies the idea that social protection is not about handouts, but about improving people's lives permanently. A woman who has money has power - and when she has money, the family has money. If a man has money...let's not go into that.

Near the World Food Programme office I am sure I saw a lady getting about on leg stumps (genocide victim, presumably). In the town, too, you see some people with leg prosthethes. The number of genocide escapees, as they are called in French, is quite considerable and the government has a fund that spends considerable amounts supporting them. As it should.

Another nice story is that of the government cars. Until a year or two ago, the government provided cars for ministers, and maybe top officials. Then it found that ministers had up to 7 cars in their domestic garage(s). A radical rethink lead to the introduction of a system whereby the government helps ministers (and top officials?) to buy their own cars, and gives them some money for petrol and maintenance. The car owner will have the car for five years. If he needs a driver, he pays for that himself. It has saved a huge amount of government money, and also briefly created an income when the government sold off all those cars, though one or two were too expensive for the local market. Only the president and the two speakers of parliament now have government cars. What a progressive government!

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