CGIAR / Drought / Drylands / East Africa / Insurance / Kenya / Pastoralism / Vulnerability

Kenyan herders cope with drought by buying livestock insurance

Sake Dabasso Halake_1

Sake Dabasso Halake stands proudly in front of Equity Bank’s Marsabit branch. She smiles, clutching an envelope filled with 16,000 Kenyan shillings that she just received. It was her insurance payout for the 10 cows she lost during the drought. Photo on Flickr by Jeff Haskins.

Jeff Haskins, director of the Nairobi office of Burness Communications, which works regularly with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and Neil Palmer, public awareness officer with ILRI’s sister center in Cali, Colombia, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, published an article yesterday in about an innovative livestock insurance project being implemented by ILRI and partners in a remote pastoral area of northern Kenya.

‘Marsabit District—The first thing that hits a visitor to Ginda village in northern Kenya is the smell.

‘Farmer Haro Sora’s land is littered with the carcasses of cattle and donkeys that have collapsed following an intense, prolonged drought. A skull here; half a ribcage there. In some places there are whole animals slumped on the roadside.

‘Ginda, in Marsabit District, has been hit by the Horn of Africa drought. It triggered a food crisis affecting around 13 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, by the time the rains finally returned to Ginda after more than a year.

‘The fact that the food crisis in the Horn was the result of a livestock crisis has been well documented. The area is a major pastoralist zone. When vegetation for grazing began to dry-up and livestock started to die, the knock-on effects on farmer livelihoods became strikingly clear.

‘Some observers balk at the idea of a financial institution selling insurance to already cash-strapped smallholder farmers to protect them against the risk of drought. The 650 livestock keepers in Marsabit, who are delighted to be receiving their first payouts, might give critics pause. . . .

‘The Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme is run by a consortium . . . is an example of a market-based, climate-smart innovation that could gain much wider currency in Africa and beyond. It has completed its second year. . . .

‘In a district where food aid makes up 15 percent of the economy, ILRI estimates that the trade in livestock is responsible for about 65 percent of the money coming into households. While the new insurance product won’t be able to cover the total loss, it does offer participating farmers and herders an opportunity to recoup some of their losses. . . .

‘The project highlights the increasingly important role of Kenyan scientists and private institutions in developing effective initiatives for Kenya and its people. Civil society organizations, including a people-to-people effort called Kenyans4Kenya that sprung up to collect food and money in response to the famine.

Kenyans are stepping up for Kenya, not just in response to the region’s humanitarian emergency like the Kenyans4Kenya campaign, but also in developing long-term solutions that manage risk and reduce vulnerability,” said Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI.

‘Global research and innovation partnerships with Cornell University, the University of California-Davis, Syracuse University and other partners also played an important role. . . .

Read the whole article at Livestock insurance—A chance to outsmart drought?, and accompanying photoessay, Livestock insurance to combat food crisis, November 2011, posted 9 Jan 2012.

The Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme is run by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with several technical partners, the government of Kenya and commercial implementing partners UAP Insurance and Equity Bank. The project is funded by UKaid/Department for International Development, the United States Agency for International Development and the World Bank among others.

To find other articles on ILRI’s IBLI project, just search for ‘IBLI’ on this ILRI Clippings blog and on its sister blog, the ILRI News Blog. Here are two examples:

Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments, ILRI news release of 21 Oct 2011.

Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa, ILRI photoessay of 25 Oct 2011.

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