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The Nyakatsi-eradication program, which started in 2008 and was accelerated this year, will soon come to an end.


New houses under construction for Nyakatsi-dwellers in Runda sector, Kamonyi district.

Grass-thatched houses or Nyakatsi have been used in Rwanda since time immemorial. Even with the arrival of modern building methods, poverty and lack of political by former regimes meant many people still continued to live in these traditional houses.

In 2008, the Government embarked on a campaign to improve housing, which included the eradication of Nyakatsi. It was the government’s target to put an end to grass-thatched houses so that poor Rwandans would have decent shelters equipped with modern and healthy infrastructure.

Augustin Kampayana, the chairman of rural settlement task force in the ministry of local government, explains that the Nyakatsi eradication campaign started by identifying and categorizing the families that were living in grass-thatched houses. This categorization process grouped Nyakatsi households in three categories: Category O consists of the most vulnerable families that need to be fully supported; category A ismade up of poor families that can be supported by local communities through community work (umuganda) while the government provides them with building materials such as iron sheets and nails; and category B are able families which need to be mobilized and change their mindset.

Kampayana says that by December 2009, all categories confounded, 124,671 grass-thatched houses were identified. The next phase consisted of sensitizing the concerned families on the importance of having decent housing. “Many families were mobilized to leave their houses, especially able ones, and by January 2011 the number of Nyakatsi was down to 70,985,” Kampayana explains. Those remaining were families that needed assistance because they are among the poorest people.

In January, a joint operation was launched involving the Army, the Police, local communities and other stakeholders to assist another 35,000 families to resettle in their new houses. By March 31, only 18,792 families from categories O and A remained without decent houses. And at the end of April, there were 8,229 houses still under construction.

It is expected that the operation, which has a budget of Frw 4 billion, will come to a close by the end of May 2011, when all Nyakatsi-dwellers should have been resettled.

It is true that the program has seen a few hitches, with Nyakatsi being destroyed before the new house was ready or people not receiving the promised construction materials, but it seems that these were individual cases at the local level which in the meantime have been solved.

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