EDITORIAL: Scale up lending to agriculture

Agriculture employs nearly to 80 per cent of Rwanda's population making the sector one of the biggest contributors to the country's GDP. Despite this, however, banks continue to ignore the sector claiming that it's risky to finance agro-projects.

Agriculture employs nearly to 80 per cent of Rwanda’s population making the sector one of the biggest contributors to the country’s GDP. Despite this, however, banks continue to ignore the sector claiming that it’s risky to finance agro-projects. Farmers have complained about the reluctance of financial institutions to support them to no avail.

Official figures indicate that a paltry 4 per cent of the total banks’ loan portfolio in the country goes to agriculture.

And, even the financial institutions that agree to finance some projects impose prohibitive interest rates that cripple farmers’ efforts to expand their investments and increase productivity to make Rwanda a food self-sufficient and export country.

This attitude has indeed hurt government’s efforts to fight poverty and unemployment, especially among the youth. One wonders how the country’s push to expand its exports base will bear fruit when banks cannot finance agriculture projects.

As a country, we need to know our priorities and everyone should support accordingly. Claims that most projects are small and, therefore, don’t attract bankers’ interest should not be used as an excuse to deny farmers affordable loans.

Banks should know by now that one does not need a huge farm to harvest high yields because of advances in agriculture technology. Besides, some farming activities like mushroom and vegetable growing, poultry keeping, apiary and piggery do not require one to have huge chunks of land to carry out.

This could also be the right time for the government to look into the possibility of having an agro-bank to cater for the specific needs of farmers. And farmers too should be innovative and insure their projects to reduce the perceived risks associated with funding agriculture projects.

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