Umuganda (coming together to achieve a common purpose), is a mandatory national community service practiced in Rwanda.
It is practiced on the last Saturday of every month, where all people are required to do farming, plant trees, clean up and maintain all public places.
Umuganda is a national holiday in Rwanda taking place on the last Saturday of every month for mandatory nationwide community work from 08:00 to 11:00. Participation in Umuganda is required by law, and failure to participate can result in a fine.The program was established in 2009, and has resulted in notable improvement in the cleanliness of Rwanda.
Each neighborhood gets together to volunteer and take on community improvement projects.
The people seem to love Umuganda. It would be nice to see the same kind of neighborhood-led efforts in other parts of the world.
A decade ago, this nationwide community work day called Umuganda was institutionalized to promote peace, unity, and prosperity throughout the nation. It was particularly noticeable in the aftermath of the dreadful Rwandan Civil War with its horrific 100-day genocide against the Tutsi people. President Paul Kagame saw the practice as an important opportunity to improve both Rwanda’s social and physical landscapes.
While some projects focus more on infrastructural developments like building schools and housing for those in need, a significant percentage of Umuganda efforts center on environmental protections and public cleanup. According to the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), “Generally, people participate in cleaning streets, cutting grass, trimming bushes alongside the roads, planting trees, and repairing public buildings.”
An impact assessment conducted by the RGB cites the economic value of the community work day projects from 2007 to 2016 as $127 million based on activities like reforestation and road maintenance. When asked about Umuganda’s impact, more than half the population reported a positive effect on neighborhood cleanliness, and 16.3 percent recognized the effect on air quality and overall improvement in the environment.
It is now rare to see significant litter in Rwanda. Its capital city, Kigali, is often called the cleanest city in Africa.