Striving for growth, bypassing the poor? A critical review of Rwanda’s rural sector policies
This paper critically analyses the challenges and priorities for Rwanda’s rural sector policies in the fight against poverty. The lessons drawn are important, as this sector will be at the forefront of Rwanda’s new Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS or PRSP-2). The paper first looks at the dangers of the purely growth-led development focus in Rwanda’s PRSP-1 (implemented between 2002-2005), and evaluates the extent to which the agricultural sector has, indeed, been a pro-poor growth engine. It then studies the government’s current agricultural policies and looks at the recently adopted land law, both of which aim to modernize and ‘professionalize’ the rural sector. There is a high risk that policy measures in favour of a more professional and modern farm sector will be at the expense of the large mass of small-scale peasants. This paper stresses that the real challenge to transform the rural sector into a true pro-poor growth engine will be to value and incorporate the capacity and potential of small-scale ‘non-professional’ peasants into the core strategies for rural development. Rwandan policy makers and international donors should shift their focus away from a purely output-led logic towards distribution-oriented rural development policies. Striving for pro-poor growth requires reconciling output growth with equity, and perhaps even putting equity first.
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