Rwanda's recent history has been marked by the genocide of 1994 in which at least 800.000 people, about 10 percent of the population, lost their lives. As a result of the genocide, there was a total breakdown of institution systems, structures and human capacity in Rwanda. Since then the country has gone through the painful challenge of rebuilding all this. Stability and security have been restored, and recovery has been under way for several years now.
In 2007, Rwanda came up with the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS). In the EDPRS, the designation poverty is conceptualised in absolute terms, as well as in relative terms. According to absolute conceptualisations of poverty, which can also be referred to as physical subsistence definition, poverty is the deprivation of economic resources that are required to meet for example food, shelter and clothing. And on the other hand, relative poverty is conceptualised as the deprivation of economic resources that are required for dignified participation in society.
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First of all the EDPRS talks about absolute poverty. Two povertylines are set the first is the Extreme Povertyline set at 150 Rwandan Francs (RWF) ($ 0.26) and concerns the amount of money needed to buy enough food to meat a required minimum of 2100 Kcal per adult per day. The second one is Upper Povertyline is set at 250 RWS ($0.44) besides the 150 RWF to provide 2100 Kcal a day an extra 100 RWF is added to provide for other, non-food basic needs. The principal poverty measure is consumption-based4. Meaning that the poverty measure is calculated from survey data on household consumption expenditure
According to the EDPRSP, more than one-third of the population (3.49 million people) lives below the extreme poverty line. Over half the population lives below the upper poverty line (5.38 million people). Inequality was measured by the Gini coefficient, which was quite high in Rwanda (0.51).
Besides looking at basic needs the EDPRS also conceptualizes poverty through subjective Ubudehe surveys, or community based participation surveys. This subjective approach of measuring poverty identified seven socioeconomic categories, in which people positioned themselves based on their perception of their poverty. It also identified the major causes of poverty as perceived by the people. This approach is valuable as it reflects the perceptions of the poor themselves, and not those of (non-poor) external analysts and government officials. Through Ubudehe surveys the Rwandan PRSP indicates that 52.5% of respondents felt among the poorest group. No less than 87.4% identify themselves as poor or worse. Lack of land, poor soils and drought are seen as the major causes for poverty.
Special attention in the EDPRS goes out to vulnerable households (headed by women, widows and children). As a consequence of genocide, they represent 43% of all the households and are mostly concentrated in the rural area's. Objective poverty among vulnerable households is around 60% higher than average, indicating the importance of targeting assistance to particularly vulnerable groups.
As evident from the setting of poverty lines as the standard for measuring poverty, the Rwandan EDPRSP sees conceptualizes poverty as the neo-classical economists' unidimensional income shortfall. This concept favours economic growth and market-based strategies as the solution to poverty. It relates to the modernisation theory because they follow a linear path whereby development is thought to be achieved by following processes mainly prescribed by developed countries through their Global Institutions such as The IMF, World Bank and other Aid Agencies.
The EDPRS talks about several dimensions of poverty such as: food, health, income, sanitation facilities, shelter and education & information. The EDPRS should promote sustainable economic growth, human development and reduce poverty. In order to do so, the EDPRS promotes three flagship programs. The first focuses on Sustainable Growths for Jobs and Export. This will be achieved by creating employment opportunities. The main problems for reaching this according to the EDPRS are the low levels of human capital, a lack of skills and weak infrastructure. So the priorities should include fostering human capital, promoting business skill development, and upgrading infrastructure. In this context also energy supplies, transport networks and ICT development are points to focus on. The EDPRS speaks out the need to create non-farm employment by general private sector development. Because most poor people live in rural areas and are engaged in traditional agricultural activities there is a need to modernize agriculture and increase its production. For sustained growth over the longer term, it states that here is a need for a diversified economy by promoting non-traditional agricultural activities and the non-farm sector.
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The second flagship programme is Vision 2020 Umerenge, which is a rural development programme which aims to increase the efficiency of public service delivery and to reduce poverty. The goal is to eliminate extreme poverty by 2020. It reflects grass root priorities and it will be implemented at the sector level using approaches where community-based participation is a central method. It is a pro-poor growth for job and exports programme. The programme identifies certain vulnerable target groups and uses interventions that meet the specific need of these target groups. The population in rural areas will be encouraged to move into more concentrated village settlements. According to the EDPRS the programme should be implemented in three components. First, public work with community-based planning and participation should help build community assets and create an on- and off-farm employment infrastructure. Examples of projects mentioned in this context include improving land productivity, formal market infrastructure improvement and improving access to drinking and irrigation water. Second, it wants to tackle extreme poverty by the use of credit packages and to forester entrepreneurship and off-farm employment opportunities. The third component is the direct support to improve social protection and access to social services.
The third flagship programme sets the goal of promoting Good Governance. This is described as a pre-condition for development of the country and the reduction of poverty. Especially in the light of Rwanda's history of conflict. It is focused on accelerating growth to create employment and to generate exports in making Rwanda attractive for foreign investors. In the EDPRS it is argued that the country should try to create a comparative advantage in 'soft infrastructure', that is, in institutional arrangements important for private investors. Key policy areas pointed to in this context include unity and reconciliation, defence and security, justice and human rights, public financial management, and political accountability and transparency. The EDPRS also emphasises on the importance of maintaining Rwanda's reputation of having low levels of and zero tolerance for, corruption.
Finally the EDPRS has implemented cross-cutting issues in its strategies. These issues are; gender equality, environmental protection, social inclusion and HIV/Aids. The EDPRS points out to the progress that is made in promoting girls' education and the female parliament representation, but also emphasises that huge problems, such as physical abuse of women and weak female property rights, remain. Towards social inclusion, the EDPRS aims to enable vulnerable and marginalized groups to participate in productive employment and have access to social services. The EDPRS hopes to reach, that by the end of its period in 2012, reduced inequality, improved access to and quality of education and health services for vulnerable groups. The EDPRS gives attention to the problem of overexploitation of lands and fragile areas, and emphasises the need to tackle issues of soil erosion, deforestation, and pollution. This will call for joint sector strategies, and it is established that all the sectors will, in any development project, be required to integrate environment evaluations. Finally the EDPRS is naming that although HIV/Aids is less prevalent in Rwanda than in most other Sub Saharan African countries, it is still a potential threat for the country and needs to be addressed.