Crop insurance increases food security and productivity in Rwanda

“The future is looking bright……Now that we know we will be compensated if our crops are damaged, we are much more motivated to pay insurance fees and increase productivity”

Clautrida Mukankurunziza, a member of the KOAMAGI cooperative, is pictured in front of fields of maize. Photo: WFP/Daniel Kibsgaard

The effects of climate change are threatening the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Climatic shocks such as heavy rains, droughts, hail, and destructive winds have damaged crops and reduced food security.

Most recently, two consecutive rainy seasons of above-average rainfall (September-December 2019 short rains and March-May 2020 long rains) led to localized floods and landslides which resulted in 317 deaths and the loss of livelihoods across Rwanda. ​

The land belonging to the KOAMAGI and KOAMANYA GISHUBI cooperatives is particularly vulnerable to flooding. The cooperatives are situated along the Akanyaru River which straddles the Rwanda-Burundi border and provides fertile ground for growing maize. However, the river is also prone to flooding which often damages the crops.

“Over the past two years, our cooperative has faced a growing challenge of crops being damaged as a result of flooding,” said Gerard Kasarira, President of KOAMANYA GISHUBI. “In the past, there was nothing much we could do except wait for the next season,” he said.

An aerial picture (L) shows the Akanyaru River running through the KOAMAGI and KOAMANYA cooperatives and Gerard Kasarira, (R) President of KOAMANYA GISHUBI posing for pictures in the cooperative’s maize fields. Photos: WFP/Daniel Kibsgaard

Insurance means food security

This all changed when these two cooperatives joined the government of Rwanda’s National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) which is supported by the World Food Programme (WFP).

NAIS is a partnership between the government of Rwanda and some of the country’s private insurance providers which promotes the adoption of crop insurance by smallholder farmers to mitigate against the effects of climate change. The government pays 40 percent of the insurance costs and the cooperatives cover the remainder.

The value chains covered under the insurance scheme are maize, rice, chilli peppers, French beans and Irish potatoes. There are also plans to include banana, soya beans and cassava.

“Before we had crop insurance, we would go hungry when crops were damaged,” said Clautrida Mukankurunziza from KOAMAGI. “With the compensation I received from NAIS, I was able to continue buying food for my family,” she said.

Clautrida received RWF 20,000 (US$ 20.02) in compensation which she used to buy a pig and a goat. This was especially welcome as restrictions on movement brought about by the coronavirus pandemic prevented her and other farmers from trading at their local markets.

WFP supports NAIS by mobilizing farmers in cooperatives participating in the Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) to sign up to the crop insurance scheme.

Initially, a mistrust of insurance companies led to scepticism of the scheme by many farmers in the cooperatives. By mobilizing and educating farmers and ensuring compensation is paid on time, WFP through FtMA has built trust between farmers and the insurance companies and increased uptake of the scheme.

“The future is looking bright,” said Yeneste Niyitegeka, a member of KOAMANYA GISHUBI, “Now that we know we will be compensated if our crops are damaged, we are much more motivated to pay insurance fees and increase productivity.”

This attitude is reflected across Rwanda where the amount of insured land increased from 357 hectares to 3,333 hectares between 2019 and 2020.

Increasing productivity

By promoting crop insurance, the Rwandan government and WFP are increasing the resilience of farmers to withstand climatic shocks, encouraging them to diversify their livelihoods and giving them the confidence they need to increase productivity.

Balackias Ndagiwenayo, a farmer at KOAMANYA GISHUBI, paid RWF 2,000 (US$ 2.00) to insure his 0.8-hectare farm and was compensated with RWF 10,000 (US$ 10.01) when 0.2 hectares were damaged by flooding. He used this money to grow beans.

Balackias Ndagiwenayo, a farmer at KOAMANYA GISHUBI received compensation for damage to his crops. Photo: WFP/Daniel Kibsgaard

Farmers can expect up to 85 percent compensation on costs of investment and their expected yield is based on the average produced by their farm. The calculation factors in the cost of seeds and inputs such as fertilizers in addition to historic levels of productivity.

“By limiting compensation to 85 percent, we help train farmers that risk mitigation is better than compensation,” said Joseph Museruka, NAIS Programme Manager at the Ministry of Agriculture and Wildlife.

“With NAIS, my wish has finally come true,” said Balackias , “The reduction in risk provided by crop insurance motivates me to invest more in increasing my productivity,” he said.

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