The word Umuganda can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task.
As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions -- culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is Umuganda.
Modern day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda. Expatriates living in Rwanda are encouraged to take part.
Today close to 80% of Rwandans take part in monthly community work. Successful projects include the building of schools, medical centres and hydro electric plants as well as rehabilitating wetlands and creating highly productive agricultural plots. The value of Umuganda to the country’s development since 2007 has been estimated at more than US $60 million.
The word Umuganda can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task. Umuganda was a communal act of assistance and a sign of solidarity. In everyday use, the word ‘umuganda’ refers to a pole used in the construction of a house. The pole typically supports the roof, thereby strengthening the house.
In the period immediately after independence in 1962, Umuganda was only organised under special circumstances and was considered as an individual contribution to nation building. During this time, Umuganda was often referred to as umubyizi, meaning ‘a day set aside by friends and family to help each other’.
On February 2, 1974, Umuganda became an official government program and was organised on a more regular basis – usually once a week. The Ministry of District Development was in charge of overseeing the program. Local leaders at the district and village level were responsible for organising Umuganda and citizens had little say in this process. For this reason and because penalties were imposed for non-participation, Umuganda was initially considered forced labour.
While Umuganda was not well received initially, the program recorded significant achievements in erosion control and infrastructure improvement – especially building primary schools, administrative offices of sectors and villages and health centres.
During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the meaning of Umuganda was distorted to describe ‘finding Tutsi where they were hiding and chasing them out’. It wasn’t until 1998 that Umuganda was reintroduced to Rwandan life. This was done as part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and to nurture a shared national identity.
Umuganda, also known as community work, was reintroduced to Rwandan life in 1998 as part of efforts to rebuild the country after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The program was implemented nationwide though there was little institutional structure surrounding the program. It wasn’t until 17 November 2007 with the passing of Organic Law Number 53/2007 Governing Community Works and later on August 24, 2009 with Prime Ministerial Order Number 58/03 (determining the attributions, organisation, and functioning of community work supervising committees and their relations with other organs) that Umuganda was institutionalised in Rwanda.
Today, Umuganda takes place on the last Saturday of each month from 8a.m. and lasts for at least three hours. To help Umuganda activities contribute to overall national development, supervising committees have been established at the village level and up to the national level. These committees are responsible for organising what work is undertaken as well as supervising, evaluating and reporting what is done.
Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda. Those over 65 are welcome to participate if they are willing and able. Expatriates living in Rwanda are also encouraged to take part. Those who participate in Umuganda cannot be compensated for their work – either in cash or in kind.
While the main purpose of Umuganda is to undertake community work, it also serves as a forum for leaders at each level of government (from the village up to the national level) to inform citizens about important news and announcements. Community members are also able to discuss any problems they or the community are facing and to propose solutions together. This time is also used for evaluating what they have achieved and for planning activities for the next Umuganda a month later.
You can download the Organic Law related to Umuganda here.
You can download the Prime Ministerial Order related to Umuganda here.
The organising structure of Umuganda is governed by Prime Ministerial Order 58/03 (determining the attributions, organisation, and functioning of community work supervising committees and their relations with other organs).
At the national level there exists the Community Works Steering Committee and Technical Committee. The role of the Steering Committee is to plan, assess and encourage Rwandans to take part in Umuganda and to publicise the results. The Technical Committee is responsible for coordinating, monitoring, evaluating and developing the program for Umuganda.
At the provincial and City of Kigali level, a Steering Committee is responsible for coordinating the Umuganda that takes place at the district level, evaluating the work and reporting to the Supervising Committee at the national level and encouraging citizens to take part in community work. The Technical Committee at the same level is responsible for analysing reports from the districts and providing a summary to the Ministry of Local Government.
At the district level a Technical Committee prepares and supervises Umuganda, evaluates community work and reports to the Supervising Committee at the provincial or City of Kigali level. Technical Committees also exist at the sector, cell and village level.
A breakdown of who sits on each committee is provided in Prime Ministerial Order Number 58/03 determining the attributions, organisation, and functioning of community work supervising committees and their relations with other organs.
The challenges faced by Umuganda fall into two broad categories: planning and participation. In some areas of the country, poor planning has led to unrealistic targets and projects that would be difficult to achieve without additional financing. In urban areas, participation in Umuganda has been lower than in rural areas.
To address these challenges, the team responsible for Umuganda at the Ministry of Local Government has run trainings for the committees that oversee Umuganda at the local level. These trainings include lessons on monitoring and evaluation, how to report achievements, the laws, orders and guidelines governing Umuganda as well as responsibilities of the committee. These two day trainings have taken place in every province. The national competition also awards communities that have undertaken proper and successful planning.
To overcome the issues of low participation rates in some areas of the country, especially in urban areas, an awareness raising campaign was conducted through documentaries, TV and radio shows to inform Rwandans about the role Umuganda plays in society and its importance. A recently produced documentary has been screening at the sector level across the country and a weekly radio show from the Ministry of Local Government often features Umuganda.
A mobilisation strategy is currently being devised which includes ideas about how to streamline the laws and policies governing Umuganda so that they are more easily understood. This is also to ensure that they are in line with the National Community and Local Development Strategy approved by Rwanda’s Cabinet in February 2013. The City of Kigali is also embarking on a process to find the best ways to encourage those living in urban areas to take part in Umuganda.
The Ministry of Local Government has begun a partnership with South Korea to learn from the community work practice there known as Saemual Undong. This is part of attempts to learn from the best practices all over the world as well as share Rwanda’s experience with other countries.
