Rwanda’s Vision 2020, aims that at least 70 per cent of Rwandans in rural areas will be living in planned settlements by the year 2020. The current rate is 55.8 per cent according to the national household survey, the fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4), which was published in September 2015. Towards this the Rwandan government is setting aside planned settlement sites in different parts of the country and investing in the building of ‘model villages’ as part of the latest efforts to modernize rural settlements, officials at the Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) have said.

Building model villages will help in efforts to use the country’s scarce land resources more efficiently through land consolidation for higher yields from arable land, while also championing improved housing, officials added. With land spanning 26,338 square kilometres, Rwanda is one of the world’s smallest countries but remains among the most densely populated in Africa.

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The RHA has asked every district in the country to set aside at least one planned settlement site where the government can build homes for indigent people living in high-risk zones. Dubbed ‘model villages’, the modern settlement sites will be connected to essential infrastructure like roads, water, electricity, schools, health posts, and local markets. The target is that at least 30 sites, one in each of the country’s 30 districts, will have been set aside and provided with roads, water, and electricity before the end of the current fiscal year 2016-2017.

“Rwandans need to liberate themselves from inappropriate habitation. They need to understand that living in village settlement sites (imidugudu) helps to scale up access to infrastructure,” said Eng. Didier Sagashya, Director General of the RHA.

President Kagame launching a housing Project Photo Credit Twitter

The prototype for these “model villages” is Rweru village which was opened by President Paul Kagame during 2016’s celebrations to mark the 22nd Liberation Day on July 4, having been constructed through the Army Week, an outreach activity by the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF). Rweru has since then been provided with a school of 17 classrooms, a health post, connection to electricity and water for all houses, internet connection, a modern market and workshop place (locally called agakiriro) and a 12-kilometre road linking the village to the nearest trading centre.

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Officials at the RHA said that the government will invest approximately Rwf30 billion and has called upon stakeholders from the civil society, private entrepreneurs and faith-based organisations to invest in the project by pledging to bring services to the model villages.

In this crusade against grass thatched dwellings commonly known as ‘Nyakatsi’, the Diaspora has also been allocated 36 hectares in Bugesera district to build over 500 houses for the poor in the district.

Speaking to The New Times, Louis Rwagaju, the Mayor of Bugesera, emphasized that once finalized, the scheme will give a boost to the government’s rural development policy. “Better quality housing will improve the rural poor’s social welfare and of course, positively impacting on the government’s policy, Rwagaju said. “We have a list of households living in grass-thatched houses and when time for construction comes, the local population has agreed to participate through Umuganda (community work).” he added.

Several Model Villages have been constructed and inaugurated in other parts of the country, such as the Kibangire Green Village in Rusizi District, Gashaki Green Village in Musanze District and Kabyaza Model Green Village in Nyabihu District.

One UN Rwanda Resident Coordinator Lamin M. Manneh  said that the Model Green Village development in Rwanda constitutes an important solution to addressing the vulnerabilities of citizens in disaster prone areas as well as the constraints to effective service delivery to communities in scattered locations. “Many African countries are learning from Rwanda’s development experience, and I would like to salute the leadership of HE Paul Kagame who has prioritized Integrated Development Programme for rural settlement as one of key priority interventions to meet Rwanda needs.”

The plan also seeks to provide cheaper homes for the average Rwandan. In Kigali expansion is indeed a priority according to Parfait Busabizwa, the vice-mayor in charge of economic development at the City of Kigali. Busabizwa said the city population is projected to increase from 1.2 million people to four million inhabitants by 2040. “Therefore, this requires more investment in real estate development and other facilities to cater for this growth in population and the resultant pressure on services, sewage and water systems. This can be achieved through cooperating with the partners like Rwanda Housing Authority, Ministry of Infrastructure and private sector stakeholders,” Busabizwa said.