The most powerful economy of the world USA is battling against inflation and health issues like obesity; on the other side Africa faces hunger and malnutrition. I recently read an article about the Ebola scare in Africa; it faces shortage of gloves meant for doctors. The disease is spreading as basic healthcare amenities’ are scarce. Many organizations are doing their bit to help the needy in Africa. I have always wanted to do something for the poor in Africa and am associated with a nonprofit firm in USA. God at times hears and answers your prayers instantly. The next day my organization got a call from Bill Gates office; he had offered a huge sum of $10 billion for the poor in Africa. It was unbelievable; I was given the task of ensuring the amount went to those who needed it. I had to plan how the money would be distributed. Economies like Africa face the problem of corruption along with hunger. There were chances of the amount getting to the wrong people.
The first issue was where to put the money? Companies are interested only to invest in the diamonds sector in Africa. I studied the demography of African population. Around 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood and stay in rural areas. The situation is worse in the Sub-Saharan Africa as it has the highest number of poor people living in deplorable conditions. I decided to invest half of the amount in the agricultural sector.
- I decided on Kigali in Rwanda, where half of the grant would be given. Kigali is its capital city. Women account for 54% of the total population in Rwanda. They have to single handedly manage home and
agriculture after the genocide of 1994. Rwanda has a population of 9.7 million people and 87% of them live in rural areas. Small areas of lands and harsh climatic conditions have further added to poverty. HIV is a widely spread disease here. I was moved to tears when I saw their pitiable condition. Girls account for highest dropout in schools.
- I met a group of young women there who gave me a clear picture of the grim situation. I met the agriculture minister at the local level and discussed my plans. I told him that I would spend half of the amount in improving the agriculture situation. The women with smallest areas of land would be financially assisted in land tilling and buying of seeds.
- The organization would provide manure, seeds and one time meal to the selected women and their families. I contacted the local doctors and healthcare team to distribute medication to the people suffering from AIDs/HIV.
- My team consisted of women from Kigali, a social activist from Africa, experts in agriculture from Rwanda. I made sure I did not include any politician in my core team to weed out any chance of corruption.
- The farmers were taught about rain water storage and harvesting to fight the problem of land degradation and soil erosion. They were given tips on land tilling to improve harvest. The free meal scheme assured their attendance at initial stages as later they developed interest in the agricultural education.
- Good quality seeds were sown along with fertilizers. We arranged for water supply at fixed hours with the support of local authorities. We encouraged the farmers to grow tomatoes, cabbage and onions which earlier they did not.
I tallied the amount spent at the end of each day to make sure that the grant was not being misused. The local women were very enthusiastic about the entire scheme as they were involved in dispensing the daily efforts; earlier grants were dispatched to the officials and they hardly reached them. We also chalked an “evening classes” plan wherein all the farmers would meet on alternate days and would be given basic education on internet. These would help them to get a better deal for their crops in future. The farmers were also asked to form an association to bargain for good prices of their crops in the market and to fight exploitation at the hands of rich land owners.
- Another problem area in the selected Burera district of Rwanda was of sanitation, hygiene and absence of toilets. They people did not have access to the basic facilities of life. They were using fields as washrooms. It leads to outbreak of diseases like diarrhea and malaria, as unhygienic places serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. I decided on spending the remaining $5 billion on constructing toilets for women and men.
- The team contacted famous personalities like Nonso Diobi and Richard Mofe Damijo, active in tourism to promote and help in spreading awareness for our cause.
The existing toilets had to be redone as they were in pathetic condition. We held seminars and discourses for the people regularly to educate them about the importance of personal hygiene. It is the basic need of a human body and should not be neglected. The existing schools also helped in promoting and creating awareness of hygiene in kids.
We distributed soaps, toothbrushes and toothpastes along with sanitary napkins after every seminar. I was satisfied to see people using them. We wanted the local people to prioritize toilets over investment preference in farm animals. We trained a group of men and women in Burera in productive sanitation. And these people further trained about 5000 people in the district. The project encouraged community participation for proper implementation of project clean. Some private operators offered voluntary services in supplying water for sanitation and construction of public urinals. The local people suggested construction of Pit toilets along with the flush ones. The constructors used locally available raw material for construction of toilets. It gave immediate work to the unemployed people in the district. And they were happy doing it as it was meant for their convenience.
The participation of the people made the entire effort successful. It also ensured that the money was not misused. It was a six week project for me; my team had appointed local volunteers who were involved in the project from day one. We made sure we had representatives from all communities especially women and retired personnel from various fields. It was an eye opener for many politicians who joined in later after seeing the successful implementation of the scheme. The people thanked Bill Gates for the grant. Although Africa needs much more than the given amount, still the effort was appreciated and the money reached the needy. The current statistics present a grim situation of poverty in Africa. If large business houses adopt one village each in Africa, the situation would definitely improve; as all human beings have the right to get basic facilities for a decent living.
- Ekane, Nelson. “Sanitation Policy and Practice in Rwanda: Tackling the Disconnect”. Stockholm Environment Institute.2013. Retrieved from.
- Rural poverty portal. Rural poverty in Rwanda. Retrieved from.