This weekend, I had the opportunity to follow President Paul Kagame on his tour of the Southern Province. I call it an opportunity because for the first time, I was able to get a clear insight on what exactly life on the rural side of the country is, vis-à-vis life in the city.
Like many other Rwandans, the ‘City Syndrome’ has had a major influence on me; as a matter of fact, I referred those I deemed not fit for the city as ‘baturage’.
However as a convoy of powerful SUVs swung through a surprisingly well maintained murram road to Kagano Village, in Nyamagabe District where the President was going to be, many questions arose in my head.
It is the furthest place I have been to in Rwanda and I was wondering why on earth the President chose to visit this place.
As we ascended the last hill towards Kagano Village, a sign welcomed us to the village found in Inkingi Sector which emerged the first model village (Umudugudu Ndatwa) countrywide, the picture was clear that Rural Rwanda is not actually the picture it has been painted for many years.
International news correspondents tend to suggest that while Kigali is developing fast, poverty is biting hard on the countryside.
That is completely false.
In fact, Rural Rwanda has moved on. In fact, if you’ve failed to make ends meet, it is advisable that you consider returning to the same villages you came from and start from scratch.
Personally I felt challenged when I interviewed a lady in her early 30’s who, out of her savings from growing wheat and tea and zero-grazing one cow, had managed to build a commercial house and has saved over Rwf 30m which she intended to invest in a commercial truck.
I was dumb-founded,“why would one swap this kind of life to go and languish in the city?”
While it takes a patient person to persevere and achieve what Sarafina Nyiranzaramba has achieved, it is better than one spending the rest of your lives struggling to eat a meal every day.
In Kagano, residents have heeded the President’s call of being ‘the best we can be’ and it has paid off.
In this village; healthy children can be seen strolling and smiling to school, wearing clean uniforms and small kitchen gardens are seen in every home; fresh vegetables ready for the family’s meal.
Spotless clean homes with locally ‘mechanised’ trash cans, healthy looking exotic cows, well kept pit latrines with a hand-washing facility, environmentally friendly cooking stoves, mutuelle de sante for the whole family, savings, wheat and tea fields etc…this is a typical household in Kagano.
Why should one rush to the cities when better living can be found in rural areas?
I strongly think that the campaign against poverty should be taken to the city’s poor, upcountry people already know what they want.
The author is a journalist with The New Times