News / Africa

Insurance Initiative Could Protect Farmers Against Drought in Kenya

With the news of a coming drought looming over east Africa, small farmers walk a thin line between survival and ruin. But a new micro-insurance program could provide some measure of stability for residents in country's driest areas

A herder in Kenya tends to his cattle, Aug 2010
A herder in Kenya tends to his cattle, Aug 2010

Multimedia

Michael Onyiego

In Kenya, the specter of drought is never far from the minds of the millions who make their living on the farm.  

Agriculture is Kenya's most important product.  The industry employs nearly three quarters of the country's workers and accounts for almost one fifth of the nation's gross domestic product.

Drought threatens the livelihoods of tens of millions in Kenya, but those most at risk are the millions who farm simply to survive.  For those farmers, drought is both an economic risk and a life threatening event.  

Many subsistence farmers in Kenya invest their life savings into each harvest, and a single season of light rain can set a family back for years.  

In 2007, unusually low rainfall triggered a food shortage, sending food prices up and prompting calls for price controls.  The effects of that drought continued through late 2009, when unusually heavy rains provided a rare surplus for the country.  

In east Africa, serious drought is expected about once per decade.  But recent reports of a La Nina weather system in the Pacific have many predicting yet another season of insufficient rain.  

To protect against such uncertainty, small farmers often plant different seed varieties to guarantee at least some returns on their investment.  Planting different types of drought resistance crops can help cover risk, but lead to reduced yields and keep farmers living from season to season.  

Harvest insurance can protect against crop failures, but such services are expensive and typically unavailable to farmers.  Insurance premiums can reach thousands of dollars, while many small farmers invest less than $100 in each season's crop.  Small farmers often work in remote areas, making site visits by insurance companies difficult and expensive.

But through a new partnership between UAP Insurance, telecommunications firm Safaricom and Swedish non-profit Syngenta, Kenyan farmers can buy insurance on seed and fertilizer to protect against potential losses.

The product, called Kilimo Salama - which means "safe agriculture" in Swahili - harnesses mobile technology and new agricultural technology to provide insurance on a smaller scale.

Instead of insurance inspectors, Kilimo Salama has installed stations across the country that measure weather patterns and predict how harvests will be affected.  These unmanned stations wirelessly transmit data to a central database that is used to calculate losses and distribute payments to farmers.

According to Sygenta spokesperson Rose Goslinga this method, known as weather indexing, provides an efficient and cost effective way of calculating risk on small farms.

"That weather station measures what goes on, on the farmers' fields and is essentially a representation of the insurance.  So you do not have to send anybody to go and check what happens on the farm," she said. "This means you reduce your transaction costs.  Instead of having to go and visit, you now can see 100 farmers, who all maybe have one acre and measure what goes on, on their farm."

Another unique aspect of the insurance is the way in which farmers are paid.  When weather stations detect a potential crop loss, insurance payments are automatically made to farmers via mobile phone.

The product utilizes Safaricom's heralded M-Pesa service, which allows customers to send and store money with mobile phones. On July 21, Kilimo Salama made its first payouts via M-Pesa.  The average payout was around $22, though some were as small as $1 and others as large as $3,500.  

Through mobile phones, Kilimo Salam also provides updates to farmers as well as tips for growing crops in challenging regions.  

Kilimo Salama is still in development, but the program appears to be catching on.  First launched in 2009, around 200 farmers were insured.  This year, the program covers approximately 11,000 farmers across Kenya.

A farmer from Siakago in Kenya's Eastern Province, Lydia Njagi, first tried Kilimo Salama insurance out of curiosity.

Njagi says she initially insured around $5 worth of seed before the current growing season.  After weather stations predicted a 15 percent reduction in crop yields Njagi received an initial payment of around one dollar, with more to come if the weather trends continue.  Njagi told VOA she was initially skeptical of the product, but would insure more of her crop for the next season.

Many of Siakago's farmers told VOA they were happy with the Kilimo Salama program, and many more could be seen lining up to purchase the insurance for the first time.

While the insurance program is only available for seed and fertilizer produced by brands certified by the group, Goslinga told VOA the group planned to expand the project and open it up to other producers in the future.

Kilimo Salama has 30 weather stations that cover climate zones about 15 to 20 kilometers in area.  Only five areas in Kenya are currently covered, but the group hopes to build an additional 50 stations this year to cover more farmers by the start of the next season.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More