Farmers have for long suffered losses due to different disasters such as floods, drought and pests and diseases. But most local farmers do not insure their farming activities. In case of calamities, they never get any compensation to rebuild their projects.
According to different studies, this threatens the sector’s growth, farmers’ income and livelihoods. However, woes of farmers that are affected by weather vagaries could soon end following a new initiative by government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, to help them insure their crops and livestock. To meet this goal, the ministry has set aside Rwf200 million for agriculture insurance support this farmers next fiscal year, according to officials.
This is the first time the government has come up with the initiative that targets farmers that are more prone to weather-related threats.
According to the ministry, the pilot phase of the initiative will kick off by September, where farmers will benefit from a subsidised agriculture insurance scheme. The project will be implemented in partnership with insurance companies, enabling farmers to acquire policies to safeguard their agricultural activities against disasters.
“Banks have been reluctant for so many years to give loans to the agriculture sector because they say it is risky. However, with the implementation of this scheme, many banks could start funding the sector and support its growth. That is why we have decided to fund the project to enable farmers to insure the agricultural activities at subsidised rates,” Fulgence Nsengiyumva, the State Minister for Agriculture, said last week during a consultative meeting with MPs and other stakeholders on climate change at Parliament.
Climate change related disasters
According to the Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Affairs over 7,449 hectares of crops were destroyed last year, while 2,959 livestock were also affected by adverse weather conditions including drought.
The ministry’s status report on disasters also indicates that since the beginning of this year, disasters have damaged about 2,225 hectares of crops and left 25 livestock dead.
The report shows that Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza, Kirehe and Ngoma districts in the Eastern Province were severely affected by drought last year, destroying over 23,448 hectares of crops in the province. Tens of livestock also died, while 47,306 families were affected by famine.
The minister said 90 per cent of the country’s food is produced locally, noting that any threat to the agriculture sector affects production and could cause food insecurity.
“Rwanda’s agriculture productivity is always high during Season A, from September to December, when there are enough rains. Season C, from June to August, always experiences a long dry spell. However, rainfall patterns have changed and farmers can count losses in any season. Therefore, we have to do our best to support farmers and help them to adapt to the effects of climate change, including enabling them to access agro-insurance cover,” he explained.
More support to farmers
He said besides easing access to agriculture insurance, farmers are being helped to acquire small-scale irrigation systems, making progressive terraces, as well as embracing agro-forestry and exploiting marshlands to spur production. The government is also encouraging farmers to embrace water harvesting by building dams, besides growing of short-period crops and adapting approaches to store fodder for animals.
“We started an initiative of storing animal fodder in the Eastern Province, starting with Nyagatare District, so that cattle keepers can ably feed their animals in the dry months of the year, especially July and August, when there is shortage of pasture,” he said. This will also ensure sustainable milk productivity.
“So, livestock farmers should plant fodder instead of migrating during the dry spells,” he added.
In order to avoid further degradation of soil, he said, soil has to be tested to allocate suitable fertilisers to ensure high yields.
Meanwhile, Eng Coletha Ruhamya, the director general of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, has called for promotion of “greening of agriculture” to reduce risks farmers face since the sector is vulnerable to climate change.
Ruhamya said ensuring a green economy is priority number five in the country’s development blueprint, the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II). The sector contributes 33 per cent to national GDP and has been expanding at 5.4 per cent of annual growth rate.
“We need best agriculture practices and policies to protect the soil and water, and help crops to adapt to any disaster so that agriculture remains a key contributor to the economy,” she told MPs last week.
The REMA chief also observed that agriculture must be done in a way that is resilient to climate change. “It will, however, require more funding and scaling up technologies to help make the agriculture sector resilient to climate effects.
“Agriculture is instrumental in the country’s efforts to ensure sustainable development and improve people’s livelihoods so that we are able to achieve Sustainable Development Goals,” she noted.
MP Francois Byabarumwanzi challenged meteorological agency to always provide farmers information on climate to facilitate planning for the sector, adding that this would go a long way in minimising losses they usually suffer during adverse weather conditions.
Farmers speak out
Dancile Uwamariya, the president of COOPCUMA Cooperative in Kayonza District said the cooperative has been struggling with generating enough revenues due to harsh climatic conditions, especially the long dry spells and could not raise funds to insure their crops.
“This initiative is welcome…We will surely take advantage of the project to insure our crops,” said the maize and beans cooperative leader.
She added that the group is “still struggling because of losses due to different issues, including drought that destroyed beans that had reached flowering stage last year.
She said they only harvested 10 tonnes of maize last year on a piece of land that could yield over 30 tonnes. The group has 300 members.
Evariste Bizimungu is a farmer from Nyabihu District who grows carrots and Irish potatoes on an eight-hectare piece of land.
Bizimungu, however, said that he doesn’t understand how agriculture insurance works. But he welcomed the initiative, calling on companies and the ministry to “help us understand how we can insure our crops”.
“They should sensitise farmers and explain how the project will work,” he said.
The farmer told Business Times that he lost Rwf12 million worth of crops after floods destroyed his carrot and potato gardens early last year.