The New Times (Kigali)

15 January 2013

Rwanda: Rulindo District's Rich Embrace Poor in Fight Against Poverty

At least 2,000 households from the poorest in Rulindo district have been assigned individual mentors to help them improve their fortunes.

At least 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty between 2006 and 2011, according to the Rwandan Household Living Conditions Survey released by the government earlier last year. Economic growth in the five years reduced the number of Rwanda&Launched last Wednesday, the move is the latest innovation in the district's efforts to move nearly 60,000 of its people out of abject poverty.

In the programme, mentors who were picked from all the officials in the district and other successful people will be advising members of a poor household on how to better use the little resources they have to improve their lives.

"We want this to be a mutual relationship between the mentor and the mentee, it's a self-driven initiative," Rulindo district mayor Justus Kangwagye said in a brief interview with The New Times yesterday.

Describing how he will change the life of his mentee, an old womans in her late 50s, the mayor said that he realises what she misses is a connection to a credit and savings scheme. The first advice he gave her is to join Village Savings and Loans (VSL) scheme in her village.

"When she is financially literate, we are going to scan her environment and see how we can help. With my guidance, she will be among the shining people in Rulindo," he said.

At least 2,000 officials who work at both District and Sector levels as well as influential people like leaders of business cooperatives, teachers, and independent people who are willing to help have been assigned poor households.

The Executive Secretary of Base Sector, Antoine Muhigira, is helping 53-year-old Laurentia Mukasano to turn her life around. Muhigira's first assignment last Tuesday was to call the widow's daughter who is working as a maid in Kigali. He plans to meet her and her mother and advise them how the daughter can cultivate vegetables in their small farm and sell them to their local markets.

Muhigira is also planning to advise the family to start rabbit farming and he is likely to fundraise for money to help the family kick-start the business because he believes they can do it well and get some money.

"There is no reason for her daughter to make peanuts as a maid while they can use their farm to get the money they need," the official said. "The important thing is to provide advice. We need to help them realise the economic potential they have."

For Aimable Benegusenga, an expert with Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) which aims to increase the country's rural incomes by more than 50 per cent in 2017, Rulindo's initiative to assign individual councillors to the poorest could be very helpful.

He said that, if well managed, it's going to be a kind of temporary training and follow up that will empower the poor people with a lot of useful information.

"It's knowledge transfer and knowledge comes before anything else. It also helps when you know someone is following you up, I think it's a good thing."

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