By Cidananda das
Astottara das, 27 yrs old, or Alexander Petroff, is the son of Hare Krishna dasi, who has been promoting cow protection for years in Iskcon, has begun a very daring project in the Republic of Congo, 2 years ago: to solve the terrible famine that exists there, due to a fratricidal conflict in the region of more than four million violent deaths.
There are very few places on Earth like the Ruzizi Valley. The average temperature remains around 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. There is plentiful water, rich soil and four growing seasons. Ten years of brutal civil war destroyed all this.
The people of the Ruzizi Valley, in partnership with Working Villages International (WVI) have begun implementing an innovative yet practical economic model of sustainable village development. They are building from scratch a model village which will have full employment, private ownership of small farms and businesses, zero carbon footprint and total 100% recycling. This project is a practical demonstration that it’ s possible to profoundly increase living standards in rural Africa without hampering local culture and ingenuity. It is astounding to see what has happened since the project kicked off in spring 2006. The once-abandoned land of Itarah is now full of productive activity and lush crops. Our enthusiastic staff, led by our expert agronomist and new project manager, Fiston Malago, have cultivated a large area, growing over 90 different varieties of crops.
In addition to the new headquarters, they have completed a beautiful gazebo, a kitchen building, a shower, and several toilets. All of these buildings have been built in the traditional manner, using local materials and local expertise In preparation for the Ruzizi Valley’ s short dry season, the workers completed an irrigation network to supply water for thirsty crops. The harvests have been flourishing, and the goal of food self-sufficiency is nearly complete. That will allow WVI to fully feed its workers and their families and still have a large surplus left over to help alleviate the famine.
The fertile soil of Ruzizi has helped make the organic harvests of WVI spectacular: corn 14 feet high, sunflowers three times the size of a man’ s head, 12 pound cabbages, sweet and delicious melons, and a wide variety of other delicious vegetables and fruits. Over a dozen varieties of colorful flowers beautify the gardens and inspire the workers.
All this food and the construction of the support buildings will help the Ruzizi Project push forward to its next stage - the construction of the houses and workshops and public buildings that will make up the new village. However, before construction starts on the houses, WVI has two exciting tasks ahead of it. First, survey the one square kilometer of land which has been donated for the village, so as to determine where buildings and roads will be placed. And, second, we will begin to improve the productivity of the village by introducing draft animal power in the form of oxen.
At ten dollars a gallon, the price gasoline is too high to be the basis of village economy, so oxen will have an important role to play in increasing productivity. In plowing, transport and construction, oxen will reduce the burden of labor and increase its value, wealth and well-being. These two projects will be the focus of the WVI’ s president Alexander Petroff’ s fall trip to Congo.
After ten years of devastating war, peace is returning to this little part of Congo. The villagers of Luvungi are hopeful that when they have a new village and a flourishing economy, the tragedy which claimed the lives of 4 million of their countrymen will never again come to their beautiful valley. With such projects, desired very much by Srila Prabhupada for all his disciples, the world will have the proof that his divine instructions do work, and are the solutions to the serious proplems of food crisis provoked by demonic planning of materialists, only interested in profits, not people. The miracle is working well, and former ennemies-Tutsis and Hutus -are working hand in hand, to rebuild a brotherly world, where animals will also be protected, and prosperity will reign. While inother places, the white man is being kicked out, due to their exploiting attitude, Alexander is loved by all, as he is showing the people the right way to live and prosper. Anyone is welcome to help for the realization of this dream of a great saint, Srila Prabhupada.