BY STEVEN MUVUNYI
Ruhango is one of the eight districts that make up Southern Province with the population of approximately 320,000 and 78,000 household, 9 sectors, 59 cells and 533 villages. It has an area of 626 km2
As Rwanda marks the 22nd liberation anniversary, Rhango district also joins the rest of the country and continues with enhancing the values of liberation to fully ensure that the citizens are extricated from the pangs of poverty and divisiveness.
With efficient government programs, lives have been improved in different parts of the country. Ruhango district was not left behind and many were pulled out of poverty.
The rates of poverty have been decreasing from 80% in 1994, to 62% in 2008, to 39% in 2012 to the current 19%. This is a result of a multiplicity of different programs that have been initiated and implemented by the government but have, too, been supported and embraced by Rwandans. Francois Xavier Mbabazi, the mayor of Ruhango district says that after the liberation, the country got a strong foundation which makes the future bright despite the dark past.
He therefore urges Rwandans, and Ruhango residents in particular, to never take that for granted, work hard and together to prosper. But most notably, he commends the bravery of the former Rwanda patriotic army and urges people to be mindful of the cost of what has been achieved and commit to protect every bit of the achievements.
Most Rwandans practice agriculture. In Ruhango, 80% of its residents practice agriculture, with cassava, rice, maize, sorghum, soya and beans being most grown crops.
In a bid to increase the production of agriculture, Ruhango district is embracing technology with traditional practices giving way to modern ones and has introduced irrigation and tractors in cultivating among other mechanisms.
In line with that, 12% of Ruhango residents practice irrigation in mountains during dry seasons. The program helps people to continue their activities even during agriculture-unfriendly periods. The district targets to increase irrigation to 50% to increase production.
The district has purchased 2 tractors that cultivate 600 hectares per season. Tractors are cost-effective given that the price for cultivation of a hectare is Rwf 60,000 while manual cultivation costs Rwf 100,000 per hectare. The initiative is expected to improve professional agriculture in the district.
There are various plants and factories in Ruhango district that did not exist before the liberation, making it one of the most developed districts in production and processing.
Kinazi cassava plant is a cassava milling factory based in Ruhango district. The plant was established in 2012 and exports cassava flour in countries neighboring Rwanda, USA and Europe.
Rice is grown at an area of 1400 hectares located in well organized marshlands. Gafunzo Rice Mill produces 4500 tons of processed rice every year.
There is also another plant in Kabagari that processes pineapple and produces confectioneries. Another factory produces Tofu from soya beans in Ruhango town.
There are 4 milk collection centers in the sectors of Bweramana, Kinazi, Ruhango and Byimana that collect 1200 liters per day from nearly 68,000 cows and supply to Nyanza dairy.
Despite the commendable achievement in agriculture, some diseases that infect plants have hampered development of agriculture in this district.
For instance, the cassava brown streak disease locally known as “Kabore” attacks cassava and shrinks production. The disease has caused much decline in cassava production, affecting the incomes of 90% of the population that grow the crop in Ruhango. The district authorities are working with Rwanda agriculture board (RAB) to introduce new seeds that are resistant to pests and diseases.
Electricity access in the district has considerably increased from 2% in 1994 to the current 24%. In other words, 7 out of 9 sectors have access to electricity while only 2 sectors had electricity in 1994.
It is estimated that only 2% of Ruhango residents had access to water in 1994. The trend improved to 52% in 2012 and 78% today. Various water supply pipelines were built to supply water to people, hospitals. The AIDER water supply used to serve Mayaga region sector before the liberation but was renovated and now supplies water in the sector of Mbuye and other parts of the district as well as Kamonyi and Nyanza districts.
Ruhango population has improved the living standards economically but also in health. Various health facilities were established. From 2005 to 2009, 12 health centers were renovated in partnership with family Health International (FHI).
Later on, two health centers were built; Mwendo in 2011 and Munanira in 2013 both of which are up and running.
Ruhango hospital also and started to operate in 2012. Renovation of Gitwe hospital is also underway. Since 2008, 11 health posts were built while 4 others use the cells’ offices.
Ruhango residents were urged to subscribe to Mutuelle de Santé, a medical insurance facility, whose subscription today stands at 72%.
Since 2005, various centers for HIV/AIDS prevention and counseling were established. All 15 health centers in Ruhango provide HIV/AIDS test and counseling and Anti-retroviral drugs.
Infant mortality in Ruhango district was also reduced due to the program dubbed “integrated community program to fight against infant diseases”. The program was introduced in 2009 and is implemented by paramedics locally known as “Abajyanama b’ubuzima”.
“DOTS communautaire”, a program for the fight against Tuberculosis is working in all health centers and has contributed to the reduction of TB.
In partnership with the Ministry of health, mosquito nets were distributed in 2015 and every bed has a mosquito net. The voluntary HIV/AIDS test has increased from 9% to 45%.
Reducing child and maternal mortality
The rate of mothers who deliver at hospital has increased from 45% to 97%. This has contributed to the reduction of child and mother’s mortality. The vaccination for newborns, from birth to 11months, has increased from 75% to 97%.
Family planning has increased from 18% to 75%. Malnutrition among the infants has also notably been curbed. Only 198 are left among 1818 children who had malnutrition.
Children were given milk and healthy diet. Cows were given to the families which stimulated milk production and staved off food and nutritional insecurity. They were also taught to prepare healthy diets and plant vegetables in their backyard or the kitchen garden locally known as Akarima k’igikoni.
Community health workers or “Abajyanama b’ubuzima” were trained on following up children’s growth at the village level.
Performance-based financing through which bonuses are given to medics and community health workers has improved service delivery among health workers.
Community health workers were also joined in cooperatives to enhance their services. There are currently 15 cooperatives that are equivalent to the 15 health centers in the district.
Each cooperative is given a bonus according to how they performed. They were also given mobile phones to ease communication.
In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, most infrastructures were destroyed and many people were left unsheltered. The government has done a lot to mend the damages. In view of that, Ruhango district built houses for 3417 vulnerable genocide survivors and provided direct support, a program for needy people, to 7819 more. This helped genocide survivors, most of whom had lost hope, to recover and regain dignity. 4135 genocide survivors were also educated. The district also constructed for 40 historically marginalized people.
The Vision Umurenge Program (VUP) is an integrated local development program to accelerate poverty eradication, rural growth and social protection. Through this program, 5,588 vulnerable people in Ruhango were supported.
The “bye bye Nyakatsi”, a campaign to eradicate thatched houses or Nyakatsi is one of the community development and social welfare programs. In Ruhango 699 people who lived in such houses were relocated and given decent dwelling units.
The elderly people are also helped to end their life on earth well or even extend their lifespan. In that regard, two groups of the elderly people in Ruhango were supported.
The district also helped 374 vulnerable families get houses. It also helped 612 students from those families who could not afford education and 12 youth from the historically marginalized families were educated in the vocational training programs.
Through the “Hanga Umurimo”, an initiative that incubates entrepreneurial skills among young people and help them access finance, 180 youth were educated and125 young people were trained in the “Kora wigire” national employment program.
Ruhango district also looks to developing religious-based tourism through the Kanyarira Mountain, a place considered “a holy mountain” that attracts many people for prayers. The district plans to build more accommodation for the pilgrims.
The district also plans to adopt the Macadamia, geranium among other projects.
Although a lot were achieved in Ruhango, there are more to do for a better tomorrow of its citizens.
Mayor Mbabazi considers unity among people as central to all ambitions and calls upon Ruhango residents to embrace unity among them. He also urges them to accustom themselves to the culture of saving as well as mind-set change towards self reliance.