Herders receive first drought insurance payouts in Kenya

by Katy Migiro | @katymigiro | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 21 October 2011 17:07 GMT
Drought has affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa

NAIROBI (AlertNet) – As part of an innovative new scheme, 650 herders in northern Kenya received their first drought insurance payouts for the loss of thousands of cows, camels, goats and sheep on Friday.

Up to a third of livestock in Marsabit District are estimated to have died during the current drought, which has affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa.

“It’s terrible that we are seeing this level of loss, but gratifying that the policies are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to help herders avert disaster when weather conditions dry up pasture lands and animals begin to perish,” said Isaac Magina, head of agriculture insurance at UAP Insurance, one of the partners in the scheme.

“When you look at a 33 percent loss, that is a significant portion of the asset base of any business and it would be difficult to survive without insurance.” 

The programme, which uses NASA satellite imagery of vegetation to determine losses of livestock forage, aims to make it easier for pastoralist communities to cope with and recover from drought.

Clients are paid when indicators show their animals are at risk of death, rather than assessing actual livestock losses. This would be impossible as pastoralists and their animals move over vast tracts of arid land in search of pasture and water.

Most people in Marsabit District are herders, together owning some 86,000 cattle and two million goats and sheep.

Kenya’s livestock sector is worth $800 million, providing meat to millions of consumers across the region.

The Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) scheme was developed by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Cornell University and the University of California.

It pays compensation when herders are expected to be losing more than 15 percent of their animals.

A recent report by ILRI found that pastoralism is the most effective way of life for Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands. Crops cannot survive in such conditions.

However, it argued that herders needed more support to cope with crises like drought.

“Drought insurance is one important way to help livestock keepers maintain food security even in very harsh environments,” said Andrew Mude, the IBLI project leader at ILRI.

“If it is accompanied by other risk-reducing strategies, 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.”

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)

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