Recovery is a Word You Hear a Lot in Rwanda

Crossposted from Originally featured on Thought Leader, written by Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and Jim De Vries, director of Heifer International’s Programs Division.

From public-service announcements on television to billboards – it’s the motto for a place that just 15 years ago was torn apart by genocide. More than one million people were murdered in 1994 as ethnic strife turned neighbour against neighbour in one of the bloodiest civil wars in African history.

“Heifer is helping a recovery process,” explained Dr Dennis Karamuzi, a veterinarian and the programmes manager for Heifer International Rwanda. Heifer started its projects in Rwanda in 2000 in a community in Gicumbi District, about an hour outside of Kigali, the capital. This community was especially hard hit by the genocide because it’s close to the border with Uganda. Residents, who weren’t killed, fled to Kigali for safety.

In the years following the genocide, Gicumbi District is making a comeback thanks, in part, to Heifer International. Heifer works with farmers all over the world, helping them develop sustainable agriculture practices, including providing livestock and training farmers how to raise them.

Heifer’s start in Rwanda was a little rocky. At first the community was suspicious of the group – because they were giving farmers “very expensive cows” says Holindintwali Cyprien, one of the farmers trained by Heifer to raise dairy cows; they didn’t understand how the group could just give them away. Many community members thought that it was a plot by the government to have them raise livestock and then take them away, a remnant of the ethnic rivalry between the Hutus and Tutsis that started the conflict there in the 1990s.

But Heifer introduced a South African dairy breed, known for its high milk production, because, according to Dr Karamuzi, “no stock of good [dairy cow] genes” was left in the country after the genocide. And he says that these animals help prove “that even poor farmers can take care of high-producing cows”.

And these animals don’t only provide milk – which can be an important source of protein for the hungry – and income to families. They also provide manure, which is a source of fertiliser for crops and is now helping provide bio-gas for cooking to households raising cows in the country as part of a national bio-gas programme.

Madame Helen Bahikwe, another farmer in Gicumbi District, began working with Heifer International in 2002. She now has five cows – and an excess of manure. With a subsidy from the government, Helen built a bio-gas collection tank, which allows her to use the methane from decomposing manure to cook for her 10-person family. She no longer has to collect or buy firewood, saving both time and money and protecting the environment. The fuel is also cleaner burning, eliminating the smoke that comes from other sources of fuel.

Heifer is also helping farmers become teachers, training other Heifer partners. Holindintwali Cyprien hasn’t always been a farmer. After the genocide, he and his wife, Donatilla, were school teachers, making about $USD50 monthly. Living in a small house constructed of mud, without electricity or running water they were saving to buy a cow to help increase their income. But when Heifer International started working in Rwanda almost a decade ago, Cyprien and Donatilla were chosen as one of the first 93 farmers in the country to be Heifer partner families. Along with the gift of a cow, the family also received training and support from Heifer project coordinators.

Today, they’ve used their gift to not only increase their monthly income – they now make anywhere from $USD 300-600 a month – but also improved the family’s living conditions and nutrition. In addition to growing elephant grass and other fodder – one of Heifer’s requirements for receiving animals – for the 5 cows they currently own, Cyprien and Donatilla are also growing vegetables and keeping chickens. They’ve built a brick house and have electricity and are earning income by renting their other house.

Today, Cyprien is going back to his roots and making plans to teach again – this time to other farmers. He wants “the wider community to benefit from his experience”.

And Heifer’s work is now being recognised – and supported – by the Rwandan government. In 2008 the government instituted the One Cow Per Poor Household Programme, which aims to give the 257 000 of the poorest households in the country training and support to raise milk for home consumption.

But Heifer, says, Dr Karamuzi, is also building an exit strategy by connecting farmers to cooperatives, which can organise and train farmers themselves.

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Random Thoughts March 30, 2010

Delaware and Tennessee won the first round of federal funds for education in the Race to the Top program designed to rethink education under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Most Pennsylvania school districts opted out of the program yet the state finished in the next tier of five.  Will they get serious about the tens of millions of dollars available?

I asked Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato about it yesterday and he clearly was caught off guard.  Had he not heard the news or didn’t he know what the program is?  I’m not sure but it was one or the other.

