News and knowhow for farmers

As El Nino swallows up farmers’ harvests, those who took insurance have nothing to worry about

Ogwimba, a small scale maize farmer at Moi’s Bridge, in Trans-Nzoia County was early this month
forced to hurriedly harvest his maize crop due to persistent warnings of El
Niño rains by the metrological department.

He kept the harvest
in his neighbor’s banana plantation, an open place, as he made arrangements to
have it shelled.

Unfortunately, the
rains hit ground faster than he had expected and he has been left counting losses,
with his maize rotting away, something that threatens the food security of his

Yet, Ogwimba is not
alone. Millions of smallholder farmers across the continent are losing their
harvest to the rains.

Worsening their
situations is that most of these farmers do not have risk management options to
insulate them from agricultural uncertainties mainly caused by the increasing
climate change phenomenon.

A recent Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) study, titled Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture
and Food Security, focused on how disaster risk management can shield farmers
from agricultural losses.

The report showed
that 85 per cent of smallholder farmers in developing world are highly
susceptible to effects of climate change on agriculture because they have no
defined backup plans. Further, the study indicated that extreme weather
conditions like droughts and prolonged rains destroy a third of the world food,
which is capable of sustaining 3 billion people.

Another study FAO,
conducted in Kenya presented an image of the economic shocks that face unprepared
farmers. The report showed that nearly 70 per cent of smallholder farmers
cannot afford risk covers provided by various agencies in the country. It also
revealed that while 40 per cent are aware of weather based insurance covers
that can help them absorb agricultural shocks arising from hostile weather
conditions, a whopping 60 per cent have no information about ways of curbing imminent
agricultural damages by the fast changing climate.

The study, which
sampled smallholder farmers in Laikipia and Narok, cited poor/contradictory
briefs from metrological department, poverty and high premiums by insurance
companies as barriers hampering farmers’ preparedness incase of climatic

Even so, some
agricultural stakeholders in the Kenya are now teaming up with insurance
companies to offer discounted covers for smallholder farmers.

Salama, an insurance
plan that safeguards smallholder grain farmers’ inputs against drought and
excess rain is cushioning farmers in the North Rift and Western parts of Kenya.
The initiative, a partnership between UAP Insurance, Safaricom and the Syngenta
Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, allows farmers to insure as little as 1
kg of maize seed and/or fertilizer.

The product is
made affordable by the Syngeta Foundation, which sponsors half of the premium,
leaving the farmers to pay five per cent on
top of the cost of inputs. The initiative, dubbed ‘pay as you plant insurance’,
enables farmers to pay premiums via local agrovets estimated to be close to
8400 in Kenya.

The farmer
is entitled to a compensation cover equivalent to the production capacity of
the input insured after three month of probation.

The whole
process is conducted electronically and payments done via M-pesa hence limiting
high tape bureaucracy synonymous with insurance companies while also cutting on
time. According to James Wambugu, UAP Insurance
Kenya, the initiative has not only helped to cut the cost of insurance
for farmers but also enlightened them to take a step in safeguarding food for
the world.

Such initiatives,
as Kilimo Salama, are likely to offer stallholders farmers, who produce nearly
80 per cent of food for the World some support in the event of crop damage.

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