The last Saturday of every month between 7AM and 12PM everything in Rwanda stops. Or at least all the restaurants keep closed, markets are not operating and public and private transportation is limited.
The reason for this is that the entire country is supposed to take part in umuganda – community service. Digging ditches, sweeping the grounds, making composts, building houses, clearing land, or any other activity that is helping the country becoming better. Some people use this day to have a sleep-in, but at least in the countryside, every family has to have a representative in the umuganda in the village.
We arranged a umuganda in an agasozi ndatwa – a model village, being helped to make a good example in terms of hygiene, schooling, houses and so forth for the surrounding communities. Together with around 50 volunteers from different secondary schools, and some of the university students, we dug ditches, made compost and held a small appeal in the village square to spread information to the villagers when the day’s tasks were finished.
Umuganda is a very interesting phenomenon. Together with other rather strict rules, like the prohibition of use of plastic bags, being fined for littering, having people cutting grass and sweeping the streets several times a week, it is part of making Rwanda one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Personally, I think Rwanda is the cleanest country in the world…