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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid