They sweat and toil 12 hours a day, but also do the same the whole night while spending their hard earned cash. The sad reality is that men in the countryside, who earn money the hardest way, spend it recklessly and are trapped in perpetual poverty.
“These people surprise me, they work so hard to earn cash, but drink it all. They are a big waste, I suppose,” said Richard Murenzi, a frustrated businessman who deals with crowds of wheelbarrow pushers at his wholesale shop in Rwamagana.
If you trace the background of the people in question, it’s common that they have a terrible history behind them.
Most are traumatized by the experiences they lived, and find refuge in drugs and alcohol. After a day’s job, they sum it up in a drinking spree only to wake up to another hard day.
“I have no wife or children because I did not have money to get married,” said Karim Habiyakare a wheelbarrow pusher who left his home area in Gisenge to live among strangers in Rwamagana town.
“I came to Rwamagana 20 years ago, to look for work. My mother had so many of us and could neither provide for our needs nor send us to school. My father, on the other hand, had many wives and was only interested in marrying more wives than taking care of us,” Habiyakare said.
“All while at home they hardly ate two meals a day, “ Habiyakare said. This was the reason that forced him and his siblings to make the decision to leave their village and seek better life elsewhere.
Daily he endures the bread winning task of pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying heavy loads, for a fee that ranges between Rwf100 to Rwf2000 depending on the load and distance.
“It’s impossible to save anything,” he says.
Efforts by Habiyakare and his colleagues to save money, and start life afresh, he said, “proved futile not only because they earn small, but because they do not have proper counselling.”
The result is a group of wheelbarrow pushers earning a lot of money that only evaporates with every sip of alcohol they take.
The dairy of a hard worker
In the countryside where hard work starts in the wee hours of the morning, Jean Claude Rucumu, 28, is up and ready to search for a small job for the day. He does not have a specific job, but he still wakes up daily before sunrise and heads to Ngoma town.
If he is lucky he gets a job that ends late in the evening. Rucumu said he never goes wrong, because on arrival at the town he immediately starts lifting heavy loads and is paid in cash.
“I don’t need to think about what I will do the next day; I just go to the town centre and carry what others cannot carry. I wake up so early, because businesspeople also do the same, and they are my main source of work,” Rucumu said.
With his schedule, Gilbert Rutinduka, another wheelbarrow pusher in Bugesera district said he does not find fixed time for feeding either.
“I eat and drink as I do my work. When you go to relax, you lose customers,” Rutinduka said.
According to Rutinduka, “there are those who stop, and go to eat or even drink alcohol. But it is an unserious behaviour.”
In the evenings, they get to count their money and set off to nearest bar for a wild evening drinking and dancing.
Jerome Gacuma, 34, expressed great naivety, when he said that he will never save, because he has given up on getting rich.
“We earn very little money for survival, so when you get balance from the day’s meals you enjoy it,” he said.
Jean Rutsindika, a local musician spends all day singing for passes-by in order to get money. He too shares the same ideology as Gacuma. Despite his sweet sounding voice, he has no hope of growing to become a great singer.
“Who knows me?” he asks, “I only sing to get money to drink beer and buy good food. That is all I get and I am comfortable with it.”
For harbouring such mentalities, many men in rural Rwanda remain perpetually poor and cannot provide for their families even when they earn a living.
Providing counselling as a way of creating responsible young citizens is the only way of transforming these minds.
According to local leaders in the country side, they earn very good money and end up wasting the whole sum. This has deprived the country of possibly important human resource that could boost the economy.
“They are supposed to be playing their role in the development of communities in different ways, but they have ended up doing the reverse; it’s the duty of leaders and all citizens to help them transform. We cannot afford to miss out the most active group of our population,” Josian Kayinamura, 56, said.
It’s therefore prudent to put in place special trainings and sensitization that will transform the minds of people living in the countryside in order to achieve positive results.