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Population Growth & Genocide!!??

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Population growth, environmental destruction and genocide

NAIROBI, 30 September (IRIN) - Rapid population growth and extreme
environmental degradation were closely linked to the outbreak of
genocidal
violence in Rwanda in 1994, according to an article in the
September/October
issue of World Watch magazine by James Gasana, who served as Rwanda's
Minister of Agriculture and Environment in 1990-92, and Minister of
Defence
in 1992-93. While serving in the government, he collected statistics,
which
show that the conflict had much more complex roots than just deep
ethnic
hatred.

"Gasana's detailed records on land ownership, soil fertility and
hunger give
us a stunning inside look at the root causes of Rwanda's tragic
fall," said
Ed Ayres, editor of World Watch. "This report takes us far beyond the
usual
broadbrush linkage of environmental problems and conflict."

Rwanda's population soared from 1,887,000 people in 1948 to more than
7,500,000 in 1992, making it the most densely populated country in
Africa.
Poor farmers were forced onto marginal land, where cultivation
resulted in
severe erosion. Reliance on firewood as a source of energy caused
massive
deforestation, and farmers were then forced to use straw and other
crop
residues for fuel, thereby damaging soil fertility. These factors led
to a
disastrous shortfall in food production, with two-thirds of the
population
unable to meet even the minimum food energy requirement of 2,100
calories
per person per day.

"Gasana shows that there was a stark relationship between how many
calories
per day people were getting, and whether there was violence in a
given area
in 1991-92," said Ayres. "There were incidents of violence in 18
communities
where food production was under 1,600 calories per day, but no
conflicts
occurred where people were getting more than 1,600 calories per day."

Gasana concludes that rapid population growth was the major driving
force
behind the vicious circle of environmental scarcities and rural
poverty in
Rwanda.

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