Rwanda: Building a bridge to better governance

19 Feb 2010

Rwanda governance
Terrace building, a practice encouraged by UNDP to protect farm flooding, has brought increased production to Cuyngo town.
(Photo: UNDP)
Syldio is a Rwandan farmer who until recently had no way of selling his crops to neighbouring districts because of poor roads, but thanks to UN support for local-level governance reforms in his district, a bridge has now been built, improving access to customers, school and even rule of law.

“People with small businesses can actually transfer their business into a neighboring district, and improve commerce for both themselves, and their community,” Syldio says. “Moreover, government authorities like the police can also use the bridge.”

The community development programme, established in the North Province districts of Gicumbi and Rulindo, promotes decentralization and local development initiatives by supporting participative, transparent, equitable and efficient local administration, benefiting more than 700,000 people.

Under the Delivering as One agenda, the UN is supporting local leaders to work together to bring sustainable, community-led improvements to their citizens, which include a combination of capital investment and capacity building to address specific needs such as food security, peacebuilding, democratization, gender and evidence-based planning and budgeting, and public expenditure management.

The reforms help Rwandans address their most pressing needs, and now farmers like Syldio have a bridge that connects his village to nearby communities, so that he can sell his crops and improve his quality of life.

“Before the bridge, we also had huge difficulties because of the rain,” Syldio says. “Parents actually had to accompany their children to cross this river to make sure they could get to school. But now that has changed.”

The UN is also training officials, as well as providing basic equipment for groups such as the police who use the bridge to improve law enforcement.

“The bridge is proof of development,” Syldio says. “I have terraces on my farm, which technicians helped me build, and the only way they could come and help was by using this bridge. It’s such a perfect example of development, because the bridge was built first.”

In this and other improvements, the added infrastructure has not only provided a bridge from Syldio to more customers. It has also provided a bridge between Gicumbi’s residents and its government.