Friday, May 15, 2009

Rural poverty is dramatically increasing in Rwanda, Belgian researcher An Ansoms reveals

By Jean-Baptiste Mberabahizi
Secretary General

Dr An Ansoms, University of Antwerp

In a 318 page paper presented on January 27, 2009 to obtain a PhD from the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the researcher’s work entitled “Faces of rural poverty in contemporary Rwanda: linking livelihood profiles and institutional processes”, studied whether economic growth was translated in reducing poverty in rural Rwanda.

An Ansoms concludes that “ongoing institutional processes stimulate a path that leads to increasing polarisation between rural social classes and their livelihood profiles”. In other words, inequality is growing in rural Rwanda.

Analysing “evolutions of growth, poverty and inequality in post-1994 Rwanda”, the researcher confirms that all Poverty Reduction Strategies fell short of their main objective and remarks on the contrary that poverty even increased.

She notes that “in the mid-1980s, Rwanda qualified as a low-inequality country with a Gini coefficient of 0,29." She however remarks that “the Gini coefficient by 2001 had risen to a considerable 0, 47 representing a situation where the richest 20% enjoyed the same consumption level as the poorest 80%.”

Mrs Ansoms notes that “inequality even further increased over the period 2001-2006 as the Gini coefficient reached 0,51 a situation acknowledged by the RPF government which confirms that “growth over this period has been accompanied by increasing inequality”.

She further recalls that “the rising levels of inequality are mainly due to an increasing gap between poor and rich in the rural setting, while urban inequality decreased” hasting to add that “the reduction of urban inequality can be explained by several policy measures that prevent or discourage the poor to live in the capital city.”

Quoting another author (Durand-Lasserve), An Ansoms explains that “(RPF government) restrictive planning and development standards are directly responsible for the exclusion of 75 to 80% of households from legal access to land and housing”.

In practice, poor Rwandans are chased from Kigali City to give the country a false image of modernity and prosperity, an image that paves the way to biased statements about "Rwanda’s miracle" as they are spread by RPF government unconditional supporters like Paul Kagame’s guru Rick Warren.

Questioning how ethnicity could interfere with poverty in post-1994 Rwanda, An Ansoms notes that “data on ethnic income disparities are currently unavailable, as ethnicity has become a taboo subject in the post-1994 Rwandan society.”

She says that “the greatest ethnic disparities in post-1994 Rwanda relate to the urban-rural divide, where a Tutsi-dominated political elite in Kigali appropriates the benefits of economic growth while very little trickles down towards Rwanda’s peasant and rural world.”

Rural population amounts to 90% of total Rwanda’s population. When looking at budgetary commitments, An Ansoms notes that the agricultural sector received less than 5% of the total priority expenditures while tertiary education was receiving 12,8 %.

Analysing the character of RPF policy makers, Mrs An Ansoms notes that “the post-1994 political elite have few links to rural society and the peasant way of life and see little room for small-scale peasant agriculture in Rwanda’s economic future”. Indeed, they clearly state that Rwanda’s future lays in a so-called knowledge-based economy rather than in an agro-industry based economy, a misplaced belief that plunged rural Rwandans in total poverty.

“(RPF government) policymakers aim to transform the agricultural sector into a professionalized motor for economic growth, with little place left for traditional smallholder agriculture, seek to upgrade rural life by inserting ‘modern’ techniques and strategies into the local realities, while hiding the extent of poverty and inequality and hope to transform Rwanda into a target-driven society from the highest to the lowest level” the study reads.

She notes that “taken together, these three social engineering ambitions amount to a top-down developmentalist agenda with a central role for the state as the engineer that shapes and reshapes the rural environment” denying any participation from the peasantry.

Moreover, An Ansoms notes that RPF elites’ belief “that farm concentration, regional specialisation in certain crop types, and the abandonment of multi-cropping i.e. combining different crops on the same plot of land in favour of mono-cropping in order to benefit from the ‘economies of scale’ " is contradicted by relevant studies on Rwanda that state on the contrary that “smaller farmers have higher average and marginal land productivity than larger farmers”.

An Ansoms concludes that “an alternative rural policy that promotes broad-based agricultural growth with a key role for small-scale peasants, in combination with an activation of the potential of (nearly) landless rural agents in the local off-farm sector” is “the only way economic growth will be sufficiently pro-poor”.

Related Materials:
Rwandan peasants on the brink of extinction


At October 7, 2009 at 4:57 AM , Blogger 小云 said...

Well written, thank you for the summary and reference. This is one of the first search results that came up on google when I was researching Rwanda for personal interest. This is a late comment, keep writing for truth, peace and justice.


At May 14, 2010 at 12:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all the time studies reveal the best models to sustain the economy and other areas of life and remember that studies or research papers are twisted to justify the researchers personal opinion in many cases. For example when the author criticise the RPFs' approach in specialing and mono cropping i don't understand it, because the multicropping strategy that the paper is in favour leave alone meeting the demand of consumers themselves(the subsistance farmers)here i am not including the whole countrys' population, yet the government's aim is to specialise and produce more whereby there would be a surplus to supply on other markets in the region at a steady and continuous rate, hence allowing growth. For instance most countries in africa dont win contracts in the western markets because they can't sustain a constant supply due to multicropping and subsistance farming they can not compete with other parts of the world like in central america. like i take an example of banana in rwanda farmer have 100 trees or less of bananas which would not hold a steady supply to only a single supermarket in the west for a week or 2 weeks.

At May 14, 2010 at 7:58 PM , Blogger Mamadou Kouyate said...

Dear Anonymous,

Please read the article titled” Rwanda and its ghosts” (
You may cam to realize that the fundamental question Rwandan leaders should ask themselves is this one: Is Rwanda food secure? As you may know, the answer is No. So, before thinking about cash crops (such as flowers, jatropha,..) and/or food exportations, the priority should be given to food security.
Knowledge-based economy under the Vision 2020 development plan will still be seen as a myth as long as the majority of the Rwandan population is afflicted by unspeakable poverty while the majority of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of less than 1% of the population and the benefits of the so-called double digits economic growth do not tickle down to poor peasants in rural areas.


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