In an effort to reduce the impact of catastrophes on the agriculture sector - the country's largest employment sector - farmers have received insurance payouts worth Frw 42.1 million for their products.
This comes after smallholder farmers faced drought during the maize germination period that led to crop losses and low yields, pushing food prices high in the region.
The insurance cover is provided by Society Rwandaise d'Assurances (Soras) Insurance Company in partnership with Syngenta Foundation and Kilimo Salama together with financial institutions.
The program offered the farmers insured agricultural input loans from Urwego Opportunity Bank and Umurenge Saccos. Minagri supplied maize seed and farmers used the loans to purchase fertilizer distributed by Importation Distribution Fertilizer (IDF).
"Insuring agricultural products would enable farmers not to incur losses whenever agricultural fields are hit by disasters like dry spells," said Daniel Mugiraneza, the manager of Coasmo maize cooperative from Kirehe District.
Experts are optimistic that the move will also entice financial institutions to extend credit to agriculture sector, which has been regarded as the most risky due to natural disasters and challenges.
The commercial director of Soras, Esdras Nkundumukiza, feels that one of the major reasons why farmers find it difficult to secure loans from banks and other micro finance institutions is that the farmers' major assets - their agricultural fields - are not insured. Nkundumukiza feels it is imperative for farmers to join agricultural insurance if they are to receive loans from banks.
"I am happy that on the behalf of our cooperative I have received a payout of over Frw 7 million from Soras and this clearly shows that agricultural insurance is crucial," Mugiraneza said.
7,086 maize farmers in Bugesera, Kirehe and Ngoma districts received insurance payouts.
Farmers paid only ten percent to get their products insured with Soras, whereas 90% was paid by Syngenta Foundation via Kilimo Salama in the form of finance assistance from Access to Finance Rwanda.
"Agricultural micro-insurance will effectively reduce the impact of severe weather countrywide and support increased investment in farm productivity."
Odette Uwamariya, Governor of Eastern Province
Rose Gosling, a technical coordinator at Kilimo Salama, said that their insurance uses automated weather stations and satellites to monitor rainfall in every agriculture field that has been insured. Based on the stations and satellites' measurements and a predefined formula of crop rainfall needed over a growing season, payouts are made.
Currently, fully automated weather stations have been installed in Rwanda. These stations transmit weather data every 15 minutes over the 3G mobile data network.
"Farmers generally do not trust agricultural insurance and this means that education on financial literacy and insurance among farmers in Rwanda is key in order to build trust," Gosling said.
She noted that apart from insuring maize, her organizations is planning to also start insuring other agriculture products including coffee, tea, and livestock, as they are also important in Rwanda's economy.
The Governor of Eastern Province, Odette Uwamariya, who presided over the official launch said: "We thank Minagri for working with Syngenta foundation in introducing the agricultural insurance in our province because agricultural micro-insurance will effectively reduce the impact of severe weather countrywide and support increased investment in farm productivity."
She asked farmers who were present to encourage their fellow farmers to also join agricultural insurance saying that will enable them to reduce the risks of losing crops whenever their products are hit by droughts.
Raphael Rurangwa, the director general of Planning and Program Coordination at Minagri, said that his ministry aims to continue to transform Rwanda's agricultural sector from subsistence into high value and market oriented. Minagri is also spearheading the introduction of new technologies to promote smallholders' access to agricultural credit, quality inputs and markets.