Nyamagabe district in the Southern Province, formerly plagued by famine and genocide ideology, emerged best performer in the recent evaluation exercise of performance contracts – commonly known as Imihigo.
The New Times’ Paul Ntambara talked to the Mayor, Alphonse Munyentwari,about how they managed to achieve this feat.Below are the excerpts:
TNT: Your District took the most coveted first position in Imihigo in the whole country. What was the secret behind the success?
MAYOR: The Secret lies in efficient and participatory planning that addresses the real problems of the district’s population. The culture of team work and permanent focus on our targets has also played a key role in our recent achievements.
TNT: Does the success attained last year pile pressure on you to deliver this year?
MAYOR: It is not really pressure but drive for better performance.
TNT: How are you going to maintain the success?
MAYOR: This year we have a six months performance contract; we will work hard with higher participation, cooperation and focus.
TNT: Your District has been known to have the biggest number of cases with respect to torturing and killing Genocide survivors and witnesses especially in Kaduha Sector. How did you manage to turn this Sector into a haven of peace?
MAYOR: We have mobilised people for peaceful co-habitation, mutual respect, unity and reconciliation.
Some deterrent measures have also been taken including identifying people who orchestrate Genocide ideology related crimes.
We have set up a database for such people in addition to prosecution and trials within the courts of law.
Most importantly, people are gaining and owning other values through different national programmes like ITORERO, UBUDEHE (Cultural institution), and we are motivated by different achievements in good governance, justice, welfare and economic development.
TNT: The famine that characterised this part of the country is now a thing of the past. How did you manage to achieve this turn around in food production?
MAYOR: People have been sensitised to cultivate crops that are suitable to the soils of the area, crops that generate more income. Initiatives like land consolidation, use of fertilisers, soil protection, One Cow per Family and market oriented production have had tremendous impact in the agriculture Sector.
TNT: What are some of the investment potentials in your district?
MAYOR: These are numerous but great potential lies in tourism, education,and within agricultural sectors in areas such as growing of Maracuja, bee keeping, coffee and tea growing to mention but a few.
TNT: As one travels around the district, it is evident that the poverty is still biting hard within the population, how do you plan to increase household incomes?
MAYOR: We are going to lay more emphasise on household performance contracts. We are mobilising and orienting people through learning by doing towards the culture of planning and self evaluation so that different development programmes can be based on a solid foundation of human capacity. We will focus on the culture of saving.Saving and credit schemes are going to play a major role.
We will multiply off farm activities especially for young people. We are sensitising people on family planning; its impact cannot be measured in the short term, but we are making a big effort to tackle the overpopulation problem because it retards growth if not checked.
TNT: The sight of redundant youth at trading centres is a threat to development and security, how do you plan to solve the issue of unemployment among the youth?
MAYOR: We have started to change that situation. Last year, 12O children were sent back to school from the streets. Professional schools and off farm activities for young people are some of the ways we have designed to solve the problem.
We will also focus on universal education policy and the nine- year Basic Education programs to mobilise parents and teachers so that the idea that better education of their children is one of the family ideals to be embraced by family units throughout the district.
TNT: There is remarkable progress in the development of districts’ town but the service and hospitality sector is still lagging behind. What plans do you have to promote this important Sector?
MAYOR: Making the district more attractive by improving its infrastructure through building more hotels, repairing roads, protecting areas that attract tourists - especially the Nyungwe National Park and identifying other tourism sites in our district constitutes part of our programs of works.
We will also work on improving our hospitality through quality service delivery not only in public sector but also in private sector.
TNT: A district’s growth depends on a healthy population. What is the level of enrolment in the Universal medical insurance scheme – Mituele de santé?
MAYOR: Last year’s enrolment stood at 92. 9%.This year’s target is 100%.
TNT: There is a national programme to build houses for vulnerable Genocide survivors and other vulnerable groups. How far have you gone in implementing this programme?
MAYOR: Last year, we started building over 900 houses. We have so far finished building 417 houses. Over 400 are at the finishing level.
TNT: The nine year Basic Education programme has been rolled out in the country’s education sector.Is your district ready for its implementation?
MAYOR: Yes, we have finished building 93 new classrooms, people have been mobilised and administrative work is being done, we are ready to start.
TNT: You plan to spend over Rwf.5billion this year but most of this money is expected to come from the central government and other development partners. How much income do you generate as a district and how do you plan to increase your tax base?
MAYOR: Our six months target is Rwf.150, 000,000. We are sensitising tax payers for better compliance. We are streamlining our tax collecting operations because we have realised that some taxes were not exhaustively paid.
For instance levies for plots and taxes for house rents. The tax payer’s data base is being updated.
TNT: Population growth that is not proportionate to the growth of the economy is a challenge to the country. How do you plan to tackle this challenge?
MAYOR: We are increasing awareness amongst women and men about family planning. We are equally improving the quality of services at health centres and hospitals in family planning. Last year, people applying scientific methods of family planning (contraceptives) increased from 13% to 27%. Our 2009 target is at least 40%.