Speaking of Arne Duncan he has done more media conference calls than any other Cabinet official.  Kathleen Sebelius is probably number two between the swine flu program and health insurance reform.  Sec. Duncan does another call this afternoon to discuss the expansion of Pell grants which was part of the health insurance bill just passed by Congress.

I was trying to think of one issue in which Mr. Onorato is progressive and could not come up with a single example.  Anti-choice, anti-equality for marriage, pro death penalty, willing to violate constitutional rights at the G20…  The way I watched him dance around direct questions yesterday was worthy of a seasoned politician however.  The thought of either him or Jack Wagner sitting as Governor is worrisome.

No sooner did I finish writing yesterday’s article on accountability for violence than I saw on television where this radical militia group was busted.  Very scary people and there are too many of these factions rising up as the result of all this hate speech.  Now a lunatic from Philadelphia has been arrested for threatening Congressman Eric Cantor.  It appears this guy is totally off his rocker.  I suppose you could say that about most of these militia/tea bagger folks.

The GOP talking points for opposing regulation of Wall Street leaked and, once again, their strategy will be to lie to voters.  Black is white and white is black to these people and they’ll stoop to nothing to brainwash stupid people.  How long will it be before the morons begin reciting the smear that this is yet another bailout when it’s exactly the opposite?  The morons are already gathering their talking points without reading the actual legislation and understanding what it says.  Reading without comprehension is like using a defective condom:  you’re screwed.

I have a serious problem about prosecuting children as adults especially when they are but 12 years old.  Let’s get civilized.

Joe Hoeffel went after AG Tom Corbett yesterday over his frivolous lawsuit to end health insurance reform.  He called him the “Motions Eleven.”  Great play on words but where was George Clooney Joe?

Baseball season is about to begin so spring has to be close.  That 70 degree weather was nice but came a bit too soon.  The rain has been better than snow but won’t a bit of sunshine feel good?  Is anyone betting on the date the Pirates get mathematically eliminated?  I take July 22nd.  It’s good to be a Phillies fan these days!  Every fifth day is a Halladay.

Ricky Martin came out of the closet, finally.  Did anyone not doubt his sexual orientation?  He called himself “a fortunate gay man.”  Now I suppose he can live “la vida loca.”

Michael Steele is under attack again for spending almost $2000 of RNC cash at a sex club in LA.  Who was stupid enough to report this on their FEC disclosure?  Having a party at a lesbian/bondage club is entirely legal but not very smart.  Of course when I think of Republicans and bondage Club Voyeur isn’t what comes to mind.  I think of slavery of African Americans and how too many Republicans continue to support that image.  There’s a reason the GOP is the Party of the South.

Christian Militia Planned Government Overthrow

“WHEATLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A ninth alleged member of a Christian militia group that prepared to battle the Antichrist and the U.S. government was arrested after the FBI played recorded messages from family and friends, who urged the man to give himself up, over loudspeakers outside a home in rural Michigan.”

“Joshua Matthew Stone peacefully surrendered to heavily armed authorities Monday night. His father and seven others believed to be part of the Michigan-based Hutaree appeared in court earlier on charges they plotted to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral – all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the government.”

“Prosecutors said David Stone had identified certain law enforcement officers near his home as potential Hutaree targets. He and other members discussed setting off bombs at a police funeral, using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his death, killing an officer after a traffic stop, or attacking the family of an officer, according to the indictment.”

“After such attacks, the group allegedly planned to retreat to “rally points” protected by trip-wired explosives for a violent standoff with the law.”

“Hutaree says on its Web site its name means “Christian warrior.” The group quotes several Bible passages and declares: “We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. … Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.”

Did Jesus say anything about taking up the sword? The only thing I remember reading is that he said “Those who live by the sword will certainly die by the sword”. (Please bear in mind that different versions of the Bible have slightly different wording.)

These people swapped guns for ‘swords’ and mis-applied Jesus’ words.

I have an issues with guns anyway and the 2nd Amendment says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The pro-gun people forget the part of that sentence that says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”. The only hear the “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” bit.

Authorities, thankfully invoked the “A well regulated Militia…” part by shutting these wackos down.

Scary People!

Maggie Gallagher’s False Arguments on Marriage

Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage debated State Sen. Daylin Leach last week on marriage equality.  He’s for it and she’s against it.  There are no coherent, logical arguments for defending our current system of sexual apartheid but people like Maggie certainly try.  Having separate classes of citizens didn’t work for women, for African Americans, for the disabled and it doesn’t work for gays and lesbians.  For one it’s unAmerican and unconstitutional.  That doesn’t stop religious zealots from forcing their false morality on us.  

