Food & Daily life
Country versus city life
Four-fifths of Rwandans live in rural areas, often in family compounds scattered across the hillsides.
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Most smallholders are subsistence farmers, growing their own food and selling some crops, such as coffee or plantains/bananas, for cash.
In contrast, Kigali is home to a growing business and service sector. Younger Rwandans who aspire to an office job and modern lifestyle head for the capital. And many people who left Rwanda during the times of conflict have moved back to work here.
By day, Kigali is sometimes called the ‘African Singapore’ because of its clean streets and low level of crime. By night, the capital relaxes a little and music booms out in the clubs and bars.
A tough life for many
Despite the growing economy, life is hard for most ordinary Rwandans. Women often bear the brunt of earning a living and looking after dependants.
One day each month, Rwandans are asked to take part in some kind of community service, such as cleaning streets or helping to plant trees.
The combination of the genocide and the HIV/AIDS epidemic has left many one-parent families or families headed by children or young people. The state is trying to help local communities by encouraging groups such as farmers to band and work together.
Rwandans are tasked with helping to remake and build up their country. This involves supporting others in their local community wherever possible.
Plantains and potatoes
And to drink?
The most widely drunk hot drink is tea (chai or icyayi) which is brewed sweet and milky. Rwanda’s famous Maraba coffee is grown for export and most local coffee is served instant. Locally brewed beer and banana wine are enjoyed as alcoholic drinks.
Everyday meals often consist of bean, vegetable or meat stews served with ugali (a stiff porridge made with maize meal) or matoke (banana/plantain). Chapatti (flat bread), rice and potatoes are also common accompaniments.
Popular local dishes include goat kebabs (brochettes) and grilled/fried tilapia fish.
Generally, Rwanda’s food is not particularly hot or spicy. But curry powder or the African berbere spice mixture are used in some meat or fish dishes. Fruits such as bananas, mangoes and pineapples provide a refreshing dessert.
As well as cooking potatoes by boiling them, Rwandans love their French fries!