Rwanda - Housing

The basic type of housing in the rural areas has been an edifice, most commonly beehive-shaped, made of mud bricks and poles, and covered with thatch. These residences are dispersed in the collines, farms organized on a family basis, and they accounted for 89% of Rwanda's housing units in 1978. However, in recent years the government has initiated a new National Habitat Program aimed at improving rural housing conditions and providing new housng for a large number of returning refugees and genocide survivors. One project of "villigazation" is meant to construct rural village communites where public services and utilities might be provided more easily and, perhaps, with greater quality. Controversy exists over this project, since it is believed that some rural residents may be forcibly relocated from current homes to the new villages as they are consilidated into specific settlement areas. Part of the program includes a directive that will zone particular areas for housing and prohibit residence in nondesignated areas. The new government policies have also been criticized because they do not necessarily address the existing housing shortage, but focus on accomodating for returned refugees. With international assistance, the government has renovated about 100,000 homes. It is estimated that at least 400,000 units, about 25% of the nation's housing stock, is in need of reconstruction or repiar simply to accommodate for returning refugees.

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While sufficient and healthy housing is obviously important, Rwanda still has many traditional dwellings constructed using sustainable techniques developed over many centuries to respond to the environment. There is a need for the qualities of traditional dwellings to be recognised and recorded before they are lost, and for traditional construction to inform the Natioal Habitia Program to ensure that Rwanda's unique culture is not displaced by outdated environmentally damaging industrialised approaches to building and town planning.

Is anyone recording Rwanda's traditional buildings before they disappear?

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