Towards EDPRS ideals: Community Development and Social Protection Empowering communities, transforming lives

By Thomas Kagera Looking at the people you lead, bathed in the stinging bites of poverty, unable to meet the basics of food, shelter and clothing; as a responsible leader, you feel compelled to do something to save the situation.

By Thomas Kagera

Looking at the people you lead, bathed in the stinging bites of poverty, unable to meet the basics of food, shelter and clothing; as a responsible leader, you feel compelled to do something to save the situation.

After defeating the genocide regime in 1994, the RPF leadership was faced with an insurmountable task of rebuilding every aspect of Rwanda’s life from under. The infrastructure, the services and the mindset were all shattered and shredded.

President Paul Kagame and his team had to craft practical and feasible programmes to extricate Rwandans from the abyss into which they had been ditched by the genocide regime of Habyarimana and co. To ensure a proper and consistent seepage of the programmes, the Ministry of Local Government was entrusted with implementing such programmes that would transform people’s lives through Community Development and Social Protection.   

A wide range of institutions – both governmental and non-governmental – are active in broader social protection. MINALOC has the overall policy lead on social protection. It heads a cross-governmental Social Protection Working Group, which includes representatives from Ministries working on social protection, key para-statals, development partners and NGOs.

Social protection programs have 3 missions: protection, prevention and graduation (migration) in the form of; protection of the vulnerable, prevention against vulnerability and assistance to the vulnerable for his/her graduation out of poverty.

Through social protection, a set of public and private initiatives enabling to provide transfers of income or consumption to the poor, to protect, in particular, the vulnerable and the marginalized against welfare risks and improve their social status and rights as a whole with the objective of promoting the welfare of the population are put in place.    

On the whole, according to the Ag Director General, Community Development and Social Affairs, Vedasté Hakizimana, the unit makes follow-ups and monitors the implementation of social protection programmes and community development interventions. “Through the programme, safety-nets are delivered to the vulnerable such as the disabled, the extremely poor, the women and the children among others, so as to match vulnerability and development,” says Hakizimana.

Social protection has its roots in international instruments. For instance, under article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is stipulated that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”.

The long-term vision for social protection in Rwanda is, in the next ten years, to build a system that comprises two guiding elements: A social protection floor for the most vulnerable households and individuals, comprising; Cash transfers, providing a minimum income and livelihood security, and Continuing extension of access to core essential services for poor and vulnerable households, in particular health, education, shelter and water and sanitation.

The second guiding element is increased participation of the informal sector in the contributory social security system, with more people enjoying the benefits of labour legislation.

Community development dynamics therefore involve the entire community to: analyze their environment, define their individual and collective needs and problems and define their individual and collective potentials.

By extension, communities design individual and collective plans to meet their needs and solve their problems in a prioritized manner and implement those plans by drawing from the resources of the community, add to those resources if necessary, with support services and resources from government or private organs or any other stakeholders outside the community. They therefore Monitor and evaluate the implementation of the plans and sustain the activities and make them productive.


MINALOC is directly responsible for a number of key social protection programmes.

The Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP)
This is a flagship programme of the EDPRS. It commenced in 2008 and comprises three components: Direct Support which gives cash grants to extremely poor households without labour capacity; Public Works which provides community work opportunities for extremely poor households with labour capacity; and Financial Services that acts as a complementary service to social protection and provides investment loans to poor households.

Funding for the programme is currently shared between government and development partners. It works at a pilot scale, currently reaching 90 sectors.

And the VUP has adequately impacted on the communities and individuals. VUP double fold objective of being both protective and promotive/productive has reinforced a good number of people with purchasing and production power.

The VUP targets four main groups of poor people with priority interventions as illustrated in the diagram below.
From the time of the inception of the programme in 2008 to date, 590,000 got paying employments for RwF14, 944,753,168 and 81,693 individuals got unconditional direct assistance for RwF3, 930,551,439. There are 92,136 people who got micro-credits for RwF7, 888,120,089. All these people and the amounts involved have stimulated production even of no direct beneficiaries who in the long run serve as market as well as employers of the poor.

Such benefits have seen communities acquire infrastructural fibers, built by people from their own communities.

Radical terraces have been dug at 6,044 ha and anti-erosive ditches on 22,860 ha. A stretch of 369 km have been maintained through the programme and 110 valley dams have been built. Other communal amenities realised include 147 coffee ditches, 43 classrooms, 4 markets, 32 km of water infrastructure, 2 health centers, 88 repaired bridges and 34 ha of cultivated land.

On the way of getting their lives better, reports from MINALOC indicate that as a result of VUP, 5,869 people bought cows, 50, 916 bought livestock other than cows 17,433 constructed houses and 10,495 bought or rent land. Other benefits noted include 17,409 people who paid school fees, 60,783 paid mutuelle de santé and 60,926 joined SACCO.

The VUP Direct Support programme provides a grant to extremely poor households with no adult labour capacity in line with guidelines under the VUP direct support manual of procedures. 

The grant provides an important safety net for those who temporarily fall into crisis – for example, as a result of a long-term illness – while also reaching some of the poorest and most vulnerable households with more long-term support.

The programme will be scaled up at a faster rate, to ensure timely coverage of all the eligible beneficiaries, reaching national coverage within the next 5 years. The Direct Support programme benefits approximately 345,000 people living in 5% of households across Rwanda and has had a significant impact on extreme poverty. 

VUP Public Works Programme
The VUP Public Works Programme will be extended nationally in line with the programme scale up plan and lessons learned, and will gradually provide, over the next 5 years, the different types of support outlined below.