Gallagher’s argument is familiar to Pennsylvanians because it is the same as our dearly departed U.S. Senator Rick Santorum’s and that of such esteemed wingnuts as Sam Rohrer, Peg Luksik and Pat Toomey.  It holds that all non procreational sex be outlawed, that no one be allowed to enter into any sexual conduct not designed to produce children.  It is an extreme religious doctrine so totally out of the mainstream as to be ludicrous.  It is the ultimate example of the Big Brother police state ruled by theocracy.  The argument justifies discrimination against the GLBT community solely on the basis that two people of the same sex cannot have babies.

Of course none of these extremists is taking the argument to its obvious conclusion by dictating that infertile couples no tbe allowed to marry or those past child bearing age.  They also have yet to introduce legislation barring divorce.  Their philosphy might also require people to separate once past their child bearing years since then there would be no reason to remain together.  We never see those bills being introduced though do we?  We only see bills against allowing GLBT perons the same rights as straight people.  So we know this is a false argument, one used to mask their real intent:  hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.  Since when do we, as Americans, allow a tiny minority of fringe religious nuts to dictate our morality?  I find it immoral, for example, that we have two classes of citizens.  I find it immoral that people out west can marry children and have multiple wives.  Why isn’t Maggie Gallagher in Utah protesting that?

The argument about “protecting traditional marriage” is also a farce.  Traditionally, if you go through history, marriage was secular.  Wives were the property of their husbands and had less rights than his horses.  If traditional marriage is what these people wish to preserve watch out!  It is only in comparative modern times that women had any rights and could opt out of terrible, abusive marriages.  Traditionally marriage was a hellhole for women.  You’d think Gallagher, a woman, might understand these things.

Marriage is NOT a religious issue, it is a legal one.  Marriage is a right bestowed by the government and all the rights derived therefrom come from the state.  Churches have nothing to do with it except as places where some people choose to celebrate their civil right to marry.  Unfortunately not all citizens have that right and that makes our a system of apartheid.  Under proposed laws no clergy or place of worship need conduct marriage services for anyone who walks through their doors.  They don’t now with straight people.  If a member of the clergy doesn’t wish to marry a couple they do no thave to, it happens every day.  Many Rabbis won’t wed Jews to non Jews and many Catholic priests (too busy molesting deaf boys) won’t wed couples unless both are Catholic.  These couples can all go to any City Hall or Magistrate and wed however because marriage is a civil, legal act.  Because it is a legal issue religious arguments have no place in the discourse.  If Maggie Gallagher and her ilk wish to discriminate based on some fringe, lunatic philosophy they have no right to force their ways on the rest of us.  In the United States every citizen is accorded equality under law.  It is written thus in our constitution and engraved above the entrance of the highest court in our land.   Isn’t it time we practice what we preach?

Onorato Tours RACC Technology Campus

Dan Onorato came to Reading Area Community College this afternoon and toured four laboratories of the Schmidt Technology Center before taking questions.  RACC has expanded greatly and the Training and Technology Center hosts many local meetings and events.  I’d never been upstairs or in the labs before and it reminded me of what once passed for high school and vocational technical educations in my day.  In one lab they teach the difference between direct current and alternating current before going on to other basic electrical topics.  This was something I learned in 9th grade science so I asked the candidate how we can improve secondary education in light of this morning’s announcement that Tennessee and Delaware had won The Race to the Top funds from the Department of Education.

I was hoping to hear something about outside the box thinking on education issues, equitable funding of school districts or so on.  Onorato spoke in general about improving education and stayed on message which was pretty much about focusing training and retraining on areas where local companies need the focus for hiring.  That’s importnat, if the local schools don’t train workers in fields where local companies need workers it all goes to waste.  I keep being reminded however that what we have now as community colleges educate young people in curriculums which used to be high school level.  The dumbing down of our educational system is a serious issue.  I’d like to hear about a focus on getting parents more involved in education, lowering dropout rates with specific efforts aimed, especially at urban and rural districts, rewarding excellent teachers and consolidating school districts.

