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UMUGANDA RWANDA: Taking part in an ancient Rwandan tradition

What words remind you of Rwanda? Clean? Responsible? Proud? Reho Travel's CEO would never have guessed the African country would be so green, but alas that's what he found on a recent visit:

What words remind you of Rwanda? Clean? Responsible? Proud? Reho Travel’s CEO would never have guessed the African country would be so green, but alas that’s what he found on a recent visit:

From the moment you cross the border into Rwanda, it feels like you have stepped out of Africa. In physical terms, for sure, as you are confronted by rolling green hills that remind you of Switzerland. However, there is something else, the country is thinking ahead, playing the long game, considering the community, the environment and practicing responsible governance. There is no rubbish to be seen and community pride is evident everywhere.

Rwanda Roads

It could be a result of Umuganda Day, which occurs on the 4th Saturday of every month when communities come together to clean streets, dig ditches, build schools or assist their neighbours. Although this is now law, it is an ancient Rwandan tradition that was brought back when there was an overwhelming need to bring a country that had been destroyed by the Genocide back on its feet again. Umuganda means ‘coming together for a common purpose to achieve an outcome’.

Rwandan Town

Throughout the country there is evidence that the vision is working, with a parliament where over 60% of members are female, it seems that a focus on innovation is paving the way forward. The government prides itself on zero tolerance for corruption, this flows down through business and on to the individual. The population has become more health conscious as legislation determines that on a Friday afternoon, businesses must close so everyone can go out and exercise. Solar lights line the highways, once a month is a car free day, drones deliver blood and its food surplus makes it a rarity amongst African nations.

Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills.

Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills.

Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills, the rich soil, altitude and temperate climate means that most things grow naturally which puts the country in a solid position given the strong movement around the world toward organic products.

Rwanda has a diverse range of world class national parks. In the north we spent a night in a luxury tented camp at Akagera National Park, the variety of game as good as the more crowded parks in Kenya or Tanzania. Hippos bellowed into the night just meters away, a thin piece of canvas our only protection from the most dangerous animal in Africa.

A few days were spent exploring Nyungwe National Park.

A few days were spent exploring Nyungwe National Park.

In the south we spent a few days in the rainforest of Nyungwe National Park, Africa’s largest mountain rainforest, a remarkable pristine park where the Nile River starts as a tiny inconspicuous trickle on its 6,853km journey to the Mediterranean. We trekked for hours to find chimpanzees and enjoyed observing them in their natural habitat, to them we must have looked awfully clumsy in our gaiters, day packs and walking sticks. Above us they swung in the trees with abandon, occasionally dropping down to sprint through the thick forest that we had struggled through, despite the guides hacking a path for us with their machetes.

As we drive to the airport I take one last look at the lights and say. “How good is it to be among people that after so much hurt and suffering, put it behind them and come together for a common purpose to achieve an outcome.”

 

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Have you travelled to Rwanda?