By Godfrey Ntagungira
In the implementation of EDPRS, the government in consultation with different donors designed a strategy known as the Vision 2020 Umurenge. This strategy adopts the sectors (administrative units) as the central implementing agency of the EDPRS through a variety of tools.
It is organized around three main components. The first component revives the existing public works programs through community based participatory approaches (e.g. Ubudehe) to build community assets and create off-farm employment infrastructure.
The second component innovates with credit packages to tackle extreme poverty as well as to foster entrepreneurship and off-farm employment opportunities; these packages are designed to make best possible use of scarce public resources, involve the private financial sector, and provide people with incentives to improve their own productive capacities.
The third component includes direct support to improve access to social services or to provide for landless households with no members qualifying for public works or credit packages, such unconditional support seeks to expand health and education coverage as well as to encourage the development of “appropriate” skills handicraft or social service activities. This component will also include social assistance for vulnerable people.
MINALOC which is responsible for social protection prepared a manual that guides districts and sectors in the implementation of the Vision 2020 Umurenge. Within this framework, the allocation of resources for the different vulnerable groups such as women, youth, and persons with disabilities, widows and orphans is based on priorities identified by the community from the cell up to the sector and district level.
At the sectors/districts, these community priorities are consolidated into a sector plan or a district development plan.
The programme is a community based on poverty reduction strategies geared towards employing persons who are unemployed in the rural areas. People are engaged for short periods in construction works, roads repairs etc. given the nature of most of these works, persons with disabilities who are among the unemployed are unable to benefit.
The programme’s key objectives are to transform the rural economy by modernizing agriculture, and to reduce the overall incidence of poverty.
By 2020, the goals are to triple agricultural production, to multiply exports fivefold and to reduce the proportion of the population living on agriculture to 50 per cent.
Originally the strategy was first implemented in 30 selected poorest sectors in all the provinces. Currently the programme is being implemented 60 selected poor sectors across the country and plans are under way to increase to 90 sectors.
The extreme poor have a very low income and have a lack of access to assets, resources and services such as basic education, health care, and water.
They are very vulnerable to shocks and changes in the market. All local leaders were tasked to select what they consider the poorest sectors in their respective districts.
VUP includes direct supports to improve access to social services or to provide for landless households with no members qualifying for public works or credit packages; such unconditional supports seek to expand health and education coverage as well as to encourage the development of ‘appropriate’ skills such as undertaking training in handicrafts production or social service activities.
Among the beneficiaries are the most vulnerable who cannot work, for example older people and those with disabilities, receive direct assistance through cash transfers. Savings and credit services are also being extended to better reach the poor.
Community targeting is organised using a traditional nationwide village-based process called Ubudehe.
POVERTY AND PUBLIC WORKS
After the government recognized that their was absence of viable economic alternatives, government turned to labor intensive public works programs such as social safety nets to generate short term employment whilst producing growth enabling public goods.
The prominent motive behind the public works it’s because the government has a strong focus on enabling households to move out of poverty.
Public works started in July 2008 and to date have reached over 17,500 households, representing over 70% of households reached. The government is provides support for technical assistance in key areas identified by government: monitoring and evaluation, and financial and programme management.
The programme has created a number of off-farm employment opportunities, thereby facilitating the eventual transition to a modern knowledge-based society according to Rwanda Vision 2020 as in 2009 from January to June 17,554 were employed in public works.
It has accelerated the process of monetization and formalization of the economy, thereby ensuring long-term sustainability.
The VUP services redirects social protection to the neediest people who are landless and unable to work, thereby rationalizing and improving the effectiveness of social protection programs, along the social protection strategy.
All beneficiaries of public works have bank accounts and their salaried money is paid through banks which allow them to access loans from the local financial institutions.
The VUP programmes have successfully scaled up activities to operate in an additional 30 sectors operational area totaling to 60 sectors during the reporting period.
The redesigning of the micro-credit sub component of financial services was finalized and now being implemented through the methodology of Ubudehe credit scheme. Trainings were also availed to the expected beneficiaries.
89 percent of large proportion of households legible for public works has already from participating in projects.
The budget for 2008 was frw4billion which was shared in all programme components. Again the budget projection for VUP for 2010-2011 is frw16 billion, this is to scale up in July 2010 to an additional sectors which will total to 90 operational sectors.
