I am writing this piece while having home-grown coffee on the terrace of Rwiza Village in Karongi District. I have just spent a night in a traditionally designed cottage made of locally sourced construction materials and interior design artifacts.
Bamboo, eucalyptus, papyrus, reed and a variety of other construction materials are readily available in Africa. The same can be said about skilled construction workers. There is no shortage of logs and refined timber either. In addition, when it comes to interior design items, Africa stands out from the crowd.
Hanno the Navigator explored Africa hundreds of years before the compass was invented. Arab slave traders started heading to Africa when available maps were drawn based on the flat earth paradigm.
The 19th Century saw an influx of outsiders in search of raw materials, slaves and markets. The discovery of Africa by the outside world led to the scramble and partitioning of the continent, thus paving the way for colonialism. Africa became a pizza. Its slices ended up on the tables of foreign imperialists. Two centuries down the line, the continent is still feeding foreign manufacturing industries with valuable raw materials and consuming their finished products under questionable trade patterns.
This is depressing but there is hope. On this tour, I am noticing positive trends. As mentioned above, the cottage I have slept in is built using materials from our natural environment. Our newly found belief in conservation is turning nature into the gift that never stops giving. The coffee I am sipping is grown and processed in the area. The said coffee is served in clay utensils handcrafted by members of a local cooperative. It’s about time we reduce our dependence on imported stuff.
Speaking of coffee, Rwanda is a specialty coffee producer. Most beans produced in the country are either Bourbon or Bourbon-derivative. The crop is an important generator of foreign currency. Rwandan coffee is promoting the country abroad and improving the livelihoods of farmers back home.
I grew up in a tea-drinking family. When I went to college, I was introduced to imported brands of scentless coffee lacking the flavor responsible for my current affinity to this aromatic refreshment. I finally discovered fresh coffee when I participated in an excursion dubbed "Crop to Cup" two years ago. This experience was special because I was involved in the process of converting crops into beverages. I still love tea. I will always love tea but I prefer coffee in the morning.
Tasting the freshest and purest coffee I had ever sampled gave me a sense of appreciation for what we have and showed me the difference between the wheat and the chaff. Don’t be fooled by fancy branding and packaging — there are many imported products in the market which are garbage.
Back to the terrace at Rwiza Village, I can see something going on in the lake. I am observing activities that are opening my eyes and teaching me valuable lessons. I will share my observation in the next post.