Living on the edge: Rural-urban migrants in Kigali, Rwanda

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master
Title Living on the edge: Rural-urban migrants in Kigali, Rwanda
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
The debate on the rural-urban linkage has been dominated by a rural perspective for a long time.
Livelihood diversification has been seen as an activity for rural households. Nowadays more and
more attention is given to the urban side of the linkage and to urban livelihoods in special. This
research – which is done within the scope of a master thesis - is about households of rural-urban
migrants in Kigali, Rwanda. The main issue is the relationship of these migrant households with
the rural households they left. Three sub questions are used for elaboration on this topic. The
topics are the migration patterns and trajectories; a livelihood analysis and an overview of their
ties with the rural areas in terms of remittances and visits.
This study uses mixed methods – quantitative and qualitative data – in order to elaborate on rural-urban
migrants and their livelihoods. Statistical data of the households are derived from a
household survey, which is held in two cells of the agglomeration of Kigali: Nyamabuye and
Kagunga; these cells are part of the sectors of Gatsata and Gikondo respectively. Afterwards,
qualitative data were derived from in-depth interviews, in which 18 persons participated. Within
the study an important statistical tool is the K-means cluster analysis, which made it possible to
make a distinction among the types of migrant households. Unfortunately, not all responding
households could be included within the clusters.
The first sub topic is the migration pattern of the migrants and their reasons for migration.
Many people indicated that poverty on the rural areas and the lack of employment in these areas
are motives for migration. Land degradation, infertility and the lack of sufficient land are landrelated
reasons to move. Family conflicts are reasons for migration as well. Kigali attracts ruralurban
migrants because there are many opportunities to get what is not available in the rural
areas; most migrants mention jobs and the opportunities for jobs as the main motives. In cases
of woman, marriage is another reason to move to Kigali. The presence of social ties in the city
or the lack of a family on the rural areas is in many cases a precondition for migration.
Generations think different about living in the city. Older people that have large households
dream or think about searching a place in the rural areas for farming, while younger people
speak especially about the bright side of the city, even when they do not have a job. Nonetheless,
concrete plans of migration are not plentiful.
The second sub topic is about the livelihoods of migrant households. After describing all capitals
separately, three livelihood profiles are distinguished: the physically rich livelihoods, the
naturally rich livelihoods and the poor livelihoods. The first group scores high in terms of
physical capital, the naturally rich livelihood profile has a relatively high natural capital and
human capital as well. The poor livelihoods do not have high scores at all.
Physically rich households have been living in Kigali for a long time. Their households are more
mature. Apparently, the amount of years that households are living in Kigali influences the way
in which their livelihood has been built. Nearly half of the poor households came to Kigali since
2004, while nearly two third of the naturally rich households have come to Kigali since that
2004. Among these livelihood profiles, the households did not build up much urban capitals, or
they still are strongly linked to the rural areas.
The third sub topic is the relation of these rural-urban migrant households with the rural home
in terms of remittances and visits in both directions. In two directions remittances and visits are
taking place: from urban to rural and from rural to urban. The direction from urban to rural
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dominates in terms of the total number of relations, remittances and visits. Especially the
naturally rich households consist of active contributors and visitors of the rural home.
In addition to remittances and visits, some urban household use their rural connections in order
to reduce costs by sending household members to the countryside.
Of all three livelihood profiles, the naturally rich have the strongest connection with the rural.
This is expressed by the remittances they send, the number of visited they have and, finally, by
the visits and remittances they get from the rural as well. They are really multi-local. The poor
livelihood and physically rich do have similar lower scores. Over all, the poor livelihood
households seem least connected to the countryside.
This study concludes that the patterns of Kigali when it comes to remittances and visits are similar
to other case studies on this topic. It argues that rural-urban migrants are not a homogeneous
group, as three livelihood profiles are compiled. The migrants’ current livelihood influences
the strength of their relation with the rural home in terms of remittances and visits. Among all
households, the livelihood that seems most sustainable in case of shocks and stresses is the
‘naturally rich’ livelihood; living on the edge of Kigali seems beneficial. Furthermore the approach
of livelihood profiles suggests that the livelihoods change over time. The longer people
are living in the city, the more their livelihood materializes in terms of physical capital.
Recommendations for further research are firstly, to have a more qualitative approach on this
topic, possibly with longitudinal research as well, secondly to pay attention to the immaterial
aspects of the livelihood approach, like rights and culture, since this is a highly material study,
and thirdly to have more attention to what seem to be key players in the rural-urban linkage:
the housekeepers and dynamic temporary migrants.
A final recommendation is addressed to the Rwandan government. As especially households
with the poor livelihood profile do not have strong links with the rural areas, the government
could pay extra attention to the poor people in the city, which are much more vulnerable since
they do not have a rural family that functions as a safety net. This can be through providing the
basic needs to urban poor, like water pumps and secure housing. Bredenoord and Van Lindert
(2010) mention several options to help urban poor sustaining their livelihood with a little help
of the government – so-called assisted self-help housing. In addition to the government, there
can be a role for private stakeholders as well.

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