By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
Rwandans around the country have always decried inaccuracies in the population’s categorisation basing on households’ livelihoods, commonly known locally as Ubudehe.
The categories currently in use were released in May, 2016 with all the country’s citizens divided in four categories. After the report’s publication, the Ministry of Local Government admitted there were technical errors during the data entry.
Ubudehe categories help the government and stakeholders to determine the beneficiaries of social protection programmes such as free or subsidised medical insurance, One-Cow per Family scheme, students’ scholarships, among others.
The Ubudehe categorisation has again become the major topic of discussions in public meetings and informal discussions in the communities around the country since February when the government started consultations on the required changes in the next categorisation exercise which is usually expected to occur every three years.
The topic rocked the community debate on Tuesday in the Eastern Rwanda’s Gatsibo District, Gitoki Sector, as Pax Press, the local journalists’ network, engaged the area residents and leaders in a lengthy interaction.
The residents cited gross errors in the previous categorisation exercise which has affected their welfare for the last three years as some of them found themselves in the categories which do not match with their livelihoods, depriving them of the government and stakeholders’ support which usually go to the most vulnerable.
Major changes required
Changes the residents suggested include the need for data collectors from outside their communities, introducing subcategories in the existing categories, making clear the questions for data collection and conducting the exercise in the community meetings.
Augustine Gatsinzi, a resident of Nyamirama Cell in Gitoki Sector, said four Ubudehe categories can be maintained but each should have two subcategories to allow all people feature in the category of their factual means.
Servélien Mbanzabugabo said the government should recruit data collectors and deploy them to go house by house to avoid biases of some local leaders who pushed people in wrong categories.
“This exercise needs a special committee to oversee the data collection. The previous categorisation was done by village leaders who penalised those residents with whom they had issues,” said Mbanzabugabo to receive the congregation’s huge applause in agreement
More participants echoed his concerns, saying that there were instances in which village leaders pushed households in wrong categories as a punishment because the leaders had conflicts with them.
“There were inaccuracies in the questions used in data collection. For example, farmers were asked if they had surplus produces for market and most of them answered with ‘yes’ yet one sells a portion of their produce to buy something else they need, not because they have left enough produces at home,” said Alexandre Ndamira.
The Executive Secretary of Gitoki Sector, John Mushumba, ensured residents that they will be involved in the whole process through the community meetings to ensure transparency in categorisation.
“We have started consultations with our sector’s residents and the findings suggest that there be three categories with each of the second and third categories having three subcategories while category one of the most vulnerable would not have subcategories,” said the official.
He said the residents also wish to have the exercise conducted at the smallest administrative entity, locally known as Isibo, which brings together around 20 households because people in such a small area know of one another’s livelihoods very well.
Speaking to Pan African Visions in February, Minister of State in charge of Social Affairs and Social Protection at the Ministry of Local Government, Dr Alvera Mukabaramba said the government was embarking on consultations to avoid the previous errors in the population categorisation. She said the new categories would be ready by June for use in the next financial year starting with July.
The current social or Ubudehe categories are four with Category Three featuring 53.7 per cent of all the 2,358,488 households countrywide. Category One groups those in extreme poverty while Category Two consists of poor households.
In Category Three are those who can easily cater for their own needs and employ a few people while Category Four comprises the very rich such as big businessmen and high ranking government and private officials.