Dan asked RACC teachers and administrators about the number of students going through the program (about 1,000) but not about placement.  Peter DeCoursey asked him in the Q&A and that’s in the video.  As he said in his remarks jobs are going to be the number one issue in the Gubernatorial campaign.  Pennsylvanians need jobs and the task of the next Governor will be bringing good new jobs to all areas of the Commonwealth.  One facet of that can be the enactment of single payer health care for all Pennsylvanians.  Not only would HB 1660 reduce the state budget by tens of millions of dollars which could go towards job training, libraries and education it would be a magnet for business and industry to come to Pennsylvania.  When asked if he would sign the bill however he refused to say yes.  Instead Onorato said he would focus on enacting the newly passed federal plan which continues to leave 24 million Americans without coverage.

Dan Onorato did consolidate county government in Allegheny County and reduced the number of row offices.  Unfortunately that requires home rule charters and other counties don’t wish to go that route just to, for example, combine their Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts offices which is logical.  He also mentioned consolidation of police and fire departments.  The obvious solution, one being studied in Berks County, is movement to a county wide police force.  Unfortunately state law currently prohibits such consolidation though it would cut costs, streamline communications and take much pressure of the State Police.  This was my first event covering Mr. Onorato and he took a handful of questions.  There are quite a few more I’d like to ask but today was focused on jobs, training and education.

Click below for the video:

Reading City Council members Vaughn Spencer (left) and Francis Acosta (right) flank Mr. Onorato.

Obama Derangement Syndrome

The conspiracy theorists have been in a tizzy ever since Barack Obama became a serious candidate for President.  The deranged right wing didn’t suddenly appear overnight last summer at those health care town halls, they were in evidence during the presidential campaign.   Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress and I attended many McCain/Palin rallies and those in attendance were frightful both in their ignorance of facts and issues and in their behavior.  We caught much of it on video before the whack jobs got wise to us and measured their words while on camera.  What we saw and heard off camera continued to be what we’d captured earlier.  The amount of hatred, fueled by racism, lies repeated ad nauseum on Fox News and talk radio, myths about the next President being born in Kenya, being a terrorist and of even being the Antichrist were everpresent.

The last one is what scares me most.  If people do actually believe President Obama is the Antichrist heaven knows what they might do to him.  The evangelical churches spread this rumor far and wide in a very unchristian display of demagoguery.  A new poll shows 24% of Republicans believe the President is the Antichrist.  It appears hate speech has so invaded churches that Christianity is no more.  57% of Republicans think Obama is a socialist though they wouldn’t know a true socialist if they saw one.  Obama is so far from being a socialist it’s laughable.  25% of these morons still think he wasn’t born a U.S. citizen even though his true (not photoshopped badly from Kenya) birth certificate was released before the 2004 election.  No facts, no reality will sway these people from their referred beliefs.  The real tragedy of watching these people suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome is their choice to be idiots.

It’s one thing to be born a moron and another to choose to be one.  This choice of lifestyle is dangerous because it is leading to violence.  These folks are truly deranged and out of touch with reality.  The true driving force behind their hatred is racism.  None of the teabaggers cared when George W. Bush tore up the constitution, none of them marched to protest when he lied us into war, none of them protested the massive budget deficits which increased our debt six times over what it was in 1980.  ODS is hate driven and it is fueling hate at a level which is truly scary.  I say if they want a revolution they can have one, we’ll let the Army mow them down and America can regain her sanity.  Love it or leave it folks, if you no longer like this country don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

We Need Accountability for Inciting to Riot

The politics of hatred are getting out of hand.  The right wing noise machine is overheated with calls for violence and now that idiots are heeding those calls the perpetrators are scurrying back into their holes to avoid accountability.  Glenn Beck and his ilk are responsible for this and Sarah Palin leads the way.  As bricks get tossed through windows, Members of Congress and their families threatened and liberals who dare attend Tea Party events roughed up we must hold accountable everyone responsible for such hate speech.  Not all speech is free and not all speech is protected.  When one calls for violence, when one irresponsibly says someone else is African, not eligible to be President, someone is going to come and remove your guns, etc. the resulting violence has real human costs.  The Becks, Palins, Rushes and Michael Savages of the media must be arrested and prosecuted as accomplices to the violence.

