What country will be the first in the world to have a country-wide commercial drone service? In July Rwanda will launch, with a company from California, a service that will bring blood and medicines to remote locations using a fleet of 15 catapult-launched, 12 foot wingspan drones. They carry a payload of 3.5 pounds and deliver without landing using paper parachutes. The turnaround time is very short, as replacing the battery with a freshly charged one, swapping out a chip with the delivery destination program, and loading the new cargo allow multiple trips in a day.
Another important attribute of Rwanda is that it is home to mountain gorillas. Tourists vote with their feet, and Rwanda is the top destination for mountain gorilla viewing. The infrastructure is well developed and conservation of the gorillas means that a visitor can spend an hour viewing a group of gorillas. Each group has a month off each year, and is also out of view when babies are born. The World Wildlife Fund lists ways to help the mountain gorillas, and visiting them is their first recommendation. Visits provide funds for conservation and support the local economy.
World Wildlife Foundation’s Mountain Gorilla page: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/great_apes/gorillas/mountain_gorilla/
I admire Rwanda’s Vision 2020. The government has honestly assessed the challenges it faces and has made a plan that names goals, lists measurable outcomes, and explains priorities. The country is geographically about the size of Maryland but its population, 12.7 million people, is more than twice the population of Maryland. The population density in my district, Ruhango, demonstrates a problem that occurs all over. Subsistence farming is predominant (73% of Rwandans over 16 years of age farm) and the average family holding is under .5 hectare (which is about the size of a football field, just the playing parts). As population increases more and more, families are averaging less and less land. Forty-seven percent of rural children in Rwanda are stunted from malnutrition. On the bright side, the economic recovery since the genocide has been outstanding, GDP has risen an average of 8% per year over the last decade. Four fifths of the agricultural land in Ruhango is protected from erosion. There are specific projects underway to meet desired outcomes. Outcomes are reported nationally, but also district by district. My reaction to this planning is delight. We should also have short, medium, and long term goals. We should have a list of measurable outcomes including reduction of the proportion of the population living in poverty, what our status is in infant mortality, our score on the international corruption monitor’s scale, and so on.
Rwanda’s Vision 2020 (produced in 2000)
or the updated document (produced in 2012)
Tomorrow I fly off to be part of Rwanda’s development efforts. I look forward to learning and writing about Peace Corps’ programs, the college where I will be working, and my new community.