Drought / East Africa / Event / Food Security / Geodata / ILRI / Insurance / Kenya / Pastoralism / Vulnerability

Unusual project cushions drought impacts on poor livestock herders in drought-ravaged Horn

NP Kenya 211011_43

Some people in Kenya’s Marsabit District who in recent months lost up to a third of their cattle and other livestock to a great drought in the Horn of Africa received insurance payments last week; this man awaits his payout following a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, where it began to rain just two weeks ago (image on Flickr by Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Mark Tran in the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters Blog writes today about an unusual project designed to cushion the impact of drought on pastoralists.

‘About 650 herders in the vast arid area of Marsabit in northern Kenya last week received the first insurance payouts . . . [which] have averaged 3,000 Kenyan shillings (£18), with a maximum of 37,000 Ksh.

‘Developed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi and US universities—and backed by USAid, the Department for International Development and the World Bank—the scheme was launched last year in Marsabit, where pastoralists keep 86,000 cattle and 2m goats and sheep. . . .

‘Under the scheme, payouts are triggered when satellite images show that grazing lands in the region have deteriorated to the point where herders are expected to lose more than 15% of their herd (with the 15% threshold acting as a sort of deductible). Using satellites to track forage cover—rather than the number of dead animals—circumvents claims being made for animals that have died of disease or neglect rather than drought. Previously, insuring livestock for pastoralists has proved near impossible due to the difficulty of verifying the death of animals over a wide and remote area. . . .

‘There are two potential payouts each year. They are based on satellite images at the end of the long dry season in September and the short dry season in February. The payments last week—to farmers who had lost up to a third of their herds—were the first under the scheme.

‘Andrew Mude, the index based livestock insurance project leader at ILRI, . . . acknowledges that insurance by itself is not sufficient, but must be accompanied by other measures such as better access to grazing lands and watering areas.

“Then the pastoralist approach, which some people dismiss as a backward lifestyle of the past, emerges as a very effective way to meet future food needs,” he says.

‘Mude also calls the insurance scheme a work in progress . . . . [and says that] policy governments and donors will later have to decide whether to subsidise herders to buy insurance or stick to current schemes for helping pastoralists, which involve cash payments or food aid. . . .’

Read the whole article by Mark Tran at the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters Blog: Kenyan herders reap dividends from livestock insurance, 26 Oct 2011.

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