Published Wednesday , on 5 February 2020, 19:49:04 by Christophe Hitayezu

Egidie Kubwimana, a farmer and representative of Ngiryi rice farmers cooperative in Gisagara District, Southern province, Rwanda, says her cooperative members lost 30 hectares of crops after a heavy rain of October 2019. However, their miserly didn’t last long thanks to an insurance company that covered their lost rice with more than four million Rwandan francs, curtesy of the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme.

The scheme was launched on 23rd April 2019 with a budget of Rwf370 million ($403,500), with the Government contributing 40% of the premiums for both crops and livestock. The scheme aims at mitigating risks and losses incurred by farmers due to unpredictable natural disasters, pests and diseases that affect their livestock and crops.

Responding to the Freedom of Information request, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal resources, said that the number of beneficiaries grows every season. “As of the 4th February 2020, 1,775.5 hectares of rice and maize as well as 4460 heads of cattle had been insured. So far, a total of 7, 473 farmers have registered for Agriculture insurance under the National Agriculture insurance scheme”, said the Ministry’s Communication team in an Email.

Jean Damascene Karani, one of the livestock farmer from Nyagatare District has signed up to the scheme. He took up an insurance policy of Rwf699,300 ($760) for his 58 cows. In June 2019, Karani lost a cow due to an unknown illness, prompting him to turn to government for compensation. He was indemnified with Rwf700,000 (around $765) for his loss.

Bizimungu James, also a livestock farmer in Nyagatare, says he was paid Rwf800,000 ($873) for the death of his cow, this has prompted him to register more cows with the scheme.

“I started by insuring three of my ten cows, one of them died and it took less than fifteen days to get paid. After this, I decided to pay for more four cows, the remaining are of local breed which are not accepted in the subsidized insurance. Before, when we lost our cows it meant the end of it, but now I feel more secure with the insurance,” he said.

Countrywide as of 4th February 2020, the scheme had covered for 64 cows that have since died and 343 hectares for crops that were registered as damaged and crop-cuts, costing the insurance companies a total of Rwf54,758,897 ($59,716).

Though, some farmers are yet to know about the scheme, which requires the government to improve its mobilization strategy.

For example, Ntagasanzwe Joseph, a farmer in Jabana Sector, Gasabo district said the heavy rain of the 2nd February 2020 damaged his crops and he is calling upon insurance for agriculture. “We lost a lot of things, the rice planted was flooded, we call upon agriculture insurance for our crops,” he said. This indicates not all farmers are aware of the scheme.

The National Agriculture Insurance Scheme is still in its pilot phase, with Livestock insurance covering dairy cattle, both cross and exotic breeds while crop insurance covers maize and rice farmers countrywide.

Agriculture is the backbone of Rwanda’s economy. The sector accounts for a third of the country’s GDP and close to 70% of working individuals aged 16 years or above are employed in agriculture (EICV 4). With the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme, the Government expects the country’s economy to be able to move from a culture of providing ad hoc support to farmers in the aftermath of large production shocks towards a system of pre-planned and budgeted agriculture insurance.