Model villages offer one-way ticket out of poverty

Scores of foreigners, from visiting heads of state to students, have for the past few years trekked to the Eastern Province, particularly to see the ‘wonder villages’ of Nyagatovu and Kitazigurwa in the districts of Kayonza and Rwamagana, respectively.
Kitazigurwa model in Rwamagana District boasts basic infrstructure and decent housing. Saturday Times/Stephen Rwembeho.
Kitazigurwa model in Rwamagana District boasts basic infrstructure and decent housing. Saturday Times/Stephen Rwembeho.

Scores of foreigners, from visiting heads of state to students, have for the past few years trekked to the Eastern Province, particularly to see the ‘wonder villages’ of Nyagatovu and Kitazigurwa in the districts of Kayonza and Rwamagana, respectively.

The two are model villages, which were established to demonstrate how rural Rwandan communities can lift themselves out of poverty and achieve sustainable development.

These model villages were initially “hotspots” for chronic poverty, often accompanied by a high prevalence of diseases, lack of access to medical care, and a severe lack of infrastructure.

However, the model villages have since made it easy for communities to access health, education, farm produce and markets. The villages’ tailored strategies helped overcome a wide range of issues; ranging from farming and water to diseases.

Families occupying the modern houses in the villages previously scattered on the hills constituting the villages and this made it hard for government to get to them any kind of social service.

According to Enock Byabashaija, the coordinator of Nyagatovu and Kitazigurwa model villages, the villages offer a typical model for fighting poverty at the village level.

Byabashaija notes that the concept of model villages was bearing fruits across communities in the country.

Sensitisation

“This has been a centre for education for communities in Rwanda and the rest of the world...I cannot recall how many people have visited the villages. Each day is a busy one, with people coming from across the world,” he said.

Byabashaija recalls when the project began to relocate vulnerable families from sparcely populated areas in the two districts.

“The people occupying the two villages lived in a disorganised way in valleys and hills, where they never accessed basic infrastructure.

They were sensitised and brought to one village...they have virtually access to all basic needs. There is now a big difference, they moved from a state of hopelessness to meaningful living”.

The houses are well furnished with electricity; cow shed stocked with Friesian cows, clean water, and children are better fed than before.

The village development project was divided into three housing categories including low, medium and high end made up of three, four and five bed-roomed houses, respectively, based on need and financial capacity.

The size and location of the settlement was determined by village based settlement committees with minimal government guidance, especially on location criteria.

Just four years ago, Nyagatovu and Kitazugurwa were ordinary Rwandan villages where socio-economic ills were part of everyday life.

Now they are model villages. The humble community, turned to be a role model.

The villages have been case studies for a number of countries seeking to rebuild their societies to end poverty.

Role models

The success of the two villages ushered in a new era for development in the country.

These villages have been important role models and their success could be duplicated across  the world.

The success of the villages was echoed by ministers and permanent secretaries whose ministries are in charge of urbanisation and housing, while attending the 31st annual Shelter-Afrique Symposium last year.

Shelter Afrique is a Pan–African financial institution dedicated to financing housing and related infrastructure in Africa.

The Director General Shelter Afrique, Alassana Ba, said Rwanda presented an example of an African country whose leadership was steadily paving way for development.

He said Rwanda offers good lessons for Africa, adding that Shelter Afrique would help other nations emulate the same.

“The villages we visited tells the story by itself…we have experienced quality organisation second to none, in Africa. It all boils down to good leadership. We travelled with a number of ministers and officials from other countries who I am sure are watching closely,” he said.

Vestine Uwikeza, 41, is a resident of Nyagatovu model village. The single mother of three children said the village was the first to implement the ‘Bye Bye Nyakatsi’ programme.

Uwikeza has been helping others to embrace modern farming.

“I stay in a decent house after living in a grass thatched one, for many years. Though I spent  a part of my lifetime in thatched house, my children and their children will not have to undergo the same.”

“The model villages have transformed our lives in many extraordinary ways... I have a big poultry farm and three Friesian cows. Besides I have learnt how to produce biogas out of the animal waste...so, I don’t struggle anymore with expensive wood or charcoal fuel,” she noted.

Following the success of the model villages, the Government of Rwanda has started a programme to establish a model village in every district in the country.

By the year 2020, it is expected that 70 per cent of Rwandans will be residing in model -semi urban villages with the remaining 30 per cent dwelling in urban areas, according to the National Rural Settlement Taskforce under the Ministry of Local Government.

It looks Rwanda is building the bridges out of poverty through model villages.

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