Ubudehe refers to the long-standing Rwandan practice and culture of collective action and mutual support to solve problems within a community, according to a recent academic research paper. It is not known exactly when Ubudehe was first practiced, but it is thought to date back more than a century. The focus of traditional Ubudehe was mostly on cultivation.
Colonisation and the introduction of a cash-based economy weakened the practice of Ubudehe as some members of the community were able to pay others to do work. While this trend occurred across the country, in some places Ubudehe was still practiced up until the 1980s.
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 Ubudehe.

Ubudehe : The Community plays an active role in solving problems at Cell level

The Ubudehe Program was launched in 2001 as part of partnership between the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the Ministry of Local Government in a bid to draft the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, PRSP. During field visits of Ubudehe facilitators to people in their cells, they are empowered to discuss the characteristics of poverty and their role in poverty reduction.

When Ubudehe was launched into Rwandan life it was as way to better involve communities in their development by setting up participatory problem solving mechanisms. The program was seen as a way to strengthen democratic processes and good governance through greater community involvement in decision making. Ubudehe creates opportunities for people at all levels of society, especially the village level, to interact with one another, share ideas, create institutions and make decisions for their collective development.

Ubudehe is one of Rwanda’s best known Home Grown Solution because of its participatory development approach to poverty reduction. In 2008, the program won the United Nations Public Service Award for excellence in service delivery. Today Ubudehe is one of the country’s core development programs.

This process was named UBUDEHE with reference to the Rwandan culture of mutual assistance and conviviality whereby people would come together to address problems facing them so as to work for their development. In a remote past, Rwandan people resorted to UBUDEHE mainly in agricultural and house building activities as the latter were the main activities of the time. Nowadays, Rwandans are faced with various problems (construction of roads, ensuring child education, health facilities, security…) which require combined efforts to address them as was the case in the past when people resorted to UBUDEHE.

Community managed credits through ubudehe approach

Ubudehe Process can serve as a pro poor credit channel basing on the prior successes of Ubudehe approach in participatory planning and management, as well as on success stories at individual and community levels in the area of poverty reduction and community ownership. Since Financial Institutions find it risky and costly to transact with the poor, Ubudehe Process offers an opportunity to mitigate the risk and lower costs by involving the communities on board. Through community collective action, the risks and costs are minimized by people owning their local problem and consequently the benefits.

In the Ubudehe Credit Scheme, each beneficiary/client will sign a contract with the community and will be informed of his obligation and commitment to pay back so that the next person/group of persons/candidate designated for credit can be able to get it from cumulative reimbursed amounts. The community members in general as well as the designated clients for next rounds of credit will play a major role in monitoring the advanced loans and in recovering the loans since the Ubudehe Credit Fund is a community Fund. For more information, click on Rwandapedia