• Additional $20 Million likely to be thrown in, as an indicator of it’s successes.
The ‘Ubudehe’ program otherwise known as ‘local collective action’, is a poverty alleviating initiative which is undertaken through a participatory approach between local government and low income earners at village levels countrywide.
It is actually an old phenomenon, enshrined in the Rwandan culture that has been re-utilized to assist in the devolution of government programmes to the lowest levels of public administration. Rwandans from age-old traditions have been known within rural settings to come together to work in groups and teams.
Such an arrangement has worked to build social capital and has assisted in strengthening relationships of trust and reciprocity. Since its inception almost 10 years ago over US$40 Million has been invested in this programme by various parties.
An additional US$20 Million is soon being added into the kitty with an extension to the year 2012 after initial evaluation has acknowledged its impacts, Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah reports.
Ubedehe started off when Government embarked on the poverty reduction strategy paper of 2000. ‘In 2001, the Government of Rwanda embarked on an all-inclusive and participatory approach to crafting poverty reduction strategies for the entire country.
Assisted by development partners a pilot was initiated in Butare,’ Fidele Kayira the national coordinator for Ubedehe Unit at the Ministry of local Government (Minaloc) said.
Following on the heels of the successes of the pilot Kayira revealed that a national policy was adopted to extend this approach nationwide.
The informed decision was that citizens’ own action into fighting poverty could dovetail into the decentralized systems of governance.
National poverty mapping exercise
‘The main aim was to profile poverty nationally with an intention of attacking it. So we thought it wise to involve those who were most affected-the villagers themselves.
Within this arrangement the targeted households in the cell were encouraged to take part in all discussions about this sticky topic,’ Fidele said. ‘The exercise of directly involving the poor was to come up with a more credible national poverty profile through surveys’, he added.
‘In this endeavor cell residents had to be engaged in concerted discussions to prioritise local problems’, he said.
What came up, Fidele said, formed the baseline surveys, which were mapped by the citizens themselves. This has provided an overview of the types of problems and their frequency which is used to inform responsive policy and action.
‘Responsive action entails among other things Cell residents being helped to take action on a problem of their choosing through institutions of their own
design’, Fidele added. ‘Ubudehe’ Unit officials say that the crafting of localized and responsive action is carried out to ‘create experience of self-governance as an enabler of communities to take part in decentralised decision making at the most basic administrative levels known in this country’.
In a typical ‘Ubudehe’ scenario minaloc says that two poor households in every cell are helped with some resources to pursue livelihood strategies of their own choosing, with support from local advisory elders.
‘These cases would provide a basis for planning longer term support components to the poor in each sector and district. This involved relevant inputs such as labour-intensive work which targets appropriate income projects’, Fidele explained further.
Along with the social interactions which came up with the mapping exercise the villagers are able to have a sustained opportunity for them to talk to each other, and to start trusting each other.
This in itself creates what Fidele refers to as ‘social capital’ which is exploited between local and central government.
In this government officials are only seen as ‘enablers and supporters of citizens’ efforts to assist the targeted citizens to engage in local problem-solving as partners in a decentralised interraction.
This is how over US$40 Million programme has come into being since its inception 10 years ago. The success of this initiative can be indicated by a further upscaling and extension of ‘Ubudehe’ to 2012 via an additional US$20 Million being brought in by various partners.