• An initial “booster” along the lines of the current programme. Participating households will receive, where feasible, at least 100 days employment in one year, at up to market rates, with the expectation that they will use this income to invest in productive activities to try and graduate from poverty. The programme will aim to ensure that at least 10 percent of households access the “booster” programme in any one year and, after three years – on average – in a sector, all eligible households will have participated for one year.

• Skills development strategy: the VUP programme will develop a strategy to ensure that structured skills development is incorporated into the Public Works programme, with a particular focus on the youth, and will monitor its impact.  Support to infrastructure development: VUP staff will take on the role of mobilising the VUP work-force to participate in infrastructure projects, as appropriate. These are likely to be projects that require large numbers of unskilled workers, such as terracing.

• Options for better implementation of the public works component will be explored based on lessons learned.  Among others, by 2012, a feasibility study will be conducted for establishing an employment guarantee scheme and modalities for doing so.
The Genocide Survivors Support and Assistance Fund (FARG)

This is a para-statal organisation that provides vulnerable genocide survivors with support in education, health, shelter, social assistance and income generation. The social assistance cash transfer payments provide people with RwF5, 000 per month; the education scholarships and support for mutuelle de santé payments enable people to access other public services; and the income generating projects.

“In 2011, the programme is catering for 55 students in TVET, and each student has an annual budget of RwF60, 000. There are also 34 students in universities (of KIE, KIST and ULK) under the programme, with an overall budget of Rwf25 million,” observes Hakizimana.

Vulnerable genocide survivors have been a priority for the government. The FARG programme has, over ten years, provided essential support over a range of services. Increasingly, however, it will be ensured that genocide survivors can benefit from the range of mainstream programmes, and will pass FARG funding through those programmes, where appropriate.

The current emergency assistance cash grants currently reach around 30,000 people and is integrated into the broader non-contributory social security programmes.

The Districts propose candidates for assistance to FARG. However, they will indicate into which social protection programme they should be incorporated.

The Districts register the candidates on the respective programmes. FARG transfers funds to the respective social protection programmes and monitor the incorporation of Genocide Survivors in the programmes, receiving regular reports from MINALOC. Over time, as genocide survivors move through and out of the education system, FARG should gradually decrease in size.

The Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC)

This provides support for demobilized ex- combatants and disabled soldiers.
There is also funding to Districts to ensure that they can provide a broad range of services to vulnerable groups.

The ex-combatants, once they are demobilised, undergo pre-discharge orientation programmes such as counselling, entrepreneurship training and also socio-economic profiling. Children go back to school and those who are past primary school age are enrolled in catch-up schools and others join technical and vocational schools. These programmes continue in a bid to integrate them in government programmes, main streaming and exit strategies so that they can be integrated socially.  Those with special cases that need special attention receive rehabilitation and enrolled on the programmes that they qualify for. The demobilized combatants are encouraged to integrate into the mainstream social protection programmes. 

The Ubudehe programme

Among other things, the programme has financially assisted poor households to invest in income generating projects, and enabled communities across the country to undertake priority projects. The role of the community has been developed through the “Ubudehe”and so the population at the level of administrative Cells define their own programmes and the neediest to be targeted by such programmes. Indeed, with the Ubudehe approach, most of information needed in social protection development is available. These are, among others, reliable data on vulnerability as well as the type of assistance adapted to local needs.

Communities have often been urged to make responsible decisions enabling them to solve day-to-day problems they are grappling with. More particularly, households, especially those from poor regions in terms of agricultural productivity, have been equipped to protect themselves in the event of low rains, pests, or plant diseases through the diversification of off-farm activities, small livestock farming to be resorted to should risks affecting agricultural productivity occur, etc.

Other interventions include starting income generating and other activities supported especially for the most vulnerable people such as the historically marginalized groups and women-headed households, so that they can be able to support themselves and also instilling in them the culture of helping themselves to do self-help projects so that they can graduate from support and be able to sustain themselves economically.

Ubudehe is largely relevant and consistent with the “Vision 2020”, the VUP, and the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS - 2008-20012) and the Millennium Development Goals priorities, which are guiding all reform initiatives being undertaken by the government of Rwanda.

Ubudehe also takes part in a notable cultural change with the progressive birth in the rural world of what we called a spirit of entrepreneurship. While learning how to prioritise their needs, to implement projects together, the population gradually improves their knowledge with regards to their management, investment and productivity.

The emergence of a rural micro-capitalism is certainly developing.
In addition, unplanned and unintended changes have occurred through Ubudehe, as noticed in sample of villages the creation of 4,805 temporary or more long-term jobs, through the construction of class-rooms, health centres, roads and bridges, mills, electricity and water infrastructures, as well as the creation of radical terraces. New jobs have also been created for teachers, shepherds, employees of mills, small traders or distributers of water.

The creation of new activities in different fields, as an unexpected impact of Ubudehe: co-operatives, mills, water sale, small shops, new breeding and agricultural projects have also been realised.
Moreover, analysis has confirmed that incomes have noticeably improved at household level thanks to Ubudehe projects. Recent polls show that about 71% consider that their own income has doubled and 22% confirm that they have more than tripled.

Good governance is properly carried out at the level of the village, which is significantly due to strong local social control, which does not facilitate any attempt to bypass the programme.
Ubudehe is one of the best achievements observed during the past 25 years of collaboration with the European institutions. Ubudehe has won the prestigious UN Public Service Award due to the participation and ownership of millions of citizens and the strong support of the Authorities of Rwanda for poverty alleviation. As such, the price that was awarded seems totally justified.

This success is no coincidence, but the result of work, often unique, made by all project stakeholders, led by the Rwandan government and the constant support provided by the European Union, Action Aid and other donors who participate in the programme.


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