Yale University professor tips policy makers on poverty eradication

There is need for more initiatives geared at fighting poverty among the masses for the country to achieve its goals under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II).
Ruhango District's Berwa Women's group members weave baskets. Such small projects have helped millions of rural poor to improve their livelihoods. (File)
Ruhango District's Berwa Women's group members weave baskets. Such small projects have helped millions of rural poor to improve their livelihoods. (File)

There is need for more initiatives geared at fighting poverty among the masses for the country to achieve its goals under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II). 

According to academics and researchers, government, as well as non-profit organisations and other development stakeholders should double efforts to reduce extreme poverty, especially in rural areas. 

Under EDPRS II, government targets to reduce poverty from 44.9 per cent to below 30 per cent by 2018. Over 24 per cent of the population, especially rural households, were living under extreme poverty in 2011.

Christopher Udry, an economics professor at Yale University in the United States, called for initiatives that boost production and ensure inclusive economic growth to get citizens out of poverty. 

Udry, who was speaking during an Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN) public lecture in Kigali on Tuesday, lauded the Vision 2020 Umurenge programme (VUP), saying it has improved the living standards of Rwanda’s poorest households in the rural areas. 

VUP started in 2008 as a flagship of EDPRS I from 2008 through 2012. During the four-year development programme, one million Rwandans were lifted out of poverty, mainly through VUP. 

Under EDPRS II, VUP is under the rural development thematic area. The programme contains three pillars; VUP public works for the poor who are able to work, VUP direct support consisting of cash transfers for the very poor households without labour capacity, and VUP financial services.

Udry said recent studies in Peru, Pakistan, India, Honduras, Ghana and Ethiopia, have shown initiatives aimed at asset transfer to enable citizens graduate from poverty. 

Citing a programme by a development NGO in the Philippines, BRAC, he said the extremely poor were provided with different types of assets, like goats, chickens, retail stock, bees and guinea pigs, depending on the local context, and trained on how to manage them. 

“They were also given consumption support and educated on health and how to save. The wealth of those who got support grew substantially in three years compared to the wealth of those who didn’t,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Vincent Gahamanyi, the director of VUP, said they measure improvement in people’s livelihood by how fast they graduated from extreme poverty to higher ‘ubudehe’ categories.

“We link graduation from poverty to ‘ubudehe’ social stratification; when one is in category one and two, they are considered extremely poor but when they upgrade to category three, they exit the VUP programme but are still poor. 

“Those in category four are usually called relatively poor, but when they reach category five, they are food secure and no longer characterised as poor,” he explained.

He, however, noted that there is a growing challenge posed by social benefits from government and NGOs, like scholarships and medical insurance, using the ‘ubudehe’ categorisation, saying people were now concealing their assets to fairly benefit from the programme.

ben.gaosre@newtimes.co.rw

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