Policymakers are facing pressure to justify the Rwf1 billion investment in the Agriculture Insurance scheme, as the uptake among farmers remains low.
The National Agriculture Insurance scheme was launched in 2019 to cushion farmers who incur losses to natural disasters such as floods, hailstorms and droughts. The scheme aimed to reach all big-scale and small-scale farmers.
So far, the government has invested Rwf1.6 billion as subsidies but only 513,000 out of Rwanda’s over 3 million targeted farmers have joined the scheme.
Sensitizing farmers to embrace the insurance scheme has become a key resolution in national dialogues, with districts incorporating it into their contracts (Imihigo) to ensure effective campaigns.
However, some farmers are reluctant to join the scheme as they see it as an added cost to their farming expenses, leading to losses. For instance, Emmanuel Birikunzira, a commercial farmer in the Musanze district, Cyuve sector, has been growing Irish potatoes, maize, and beans on 3 hectares of land for the past 12 years.
"With my land and capital, if I subscribed, I would pay nearly Rwf500,000 as an insurance fee. Adding that to the cost of fertilizer, seeds, rented land, and labor, I automatically incur losses. Financially, the scheme is not feasible to me," Mr Birikunzira said.
Farmers contribute 60 per cent of the insurance cost, and the government pays the rest.
The scheme only ensures Irish potatoes, beans, rice, green beans, cassava, chilli, and soybeans, paying out in case of natural disasters and plant diseases.
Mr Birikunzira and his family of six completely rely on agriculture. He says he does all he can to avoid losing even if it means ignoring the risk of natural disasters posed to his farm.
Small-scale subsistence farmers who farm to eat, who make up a bigger percentage of Rwandan farmers are yet to understand the scheme and how it works.
“No, I have never heard of it. I grow Irish potatoes and beans, most of which I keep for food and sell the rest. A few years ago part of my farm was swept away by erosion, the scheme could have been useful,” said Gaspard Nduwayezu, a small-scale farmer.
Joseph Museruka, project manager of the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme at the Ministry of Agriculture said uptake remains low and that the ministry is going to further invest in awareness campaigns on sector levels.