At existing rates of progress, the country would only achieve the Vision 2020 poverty reduction target in 2030
The programme is an explicit recognition of the role and importance of the decentralization system to implement the national policies and strategies in order to achieve the MDGs and the objectives of Rwanda Vision 2020
The government commitment to support the Government of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme has a social security programme for the poorest in society, including widows, orphans and the elderly who have no other means of support - either by direct transfers of cash, or cash payments for taking part in public works like road maintenance, or small loans to start businesses.
Through VUP MINALOC is looking forward to extend the programme from 60 poor sectors to 90.
Last week the reporter visited some of the beneficiaries of VUP programmes in Rubaya sector of Gicumbi district and below are the testimonies.
JUSTIN GATSINZI: The national Programme Coordinator
We are seeing radical changes in the live hoods of the people and today they bear testimony since many can afford to meet their basic need which includes shelter, clothing and also a number of them have acquired domestic assets like land and others.
The way I envision their future when the programme life expires I see people with more awareness on diverse things, I see people who will easily access medical services and other basic needs in life since their life has improved.
The credit scheme is also premised to improve the poor peoples lives as they are expecting loans to help them start business projects to help them earn living leading them become self-reliant in terms of meeting their daily needs.
The scheme avails simple loans to beneficiaries at an interest rate of 2 percent in a period of a year. This means that many beneficiaries have graduated or still on their on way to graduate from one level to another.
The approval for the beneficiaries is done at cell level and then shift to sector for assessment but its promising as many sectors are in their final preparations to disburse the loans to the applicants.
Married to one wife with one child and two orphans, before this programme came in this area my life was too hard, I didn’t have any job. We earned in a hard way. When I started working with Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme my family life changed.
Every day I earn Frw800 and was advised to deposit part of my salary to my bank account to enable me work with financial institutions. My savings accumulated to over frw70, 000 which I topped up and enabled me to acquire a simple loan from the bank and facilitated me to buy a cow and sheep which I anticipate to boom my family income in the near future.
Am expecting to see it producing a calf and then get milk production. Today sometimes I can’t believe what I see because my life has changed because today when a member of family falls sick it is easy to access medical services, thanks to mituelle de sante (local medical insurance cover .
Before this programme I didn’t have even a chicken at home but today I can even borrow money from a friend or a bank, this has facilitated me to buy myself a bicycle and hopes are high to start an income generating project in the near future.
People often ask me what I will do when VUP life expires but the experiences I gained through trainings in project management gives me more hope that I will live a better life.
ALEXANDER NKEYENKIRE: The Rubaya sector executive secretary
This programme is of great value to the locals in the sector, by the time I was appointed as the executive secretary of Rubaya sector around 60 percent of the population were categorized in extreme poverty. But today am pretty sure lives has been changed because today the sector which used be known as a poor sector today we are a leader in many productive sector like in milk production the sector has taken a lead whole district of Gicumbi.
A huge number of people have subscribed to the local medical cover locally known as mituelle de sante as of today according to sector records over 98 percent are covered.
The sector through Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme lots of efforts were invested in combating soil erosion and by the end of this year the sector will be covered by terraces. Again all people who got employed by the proagramme are paid through banks which have given hope to those we used to describe as the extreme poor.
Since this programme started in our sector Rubaya, (pictured right) is 31 years old with three children. Like more than 8 million Rwandans, she gets her living from cultivating her land, and, like many, she has less than a quarter of a hectare to farm.
She says: “With my small piece of land, it is hard to get enough for my children and me to eat. I am separated from my husband and I am raising my three children alone.”
However, thanks to the government of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), she has now been working for 6 months, earning 8,000 Rwandan francs per day, out of which she is saving 300 Rwandan Francs on her newly opened account. “With my first salary I bought school uniforms for my children. ”
she says wearing a smile on her face. “With my savings, I managed to construct a decent house for my children.”
I used to sleep on rugs but today my life has truly changed since I have a better house, I was able to buy new mattresses for myself and my two kids.
Apart from that I have some savings on my account which I won’t tell you but I have strong hopes that by the time this programme comes its end I will be able to earn income from the project which am about to start since am legible to apply for a simple loan from SACCO and am very hopeful it will work out.