In a bid to ensure a greater impact of the social support provided to the poor, beneficiaries will now be required to sign contracts with local leaders. The move is intended to help the beneficiaries escape the poverty trap as soon as possible.
The people in question are those who are given monthly allowances under the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP). The move is being introduced after government realised that recipients only use the money for subsistence purposes, hence remaining in the poverty cycle.
VUP seeks to help beneficiaries graduate from poverty, within a specific time limit. And this is part of the government’s broader efforts to halve the number of the poor in the next five years.
Under the 2008-2012 Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 1) which concluded last year, over a million people were lifted out of poverty within five years.
The government is seeking to become a middle -income economy by 2018.
Yet, local authorities have expressed concerns that people in abject poverty who benefit from social protection services, especially those who are handed cash, barely beat the poverty trap because they spend the package irresponsibly.
“For most of the recipients, the money given to them is used for subsistence purposes like buying food. Most beneficiaries finish the money on the day they receive it,” said Marie Alice Uwera, vice mayor in charge of social affairs, Kamonyi Distict.
The monthly stipend given to the poor families ranges between Rwf7,500 and Rwf2,100, depending on the size of the family.
Statistics from the Rwanda Local Development Support Fund (RLDSF) indicate that, countrywide, over Rwf15bn has been given out under this scheme between 2009 and 2013.
To help these beneficiaries make good use of the money, last week the ministry dispatched copies of teh contract to all sector authorities who will then distribute them to the families for signing.
As part of the contract, the supported families will commit to reach a certain level over a specific period of time.
“We have to let our people know that this stipend is a facility to get them out of poverty. It will not be there forever; so they should put it to good use,” Francine Tumushime, the Director-General of Community Development and Social Welfare in the Ministry of Local Government, said last week.
A feasible remedy
Some local authorities, who have closely monitored the VUP scheme, are now trying to initiate the beneficiaries into a saving culture.
Last year, in Kamonyi District, more than 2,000 beneficiaries of VUP direct support from five sectors started to save a small percentage from the grant for future investment in income generating projects.
In Karama Sector, 240 beneficiaries have received over Rwf130 million between themselves since 2009. They have saved up to Rwf5.5 million since last year. With this money, they have bought 40 cows which they have distributed to some of the families.
One of them, Catherine Nyiragataringenge, 90, who receives Rwf 7,500 a month testified that life has since changed positively with their group savings.
Besides a cow, she now has two goats.
She said; “In my former state, I think I had only a few years to live. Today, I believe I still have 15 or more years after I substituted water for milk and started eating regularly.”
Nyiragataringenge also managed to build a house valued at Rwf 500,000.
From their savings, Karama’s VUP beneficiaries are now employing over 30 neighbours in their 34 hectare pineapple plantation in Muganza cell.
In Musambira Sector, also in Kamonyi District, 344 beneficiaries have the same arrangement. They have built two houses in Musambira trading centre, with Rwf 15m from a saving of 20 per cent of the monthly stipend of each family. One of the structures, “Agaciro House” has four rooms and is rented out at Rwf 80,000 per month.
“VUP has restored our dignity; previously, one would spend a year without earning Rwf100,” said Clotilde Muyizere, a widow, mother of four, adding, “The future now is bright.”
According to Fortunee Bayisenge, the dean of faculty of development studies at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Studies (PIAS), Huye, the government should use a people-centered approach in VUP management.
She said, “Before making any step further, local authorities should help these poor people to identify what is best for them because the beneficiaries’ consent is always vital.”
“The beneficiaries still need to be educated, they need a mindset change to know that the monthly package they receive has to end at some point,” she said.
Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) is one of the social protection strategies under EDPRS blueprint. The support is extended in three categories depending on the level of vulnerability. When the scheme started out in 2008, it was benefitting about 6000 people with an initial budget of Rwf4bn. Today, the funds have increased to Rwf40bn and the scheme has been extended to thousands of other vulnerable households.
In the direct support component, where over 40 per cent of this sum was spent, a household is entitled between Rwf 7500 per month to Rwf 21,000 according to its size.
The beneficiaries include the elderly, those living with disabilities, children, vulnerable female headed households, Genocide survivors, and the historically marginalised.
In the other VUP scheme, members who benefit from a loan facility are encouraged to work in groups of between 10 and 12 households to qualify for about Rwf5m and Rwf7m credit payable in two years.
When it is about an individual loan, the ceiling is Rwf 80,000 for a specific business.
In the third component, the poor but energetic residents are employed in public works such as road maintenance, agriculture, construction, etc. where they get daily wages of between Rwf1,500 to Rwf2,000 to support their households.
Govt to sign contracts with VUP beneficiaries