Rwanda Civil Society Platform : Promoting human rights for development

By SuSan BaBijja Formed in 2004, the Rwanda Civil Platform (RCSP) aims at contributing to the well-being of the population: by acting as a framework for dialogue, reflection, exchange of information and mutual support, lobbying and advocating on national, regional and international issues on behalf of all members of the Rwandan civil society and citizens and also as a stronger interlocutor of the civil society.

By SuSan BaBijja

Formed in 2004, the Rwanda Civil Platform (RCSP) aims at contributing to the well-being of the population: by acting as a framework for dialogue, reflection, exchange of information and mutual support, lobbying and advocating on national, regional and international issues on behalf of all members of the Rwandan civil society and citizens and also as a stronger interlocutor of the civil society.

The platform bases on conducting researches to have evidence based information from which it carries out its advocacy to achieve its mission and vision. This, the platform says that the wellbeing of citizens is a significant factor that government and development partners must consider to empower the population to effectively take part in national transformation and development.

It is in this line that the platform has managed to conduct quite number researches on various issues that determine the standard and cost of living. Recently, the platform conducted a survey on foodstuffs. The focus of the survey was to determine the negative impact of the costs of food stuff to the lives of the population basically the most vulnerable.“We normally consider the basics and for this particular survey, we wanted to find out what people say about food prices. We mainly wanted to get information and the public’s perception about the cost of maize flour, rice and sugar,” says janvier Forongo, the Platform’s Executive Secretary.
 According to the survey conducted in the two districts 63.3% of the respondents indicated that they can no longer cope up with the price increase, 36.7% agreed to have coped up with price increase.  Of the respondents 63.3% were from category one of ubudehe, 26.7% from category two, 8.3% Rwanda Civil Society Platform Promoting human rights for development from the third category and 1.67% from category four. The survey also asked people to give their recommendations on what should be done to reduce the cost of maize flour; 22% reduce tax, 7% remove tax, 15% revise the policy and 56% had no idea as to why there was an increase in the price of maize flour. 
The survey was conducted from December 2013 to January 2014; the Platform says that, this gives information which is a basis of how most people are experiencing hard times as far as buying food is concerned.On the 24th of january 2014, the Platform conducted another survey on radio Flash’s Good-morning Rwanda talk-show, this was aimed at gathering information on citizens perception vis-à-vis prices of staple foods. According to the platform, there has been an increase in the mentioned food prices since October. It says that maize flour increased from Rwf 400 to Rwf 600 per kilogram, sugar increased to Rwf 800 from Rwf 600 while rice is costing Rwf 800 from Rwf 500. 
Although a cost of the mentioned foodstuff varies or depends on quality and type, the increase in prices has affected the purchasing power of the low income earners and the poor. The Platform says that according to testimonies, there is great need for government intervention to ensure that food prices can come down. The Platform says the prices have significantly reduced people’s purchasing power which undermines the standard and wellbeing of the people. One of the recommendations, the Platform says that the government should try as much as possible is to find out means through which food prices can be reduced to enable easy and cheap food in the markets. 
The Platform says that low income earners are being hit by price hike and that this will in the long run seriously affect the population. “Through the land consolidation government programme, we are sure that enough food is being produced but it becomes a challenge when food is at a high cost yet it is locally produced in large quantities although there are factors that might hinder good harvests,” he said.Robert Blair Ayesiga, in charge of Research, Policy analysis and advocacy at the East african Civil Society Organisations Forum (EaCSOF) said “impacts are diverse ranging from reducing the purchasing power, decreased food safety people opting for substitutes that are non-certified, unprocessed and lacking macronutrients to making fortified flour out of reach for the poor“.
These are the views of people consulted in different parts

Marie Mukamuganga a market vender in Kimihurura Sector, Gasabo district says she has given up with maize flour saying it is very expensive for her to trade; and that she no longer has customers. The mother of three says only decided to deal in vegetables since she is not capable of having the stock she used to have before. Mukamuganga says that she used to stock goods including sugar, maize flour and rice among other goods which she used to sale for at least three months.“Like any other product, customers will always tend to abandon that which is expensive and go for what is cheap,” she said. 

Chantal Umulisa  a farmer from nyagatovu cell, nyamata Sector in Bugesera district, said she can no longer afford Minemex maize flour which has all the nutrients.  Other resident also did not sound any different from umulisa while Atanansia Kamanzi a shop attendant in nyamata says she sells posho at between Rwf 500 and Rwf 600 akilo.While another customer Jean Mugiraneza said, things are expensive in that the things with nutrients cannot be accessed by a big number of people.

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