The word Umuganda can be translated as “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome”. In Rwanda, traditionally members of the community would call upon their family, friends, and neighbors to help them complete a difficult task.
Modern-day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works, which often include activities that promote infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in these activities, and non-Rwandans living in Rwanda are encouraged to take part.
Today, according to the Ministry of local government, close to 90% of Rwandans take part in monthly community work. Projects undertaken during Umuganda may include the building of schools, medical centers, and hydroelectric plants as well as rehabilitating wetlands and creating highly productive agricultural plots. The average annual value of Umuganda to the country’s development between 2014 and 2019 has been estimated at around 21 million USD.
Whilst the main purpose of Umuganda is to undertake community work after this work finishes, community members then meet to discuss important matters. This meeting provides a platform for leaders at each level of government, from the village up to the national level, to inform citizens about important news and announcements. It also serves as a forum in which community members are able to discuss any problems they or the community are facing and propose solutions together. This time is used for evaluating what the community has achieved and for planning activities for the next Umuganda a month later.
Umuganda has contributed nearly 62% of the total cost of classrooms constructed during the implementation of the Nine and Twelve Years Basic Education (9 & 12 YBE) program.