I was struck recently by the New Times‘ “good news” that the rate of non-agricultural employment in Rwanda has doubled in the last 10 years! That is, it’s apparently gone from 5% of the population to 10%. Kigali is such a bubble; it’s easy to forget that there are many Rwandese people who will live out their days without ever seeing a multiple-story building or a paved road.
That said, this official stat about 10% non-ag employment/90% subsistence ag seems like at best a crude measure of people’s actual livelihood strategies. I haven’t seen a specification of how much non-ag employment is formal or informal (or even what you’d consider to be “informal” around here), and in a similar sense, I’m sure that many rural residents participate in at least some non-ag activities as part of their income-smoothing plans. I’d love to see a better measure of this data – to get a sense of how many people are exclusively dependent on agriculture (though perhaps with different types of income-generating activities within the sector), and how many are principally dependent on ag, with a significant amount of income still coming from other activities (carpentry, say, or teaching, or day labor on other farms…). I also know a small subset of co-op members in Nyamata who grow most of their own food, even though they make a majority of their income from basket-weaving – I wonder how they’d be classified.