Crop diseases and climate change effects, such as drought and floods, have hit farmers hard over the years.
Last week, Parliament requested the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) to come to the rescue of cassava farmers who have failed to pay Rwf765 million in loans after their crops were ravaged by Cassava Brown Streak Disease (Kabore) in 2014.
27 farmers got the loans at 15 per cent interest rate. Now, the helpless farmers want the loan to be waived off while banks are insisting that the farmers must pay up.
This problem is not unique to the cassava farmers. In the Eastern Province, mainly in the districts of Kayonza and Nyagatare, prolonged drought saw farmers go for two seasons without harvesting anything.
These incidents are a reminder that there is need to avail tailored affordable insurance services, especially for farmers in commercial agriculture. There is need for an urgent policy to support agriculture insurance.
Indeed, MINAGRI should expedite the Agriculture Policy review that is expected to integrate agriculture and livestock insurance and access to finance, among others.
The Ministry of Agriculture should work with the private sector in agriculture insurance, to ensure that the new policy includes input from all stakeholders.
The new policy should address the plight of farmers and boost the number of farmers accessing agriculture insurance. Agriculture insurance coverage is very low yet over 70 per cent of the current 12 million Rwandans depend on agriculture for a livelihood.
Agriculture growth is currently at 5 per cent and the government targets to increase it to 8.5 per cent. A good policy on agriculture insurance will go a long way in ensuring that this goal is achieved.