Blogger Mike Vanderboegh called for people to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic Party offices and, as surely as night follows day, some morons did so.  The militiaman from Alabama should be arrested for each one of the incidents which followed.  He should be prosecuted and made to pay for repairs for every office so vandalized.  This isn’t yet another Kristallnacht it surely could turn into one if authorities don’t do the responsible thing and hold people accountable for the results of their words.  

Bringing High-Quality Food Aid Closer to Home

Cross-posted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Danielle Nierenberg with Felix Edwards of the World Food Programme's Zambia P4P Program. (Photo: Bernard Pollack) The highways in southern Africa are filled with trucks carrying food aid across the continent. In the past, much of the maize, rice, soy, and other foods loaded onto these trucks came not from African farmers, but from the United States. And while these shipments provided much needed calories to people in need, they also disrupted national and local markets by lowering prices for locally grown food.

But today, more and more of the crops providing food aid come from African farmers who are selling directly to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) through local procurement policies. In Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and several other nations in sub-Saharan Africa (as well as in Asia and Latin America), WFP is not only buying locally, but helping small farmers gain the skills necessary to be part of the global market.

The WFP’s Progress for Profit (P4P) program, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the Belgian government, is working with the private sector, governments, and NGOs to provide an incentive for farmers to improve their crop management skills and produce high-quality food, create a market for surplus crops from small and low-income farmers, and promote locally processing and packaging of products.

In Zambia, WFP buys food directly from the Zambia Agricultural Commodity Exchange while remaining “invisible,” says Felix Edwards of the Zambia P4P Program. This way, WFP Zambia doesn’t distort prices and helps create an alternative market for farmers. WFP also works through its partners, including USAID’s PROFIT program, to help farmers and farmer associations meet the quality standards required by the Exchange. As a result, they are preparing Zambian farmers to provide high-quality food aid not only to programs and consumers in their own country, but also potentially to growing regional and international markets.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

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Support Joe Sestak Before the Fundraising Quarter Ends THIS WEDNESDAY!

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

The pivotal first fundraising quarter of 2010 comes to a close this Wednesday, just three days away!

While Arlen Specter continues to backtrack on decades of Republican water-carrying, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak has made great strides toward ensuring that a real Democrat wins the Democratic primary and Pennsylvania’s Senate seat in 2010.

You can help further Congressman Sestak’s effort with a contribution today via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.  Every dollar he’s able to report before the end of the fundraising quarter will demonstrate his campaign’s strength against his recently-Republican opposition in the Democratic primary (Specter) and his Republican opposition in the general (Toomey).  It makes a big difference and a real impact.

On the Expand the Map! ActBlue page, Congressman Sestak is just 3 contributions away from the 50-mark and $155 away from the $1,500-mark!  You can help him cross these thresholds with a contribution today.

Please hop on over to the Expand the Map! ActBlue page and support Joe Sestak (and our other Democratic candidates for Senate) before the quarter ends!


The great State of Oklahoma has eliminated hate crimes protections  for race and religion. Yes you read that correctly. You can go to Oklahoma and harm a person because of their race or religion and NOT face a Hate Crimes attachment to your assault charge (not that I advocate assaulting anyone for any reason).

The reason this is of interest is that Oklahoma was TRYING to eliminate the protections of gays and lesbians and they screwed up.

Last week there were multiple reports about the Oklahoma State Senate passing legislation which would exempt that state from enforcing the recently enacted federal hate crimes act that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. However, now it turns that there was “a legislative error” and instead of exempting Oklahoma from enforcing hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, they eliminated protections based on race and religion instead:

Oklahoma State Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said when the Senate passed Senate Bill 1965 on March 10, it eliminated hate crime protections for race and religion.

The bill states local law enforcement agencies should not enforce any sections of federal law under hate crimes statutes listed under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245 unless they are in correlation with Oklahoma’s hate crimes laws.

But the protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which passed Congress last year, are not listed under Section 245, but Section 249

“The bill in its current form doesn’t take away rights from gays and lesbians,” Rice said. “It takes away rights for religion and race.”

Once again the poor state of Oklahoma is a laughing stock. First Sally Kern, now this.

And so I have to ask once again, what is going on in Oklahoma?

We gay folks must be terrible because so many people are afraid of us…I never thought of myself as ‘terror-inspiring’….clearly it’s time to reassess my personal terror index. Grrrr 😉