The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources last week announced a new scheme under which farmers will access insurance cover for their crops and livestock at subsidised rates.
The agro-insurance scheme targets farmers that are vulnerable to harsh climatic conditions such as prolonged drought or floods. Though the scheme will only be starting as a plot undertaking, it is a commendable move by the government as most farmers cannot afford insurance cover at current rates. This has exposed them to weather calamities, and pests and diseases, resulting into huge losses. As a result, many farmers have been discouraged from carrying out commercial agriculture for fear of incurring heavy losses.
So, the lack of access to agro-insurance cover threatens the sector’s growth, as well as the income and livelihoods of farmers. These challenges will, however, reduce once the project is rolled out in September, giving farmers much-needed relief. Already, Rwf200 million has been set aside by the ministry to kick-start the scheme. This amount can be considered a ‘drop in the ocean’ but the initiative is a huge step toward safeguarding the sector.
Hopefully, it will help attract more funding by banks and investment into agriculture-related activities to ensure sustained production and competitiveness. The project is significant because the sector is one of the top contributors to Rwanda’s GDP and it employs over 72 per cent of the population.
A study by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs indicates that over 7,400 hectares of crops were destroyed last year by adverse weather conditions, which also affected close to 2,960 livestock. Weather-related disasters have already damaged about 2,225 hectares of crops this year and left 25 domestic animals dead. Farmers in the Eastern Province are the most affected.
Despite this intervention, however, farmers should embrace modern farming methods like irrigation to minimise the effects of climate change, including long dry spells. Government and insurers should also do more to ensure farmers get insurance cover at affordable rates. There is also a challenge of information gap, which necessitates public sensitisation to educate the targeted farmers on how they can access insurance services. When the new project finally kicks off, it could also help improve insurance uptake in the country that is at around 2 per cent, the lowest in the region.