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

    James 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 family.

    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 uncertainties.

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

    Kilimo 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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