OVER the years, the government has allocated a lot of resources to uplift the poor, including ensuring decent housing.
However, as the government intensifies the poverty alleviation campaign and authorities set deadlines to eliminate grass thatched houses-, the poor men and women in rural Rwanda seem to be taking a different direction.
First, some beneficiaries of heifers under the One-cow -per family programme decided to sell off their donated cows, and now, reports show that over 400 people in different districts of the Southern Province sold off the houses constructed for them by the government.
To me, these two scenarios highlight the challenges we face on the war against poverty. It even tempts one to lose patience with the poor. And on top of that, I believe the buyer of donated property should be regarded as an accomplice to fraud.
It is not logical for a poor Rwandan to get a free house and then sell it off. True, once one acquires the cow or house, it becomes personal property. However, it doesn’t make sense to sell off an iron roofed house and then go back to living in a grass thatched house. How sad!
Many people die without ever realising their dream of one day acquiring a personal house.
We are told that if you live with poverty for too long, it becomes a way of life and it is not considered a problem. There is also a saying that, “A cursed man when given a goat, he will exchange it for a dog”. However, this kind of life isn’t what the government wishes for its people.
In the case of those who sold off their donated homes, it’s unfortunate that it isn’t criminal to sell one’s own property. Those who did so can only be cautioned.
Since they are poor, those who sold their houses argue that because of economic hardships, they need the money. An excuse that I find very lame. When you sell off a cow, meant to be a source of income, what will you sell the next time you are in a similar financial situation?
Sensitisation about the importance of modern housing should always precede the construction of these houses.
We should also think of asking potential beneficiaries to contribute towards the construction of their houses. This contribution can be in terms cash, bricks or any other form.
This would probably reinforce the element of ownership. This phenomenon is commonly applied in many development projects.
But until the poor realise that it’s their responsibility to uplift themselves, the war on poverty will remain difficult.
James Tasamba is a journalist with The New Times