Rwanda’s impressive ‘hat trick’

The results of third Rwandan Household Living Conditions Survey, EICV 3 have been really astonishing, says Omowunmi Ladipo, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda.

The results of third Rwandan Household Living Conditions Survey, EICV 3 have been really astonishing, says Omowunmi Ladipo, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda.

This place has seen rapid growth, sharp poverty reduction and reduced inequality.

The first very striking point was the negligible change in poverty rates between EICV1 in 2000/2001 and EICV2 in 2005/6 (58.9% to 56.7%) contrasted with the very significant change between EICV2 in 2005/6 and EICV3 in 2010/11 (56.7% to 44.9%). What happened starting 2005/6 to bring about this step change? And what had made it possible for a land-locked country, lacking in natural endowments and situated in a challenging neighborhood to make this kind of progress?

Ladipo’s instinct was that this has to do something with agriculture. Also she attributes this progress to the commitment, discipline and goal congruence of Rwanda’s leadership.

Rwandan authorities have been determined to drag its developmental partners kicking and screaming towards complying with that loftiest of the Paris Declaration goals – alignment with a country’s own development goals. Finally, the incorporation of traditional institutions and programmes to modern development theory and practice.

Added to these factors there has been improved agricultural production and a steady rise in various agricultural activities. The crop intensification program and the terracing program have been crucial in reducing poverty in Rwanda over the last five years.

Rwanda’s Vision 2020, articulated in 2000 set out to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country. Way back in 2000 Rwanda was a survival level agrarian based economy. 60 per cent population was living below the poverty line. Major factors for this was increase in birth rates, poor quality lands with no concurrent rehabilitation measures, including the use of fertilisers being practiced. Land productivity saw a sharp decline. Environmental degradation was at its highest.

Vision 2020 came as a solution for this crisis. It was to transform agriculture into a productive, high value, market oriented sector, with forward linkages to other sectors.  This turned into reality with one part Development 101. Another part was blending traditional institutions and programmes into modern development theory and practice.

The Development 101 was good, but what were more successful were the other programmes. Programmes like the Girinka program, Imihigo, Umuganda, the annual Umushyikirano or national dialogue propelled Rwanda in decreasing its poverty levels.

Decline of poverty is impressive, but there are other problems too. Rwanda’s leadership acknowledges that despite these impressive gains, huge challenges remain – the poverty rate may have declined but 44.9 per cent of Rwanda’s population still lives on less than 900 Rwandan Francs per day - sufficient only to buy three liters of unpasteurised milk.

Some questions need answers. How will they energise the SME sector, which is important for the creation of jobs? Child stunting and malnutrition remains a big challenge. Solution for Rwanda’s massive infrastructure needs, essential to mitigating impacts of its land-locked position, is of paramount importance.

With all these questions in tow we know for sure that Africa can reduce poverty. Rwanda stands as a testimony to this, Ladipo concludes.


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