Stakeholders include the Umuganda Supervising Committees, local leaders and the community itself. Their roles are described below:
o Planning the community work
o Organising and supervising the community work activity
o Carrying out the evaluation of community work and making a report indicating the monetary value of the work
o To promote participation in Umuganda
o To set up maintenance mechanisms for activities achieved
o To set up ways for young people and women to be actively involved
o To strengthen Umuganda committees
o To take ownership of planning and organising Umuganda
o To own activities achieved so that they can be sustained
It is the role of the Supervising Committee to work with the community and jointly decide which activities are to be undertaken. The committee must notify the community seven days before the Umuganda is to take place.
Those who are not able to participate for professional or personal reasons are obliged to inform the committee that will then pass on the information to the community. If members of the community do not participate when they are able to, the Supervising Committee may fine them – though this must not exceed 5,000 Rwf (US $8). Any revenue from fines must be used to support community work. However, before a fine can be given the committee must first talk to the person and encourage him or her to participate.
The Supervising Committee at the level at which the work was carried out must submit a report after the work has been completed. This report needs to indicate the monetary value of the work undertaken.
The Community Work Supervising Committee at the national level is required to submit a report to the Prime Minister every six months. Umuganda reports, regardless of which level they are produced, must include the number of people who participated in the work, the specific activities undertaken as well as their monetary value.
The National Umuganda Competition was introduced to encourage proper reporting and to promote participation in Umuganda at all levels of Rwandan society. At the district level the best activity is awarded a certificate and funding for future projects. The best three projects in each province are awarded prizes. The best three projects from across Rwanda are awarded a cash prize. More information about the competition is available under ‘Impact’.
Umuganda is credited with contributing to Rwanda’s development, particularly in the areas of infrastructure development and environmental protection. Common infrastructure projects include roads (especially those connecting sectors), bridges, heath centres, classroom construction (to support the 9 and 12 Years of Basic Education programs), housing construction for poor and vulnerable Rwandans (often to replace grass-thatched housing) and the construction of local government offices and savings and credit cooperative buildings.
Environmental protection projects undertaken include tree planting and terracing to fight erosion, wetland rehabilitation, renewable energy construction and crop planting.
Monetary Value of Umuganda and Participation
The following table shows the estimates from the Ministry of Local Government of Umuganda participation and the value of the work undertaken from 2007 – 2010.
From 2007 – 2010, the activities valuated at 26,397,939,119 Rwf consisted mainly of the construction of houses for vulnerable people, roads, class rooms for the Nine Year Basic Education Programme(9YBE), health centres, public offices, tree planting, terracing and other infrastructures to protect against erosion. More information on this is available in the Umuganda Concept Note of 2010/2011 which can be downloaded here.
Below is the value of activities in the fiscal years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.
July 2010 - June 2011 Estimated Value of Umuganda andParticipation Rates
July 2011- June 2012 Estimated Value of Umuganda and Participation Rates
National Umuganda Competition
To measure the impact of Umuganda and encourage greater participation, the Government of Rwanda introduced the National Umuganda Competition in 2009. The aim of the competition is to create awareness of the best projects carried out, award communities that have completed good initiatives and to encourage communities to plan properly and maintain what they have achieved.
The competition includes all levels of Rwandan society – from the village up to the national level. The best activity in each district is awarded with a certificate and funding for future projects, and the best three projects in each province are awarded prizes. The best three projects from across Rwanda are awarded a cash prize of between US $1,500 and $2,300.
For the 2009/2010 competition, each province and the City of Kigali was awarded a prize.
1. First place went to a hydro power plant in Ngororero district, Kavumu sector. The project was initiated by the residents of Kavumu Sector and was completed with technical assistance from the Ministry of Infrastructure. The plant, which is located far from other sources of electricity, has benefited health centres, schools, businesses and created jobs in the community.
2. Second place went to a seven hectare pineapple plantation in Nyamagabe district, Musange sector, Jenda cell. This project has helped to tackle erosion and a cooperative has been set up to manage the harvesting of the crop and distribution of the benefits.
3. Third place went to a project whereby 37 houses were constructed for marginalised people in Gicumbi District, Manyagiro Sector. Families in the Sector have benefited greatly from the project and are better integrated into the community as a result.
1. First place went to the community from Kiruri in Nyanza District that built eleven offices for local villages. The community received a prize of Rwf 1,500,000 (US $2300).
2. Second place went to a community from Rwimishinya in Kayonza District that constructed a five kilometre road. The community received a prize of Rwf 1,200,000 (US $1,800).
3. Third place was awarded to the communities of Nkomane, Mahoko, Karambo and Rusongati in Rubavu District that built 4 offices for local government at the cell level. The community received a prize of Rwf 1,000,000 (US $1,500).
Reconciliation and Unity
Umuganda is also credited with assisting in reconciliation and peace building in Rwanda. This is because neighbours are brought together to build their community and have the opportunity to discuss problems and solve them collectively.
The following table shows the estimates from the Ministry of Local Government of Umuganda participation and the value of the work undertaken from 2007 – 2010.
From 2007 – 2010, the activities valuated at 26,397,939,119 Rwf consisted mainly of the construction of houses for vulnerable people, roads, class rooms for the Nine Years Basic Education Programme (9YBE), health centres, Public offices, tree planting, terracing and other infrastructures to protect against erosion. The Umuganda Concept Note of 2010/2011 with information on the value of Umuganda from 2007-2010 can be downloaded here.
Below is the value of activities in the fiscal years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012
July 2010 - June 2011 Estimated Value of Umuganda and Participation Rates
Please login using your credentials recived by email when you register.×