Automation in Rwanda to offer sustainability and low-Cost insurance for Farmers

A programme launched in Rwanda earlier this week is to use automated weather stations to offer 20,000 Rwandan farmers low-cost insurance in the event that their crops fail.

The stations transmit measurements on rainfall, temperature, wind speed, radiation and humidity that can be used to calculate insurance payouts for farmers if adverse weather conditions affect their yield.

The ‘Kilimo Salama’ scheme, which means ‘Safe Farming’ in Swahili, has so far insured 73,000 farmers in Kenya and Rwanda, and made over 10,000 payouts in the former. It has now been launched in Rwanda’s Southern and Western provinces.

According to Rwanda’s Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Agnes Kalibata, said that the ‘Kilimo Salama’ system is a microfinance scheme that works, and would help farmers who previously had no choice but to simply pray for rain.

“If the rains don’t come, the crops don’t grow. At a time of global change, we are trying to give farmers more options so they can meet these challenges and prosper,” she said.

The whole project initially launched in Kenya two years ago, offering farmers planting maize and beans, even on as little as a tenth of a hectare, insurance to shield them from significant financial losses when weather damages their crops.

“Following the launch of Kilimo Salama crop insurance in Kenya in 2010, we now are offering the products in Rwanda,” said Marco Ferroni, Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation, one of partners behind the program.

He added that extreme or erratic rains and drought trap many Rwandan farmers in poverty, as repeated bad weather can rob them of the means to recover in the following growing seasons.

Organisations like the One Acre Fund, that provide insurance bundled with loans, say that the key reason for the low investment in the sector is the fear among farmers and lenders to the agricultural sector that poor weather conditions will leave them without harvest and wipe out their savings.

“Our farmers invest in better harvests through the use of better inputs. With this insurance, our farmers can now protect their families against the risk of losing their investment due to erratic weather,” said Cor Oudes of One Acre Fund.

The ‘Kilimo Salama’ is a partnership between the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, One Acre Fund, SORAS Insurance in Rwanda, and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

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