Faces of rural poverty in contemporary rwanda

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Faces of rural poverty in contemporary Rwanda : Linking livelihood profiles and institutional processes

Gezichten van armoede in hedendaags Rwanda

An Ansoms

Universiteit Antwerpen
Faculteit Toegepaste Economische Wetenschappen

Faces of rural poverty in contemporary Rwanda : Linking livelihood profiles and institutional processes

Gezichten van armoede in hedendaags Rwanda


Proefschrift voorgelegd tot het behalen van de graad van Doctor in de Toegepaste Economische Wetenschappen aan de Universiteit Antwerpen

Door: An Ansoms Promotor: Prof. Dr. Stefaan Marysse Te verdedigen op dinsdag 27 januari 2009 te Antwerpen

An Ansoms Faces of rural poverty in contemporary Rwanda: Linking livelihood profiles and institutional processes, University of Antwerp.ISBN 978-90-8994-004-9 Copyrights © 2009 by An Ansoms

Abstract: This PhD sketches the faces of rural poverty in contemporary Rwanda, linking livelihood profiles to the wider institutional processes. It reflects on how dynamics of rural change relate to differentiation and increasing polarisation in livelihoods of Rwandan peasants. The introductory chapter sets the stage by analysing “Evolutionsof growth, poverty and inequality” in post-1994 Rwanda. The two following chapters consider the policy makers’ perspective with regards to rural development. The first chapter, “Striving for growth, bypassing the poor?” provides a critical review of Rwanda’s rural sector policies, which aim to modernize and ‘professionalize’ the rural sector. The chapter points to the risks this involves for thelarge mass of small-scale peasants. A second chapter, “Reengineering rural society: The visions and ambitions of Rwandan elites”, illuminates a general trend of the Rwandan government’s misplaced belief in the potential to socially engineer rural development. The third chapter offers “A quantitative analysis of rural livelihood profiles” that prevail in the Rwandan rural post-conflict context. Thefourth chapter focuses particularly upon the land resource, to conclude to an “inverse relationship between farm size and productivity”. This finding is of particular relevance in the current context, given that policy makers aim to depart from small-scale farming. The fifth chapter considers the “Views from below on the pro-poor growth challenge”. It adopts a qualitative approach to focus onlocal livelihoods and rural class differentiation at the micro-level. It points to peasants’ perceptions on the (potential) impact of specific policy measures included in the Rwandan government’s ‘pro-poor’ rural strategies. Overall, the five papers illustrate how the ongoing institutional processes stimulate a path of rural change that leads to increasing polarisation between rural classes and theirlivelihood profiles. On the basis of these findings, the conclusion of the PhD pleads for 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. Only in this way will economic growth be sufficiently pro-poor. Members of theJury: Promotor: Prof. Dr. Stefaan Marysse Other members: Prof. Dr. Johan Bastiaensen Prof. Dr. Alison Des Forges Prof. Dr. Guido Erreygers Prof. Dr. Andy McKay Prof. Dr. Filip Reyntjens Prof. Dr. Erik Tollens

To the children of Rwanda and to my son Thibo: May they find the spirit to enjoy life, and the courage to make a difference.

Acknowledgements Six years ago, I remember asking to a“graduating” PhD student what he considered to be the most important thing when choosing a field research setting. He enumerated some scientifically sound principles, adding “but in the end, you should make sure that you chose a ‘fun’ place to be in”. Rwanda is not a ‘fun’ place on earth. The year 1994 will collectively be remembered as one of the most tragic episodes of human history. The...
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