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May 11, 2006

Environmentalism Kills

Trees and monkeys good, people bad:

In this remote corner of southern Rwanda, Twa pygmies are fighting a losing battle against the modern realities of environmentalism that are robbing them of their traditions. Sandwiched between the Burundian border and the edge of the dense Nyungwe rainforest, the village of Bweyeye is on the frontline of an increasingly divisive struggle between the diminutive Twa and the long arm of Rwandan law.

Forced to abandon their centuries-old hunter-gatherer lifestyle by a ban on such activity in the maze of giant tropical trees, towering ferns and tiny orchids, many Twa have descended into crushing poverty and alcoholism.

Nyungwe, home to chimpanzees and other monkey species, is a stretch of rainforest in this central African region and Rwandan officials are keen to exploit its eco-tourism potential by protecting it.

But the Twa say the restrictions are destroying their community, which sits at the end of a track so potholed that even the most robust four-wheel drive vehicle struggles to do more than 10 kilometers (six miles) an hour.

"I realize that nature reserves bring tourists and that tourists bring dollars, but we don't get to see any of those dollars here in Bweyeye," says Felicien Hakizimana, a 35-year-old Twa father of three.

"This ban on setting foot in the forest is a problem because our ancestors lived from the forest, they even used to hunt elephants there," he said, adding that, once, the meat from an elephant could sustain a family for a month.

"Now we will soon die of hunger," Hakizimana tells AFP.

In addition to providing food, the vast 970-square-kilometer (375-square-mile) Nyungwe forest used to provide the Twa with essential fuel and raw materials such as wood for building.

But no longer.

So, people who actually live off the land and in true (brutal) balance with nature must suffer because eco-tourists and enviro-dilettantes want to touch some bark in its natural habitat.

As they say: Leftists love "the masses," but they hate actual people.

Thanks to Craig.

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posted by Ace at 12:23 PM

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