“Had I not received support from VUP Umurenge programme, I think I would have died because I was getting weaker and had no one else to look after me,” says 83-year-old Edouard Nkundiye who lives with his wife and their grandchild in Kibirizi Sector, Nyamagabe District.
“How else could I have gotten manure if I had not been supported to buy domestic animals?” he wonders.
In the backyard of his home, recently harvested beans are scattered on two mats to dry. On the other side, a cow and a pig are being fed in a cowshed and a pigsty.
Today, Nkundiye together with his family look joyful thanks to his hard work when he was still physically fit and energetic.
He says he was a hardworking man and this helped him raise his children.
“I worked very hard in my prime and was able to give my family all the basic needs,” he said.
Nkundiye lives in his three-roomed house roofed with iron sheets which he says he built when he was still young. He says he has enough land to cultivate and that his family has never gone hungry.
However, as years went by, Nkundiye started aging and to some point, he could barely support himself hence he needed help.
Nkundiye also has a pig which has also helped to give him manure for his farm.
He is now one of beneficiaries of Direct Support (DS) from VUP programmes, a category that is comprised of elderly people who are too weak to work or people with extreme disabilities.
“I grew old and became too weak to support myself. My wife is disabled and that is why the government found it necessary to support us,” says Nkundiye.
Nkundiye gets Rwf 12, 000 per month which he says he uses for survival. He says that living conditions were hard as he was no longer able to till land to grow crops. It was after he started benefiting from VUP that living conditions started improving significantly.
“At first, I got Rwf60,000 which I used to buy a piglet which later delivered six piglets. I sold them and bought a cow in a bid to get manure to use in my plantation,” he says.
Nkundiye says he uses part of the money he receives from VUP to pay casual labourers who work on his plot of land. He mostly grows beans and potatoes.
“When I am paid, I deduct the money to pay two or three labourers. I also use the money to buy school materials and clothes for my grandchild,” he notes.
Nkundiye is proud of the support and is committed to using it to develop himself.
He encourages other people, especially VUP beneficiaries, to always endeavour to use the little money they get to move from one category to another.
“If someone supports you, you have to work hard to improve your life otherwise you are heading nowhere”.
Nkundiye believes he will keep developing thanks to his saving. However he is not the only VUP beneficiary who is fighting hard against poverty.
Jean Paul Nteziryimana, a resident of Bunyonjo cell in Kivumu sector in Rutsiro district belongs to the first category of Ubudehe stratification due to his vulnerability.
He works in Classic Public Work (cPW) and says that VUP has changed his life ever since he joined almost two years ago. It is a programmeme where vulnerable people carry out public works and are paid.
Nteziryimana works five days a week earning Rwf1,500 per day, something he says has changed his life.
“I used to spend the whole day doing nothing before I joined VUP. I could hardly feed my kids and depended on tilling neighbours’ land or just making mud bricks for survival,” he says
He says however that about two years ago, his living conditions started changing positively, after he joined VUP.
“I have managed to save Rwf 90,000 which I used to buy three pigs. I also managed to renovate my house and it is now in very good condition,” he says.
“Besides, the lives of my kids have changed. Before I joined VUP, we ate once in a day, my kids could not wear shoes but now they do. I also do all I can to make sure they are clean and have books and other school materials,” he adds.
That thanks to VUP, Nteziryimana, has also managed to gain skills from neighbours and local leaders through interactions after work.
He currently uses manure to grow vegetables and other crops on his small land to fight malnutrition. He says he does not wish to be a member of the first category (the most vulnerable) for his entire life and vows to work harder to graduate from that category.
“When my pigs grow, I will sell them and buy an ox which I will later sell to buy a cow to produce milk so that I can give milk to my kids and develop myself,” he adds.
According to Justin Gatsinzi, the division manager of social protection at Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA), VUP has helped people who were formally poor to get basic needs.
“VUP beneficiaries can now afford basic needs and are food secure. They have clothes and are cleaner than before. They buy farm animals and home equipment. They improve their houses, they rent farming lands, they buy seeds to plant,” he adds.
He added that unlike before, beneficiaries can start small income generating projects while some buy farm land.
The findings from qualitative evaluation of the VUP safety net components payments are contributing to household’s wellbeing, and respondents and their family members value participation in the programmeme.
“Looking first at the key outcome areas discussed in this report, we find that whilst the VUP safety net payments are not enough in themselves to significantly change people’s livelihoods, working-age and elderly beneficiaries of all three programmemes are investing in income-generating assets or activities whenever they can, often using part of their VUP payments in combination with other savings and income,” reads the reports.
The report underscores that across the three interventions, many respondents report buying small livestock, and hiring others to cultivate their plots.