Ubudehe refers to the long-standing Rwandan practice and culture of collective action and mutual support to solve problems within a community, according to a recent academic research paper. It is not known exactly when Ubudehe was first practiced, but it is thought to date back more than a century. The focus of traditional Ubudehe was mostly on cultivation.
Colonization and the introduction of a cash-based economy weakened the practice of Ubudehe as some members of the community were able to pay others to do work. While this trend occurred across the country, in some places Ubudehe was still practiced up until the 1980s.
As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions - culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is Ubudehe.
Ubudehe was reintroduced into Rwandan life in 2001 as the way to better involve communities in their development by setting up participatory problem-solving mechanisms. The program was seen as a way to strengthen democratic processes and good governance through greater community involvement in decision making. Ubudehe creates opportunities for people at all levels of society, especially the village level, to interact with one another, share ideas, create institutions and make decisions for their collective development.
Ubudehe is one of Rwanda’s best known Home Grown Solution because of its participatory development approach to poverty reduction. In 2008, the program won the United Nations Public Service Award for excellence in service delivery. Today Ubudehe is one of the country’s core development programs.