03 August 2008

Slowly Coming

We’ve returned from our third visit to see the women at Gashora. While in Kigali, we came across a basket that we figured could be made out of the hyacinth and may garner a higher price than the typical ones the women were making. This basket was used at a German butcher shop while shopping.

This is Evanitie admiring the basket. She figured that the women could translate something similar.

Until yesterday.

She called us while we were on the bus back to Kibungo to tell us that they feel they would need training in order to produce this basket. I was disheartened because I had hoped that the skill with which they handled other products could easily be translated to this new concept. The training aspect is something we’ve already begun to investigate (but there are dynamics of competition that go deeper than one might imagine). Some of the women fear that our presence could impact their current market channels. If it is perceived that they have muzungus on their side, this might threaten other outlets. We are attempting to be both sensitive and supportive of this while also assisting them with tools to expand their income generating opportunities.

A fine balance to say the least. And a great opportunity for product developers/industrial designers to use their expertise to help expand the opportunities for these women and their community. We’ve done a fair amount of research into all the possible uses of the hyacinth and can imagine that these weavers could become the Rwandan advocates for alternative uses of this plant (from paper products to cattle feed to biofuel). One group in Thailand has maximized their products and we hope this could translate into something similar for the women of Gashora. We have high hopes that the women could also experience some hands-on training from Thai weavers to also catapult the work forward.

But to come to a community and focus only on their product design is naïve thinking. What we have realized from this exploration is that this community desperately needs more clean water. Children travel up to one hour to gather one jerrican. Imagine doing this numerous times per day. Imagine the water you are drinking isn’t clean. A conundrum. So we gathered some initial data (along with an engineer from the Kigali Institute of Science) that will frame another project for some geo-hydrologists coming in the fall. We even found out from a district leader that there is a network of waterways that could reactivate the dry taps.

We are also extremely excited about the fact that we’ve located a museum in Kigali that will host a cooperative event between us and a couple from the UK who are very much on our page. Emily and Tom Martin live and work in Kigali and are going to provide photography and logistical support in making this event a success. We’ll showcase the work we’ve done and hopefully have a great turn out for a weekend exhibition at the Kandt Museum. The dates are September 6-8: a nice capstone to showcase our time in Rwanda. We even love that the mandate of this museum is to show how the people of Rwanda are responsible for and reliant on their environment. A perfect fit!

1 comment:

shuffle pappa said...

This thread makes me think of stones falling into water and creating ripples and ripples and ripples.Is it wrong to throw stones. Waves create energy. I both like to throw and I like to watch. Thanks for doing both.