Will agric insurance unlock sector potential?

When floods hit the country last year, CORIMARU, cooperative of farmers growing rice in Rurambi Marshland in Bugesera District, sulfered significant losses.

At least 9,412 hectares of crops were reported destroyed while 797 deaths of livestock were recorded due to flooding and landslides last year and over 5,111 hectares of crops were destroyed and 589 livestock killed  in the previous year.

In 2018, heavy rains inundated 558 hectares of rice plantations owned by CORIMARU cooperative with 1,801 members according to the cooperative President, Athanase Murenzi.

Prior to the incident, the farmers had acquired loans worth about Rwf173M from banks and Rwf50M worth of credit from Mayange Rice, a rice processing factory in Mayange Sector in Bugesera district.

In readiness for the planting season, the cooperative had also withdrawn Rwf105M from its coffers to help farmers buy fertilizers, seeds and pesticides to improve yields whereby they were expecting to harvest at least 3,000 tonnes of rice. However, their expectations were not met as they ended up incurring a losses estimated at over Rwf900 million due to the incidences.

Murenzi told Business Timesthat after their rice plantation was affected they are yet to get solutions in terms of measures to curb flooding as well as build confidence among farmers.

“We are about to harvest but floods had destroyed the feeder roads towards our farms and they are yet to be rehabilitated for us to transport our produce to market. We are also afraid that disasters might destroy our farmers’ produce again. 200 hectares of 600 hectares is yet to be drained,” he added.

Emmanuel Ndayisaba, a farmer from Gisagara District said that their marshland was inundated by soil erosion which led them to losses.

Besides effects of disasters and landslides on crops and livestock, other farmers are also affected by drought.

During Agricultural Season A that started in September 2018, Ibyizabirimbere Cooperative from Kirehe District planted maize on 425 hectares but since only 112 hectares were irrigated. Unforeseen prolonged drought affected the unirrigated section according to the Evariste Tugirinshuti the President of the cooperative.

The issue has been rampant for many years. In 2015; the first ever prolonged drought led 28,000 households to face hunger while 62,000 metric tonnes and 157,700 metric tonnes were respectively lost in Season A and B, records show.

Faustin Uwajyiwabo, another farmer from Southern Province,  said: “we wish that insurance is fast-tracked so that we can be aware of application procedures and work with fellow farmers to seek insurance. As we start to plant rice for another season, we would like more insights into agriculture insurance schemes.”

Due to the unpredictability of returns from investments and high risk factors, farmers continue to face challenges accessing loans from banks, further necessitating introduction of crop insurance.

Pacifique Muzima, in charge of Agriculture Finance at Urwego Bank, told Business Timesthat the agriculture sector is faced by multiple challenges which make it hard to provide loans to farmers.

“Poor management of farmers cooperatives, lack of market by farmers’ cooperative, expectation of low production per ha and lack of insurance of crops discourages us from providing loans to farmers. We need to collaborate so that such challenges are addressed making it possible to provide finance to farmers,” he said

According to National Cooperatives Confederation, one of the solutions to such woes is scaling up agriculture and livestock insurance scheme to farmers.

Farmers’ woes have pushed government in this fiscal year to start a pilot phase for insuring their crops and livestock.

The insurance scheme was recently approved by the cabinet.

Laetitia Mahoro, the Agriculture Insurance specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that this year the insurance is being piloted in insuring maize, rice and livestock.

“We have started in the districts of Bugesera, Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kirehe and Gisagara and others by insuring rice, maize and livestock. Government will pay 40 per cent of the insurance cost for those selected. The crop insurance is vital because we want that financial institutions to be open to agriculture sector and give loans to farmers,” she said.

Livestock insurance is to be piloted in Nyanza, Gicumbi, Musanze, Rwamagana, Gatsibo, Ruhango, Nyagatare and Burera districts.

A seven-year government programme (2017-2024) aims at increasing agriculture and livestock insurance as well as increasing agricultural loans from 5.2 per cent to 10.4 per cent by 2024.

 “Insurance companies have to sign agreements with banks because insurance firms will intervene in helping farmers to pay back loans to banks if they face losses due to various disasters. To insure crops, we have to mainly work with farmers’ cooperatives or big farmers with consolidated land, after a pilot phase, the scheme will be scaled up next fiscal year,” she said.