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Famine in Rwanda
Between 1897 and 1943, several famines occurred in several sections of Rwanda, partly because of the irregular distribution of food and population. In 1928, a severe famine occurred in central and western Rwanda. Over 300,000 people died, and another 100,000 migrated out of the country. In 1943-44, severe drought caused crop failure and another major famine, in which another 300,000 people died or migrated.

Variations in annual rainfall and temperature make life for the subsistence farmer precarious. Individual family farms around the Virungas are typically a few acres in size, but the fields are not adjacent. Individual fields and pastures are often located in pieces a few miles apart in different geographic settings: on high hills, low hills, and valley floors. The purpose is to plant crops in as many different types of sites as possible, so that if a frost or dry spell destroys crops in one field, perhaps crops in the other fields some distance away will survive.

The fragmenting of farms makes machines, such as tractors, difficult to use (aside from their cost). Individual fields are also too small to use these machines effectively. Consequently, western-type modernizations of farms for increasing yield are impractical, as well as not affordable, in Rwanda.

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