Hunger and Poverty

Households headed by the very young, the elderly, women and people living with disabilities are generally though to be more vunerable to poverty (Photo: UNDP-RWANDA). There has been a significant decrease in the proportion of the population living in poverty since 2000, most noticeably since 2005.  Between 2000 and 2005 there was a decline of 2.2% in poverty but between 2005 and 2010 the decline accelerated to 11.8%. The overall decline in poverty over the 10 year period was 23.8% (2.7% between 2000 and 2005 and 20.8% between 2005 and 2010). However, despite this remarkable progress, Rwanda remains off track for halving the 1990 poverty rate by 2015, as indicated by the fact that the 2010 poverty figure is only 2.5 percentage points lower than the 1990 poverty rate.  There would need to be an even faster rate of decline between 2010 and 2015 than occurred between 2005-20011 in order to achieve the 2015 Target, 25.8%. Nevertheless, data analysis shows that if the economy continues to grow and inequalities do not increase, the prospects for future poverty reduction are positive (NISR 2012b).

The decline in poverty seems to be accounted for by three main reasons: an increase in non-farm employment, which is most likely to pay a non-poverty wage; an increase in farm productivity; and an increase in the number of livelihood activities in which an individual engages, such as running small businesses. There has been modest reduction in poverty for the population overall, as well as a decline in the proportion of dependent family workers (EICV 3, NISR 2012a).

The poverty reduction since 2005 has been pro-poor with the majority of the Rwandan population have benefitted from economic growth. The Gini Coefficient, a measure of inequality, increased between 2000 and 2005 from 0.507 to 0.522 and then fell to 0.490 in 2010. The ratio of the 90th to the 10th percentile also fell between 2005 and 2010 from 7.1 to 6.4. This is in contrast to the period from 2000 to 2005 when the wealthy benefitted more than the poor and the Gini Coefficient increased.

Not only has there been a decrease in the proportion of the population living in poverty but, despite high population growth, there has even been a decline in the actual number of people living in poverty. Figure 6 indicates that the number of people living in poverty in 2010 was lower than the number in 2005 although still higher than for 2000. However, the number of people living in extreme poverty was actually lower in 2010 than it was in 2000. This demonstrates the impressive progress that Rwanda is making in reducing poverty and improving the lives of the population.

In addition to considering the decline in poverty levels, it is also important to examine the extent of poverty, i.e. the proportion of poor households fall below the extreme poverty line. Although the depth of poverty has fallen since 2000 it remains high, and the depth of extreme poverty is lower but still noticeable. Many poor Rwandans live at levels far below the poverty line.

However, levels of poverty vary across the country with the wealthiest districts being in the City of Kigali and near the boarders in the northeast and northwest of the country. There are no very poor districts in Eastern Province, while there are wealthy and poor districts in Northern Province. The greatest concentrations of poverty are in the south and west. Urban areas tend to be less poor and remote rural areas tend to be the poorest (NISR 2012b).

Population below poverty line 1990 - 2010/11

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