Joseph Ibeere, a crop farmer from Tigania West in Meru County, has always been interested in crop insurance but has never taken it up.
“The stories l had heard about the long wait for compensation discouraged me from agriculture insurance, though l live in a dry area and l keep losing crops to drought,” Ibeere tells Smart Harvest and Technology.
But after some convincing from Acre Africa experts, he warmed up to the idea. ACRE Africa links farmers to insurance products so that they can confidently invest in their farms.
ACRE Africa is using a unique model to encourage small holder farmers to insure their produce.
“Although l was initially hesitant, l took up insurance when I was enrolled as a village champion and my job was to educate farmers on the importance of agri-insurance,” Ibeere says.
After being shown the benefits, Ibeere and a group of farmers bought insurance cover that touched on planting to harvesting for their crops.
Given that insurance has always been a hard sell, use of farmer-to-farmer training has proven effective in convincing more smallholder farmers to take up the service.
George Kuria, CEO ACRE Africa says use of village champions has been a success because they reach more farmers in the rural areas.
“There is a lot of acceptability and trust when farmers train other farmers in the villages and in the languages they understand better. This has driven demand for agriculture insurance uptake,” Kuria says.
He explains that since 2018, in partnership with Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) they have trained more than 500 village champions.
“Uniqueness of these village champions is that they are in touch with thousands of farmers and have become sort of mini shops where anybody can access different inputs and services. You’ll find that each champion has a group of farmers ranging from 20 to 200, meaning that they are able to reach a huge group of smallholder farmers,” the CEO says.
Muthithi Kinyanjui, Business Development Manager, at ACRE Africa says they realised distribution of insurance to rural farmers won’t be possible if they continue using old methods.
So, they identified village champions, trained them on good agro-nomic practices, financial education, risk management and risk transfer through insurance, and equipped them with training materials.
This year, more than 43,000 smallholder farmers have been reached in 15 counties.
A village champion, Pauline Mutisya, from Yatta sub-County in Machakos, says in her first meeting with a group of farmers, she educated them on the basics of insurance.
“I assured them, apart from being a village champion, l am also a farmer who expects the best. I assured them that once they take a cover, everything will be coordinated well, including the monitoring, up to settling of claims. With that assurance they started embracing insurance,” she says.
Once a farmer insures his or her crops, Mutisya starts monitoring from planting to harvesting and relaying the progress to ACRE Africa.
So far, she has trained more than 250 farmers and close to 100 are interested in agriculture cover.
Mutisya, who has also insured her own 4-acre maize and green grams farm, says: “Farmers believe in us because we are also doing the same, unlike people who just come and tell them what to do and go their way.”
Kuria says access to insurance helps strengthen farmers’ resilience and is a useful tool to mitigate the risks that come with climate change.
Nixon Kosgei, a manager at Technology Farm in Nakuru says they saw the need for insurance after accessing the risks they face. They plant maize for seed production on a 600-acre farm.
“Nakuru is prone to drought and we have had incidents where we lost our maize investment due to shortage of rains. This informed us to go for crop insurance,” he says.
Kosgei reveals they insured maize from planting to delivery of seeds.
Kosgei says: “Last year, we insured production of maize at Sh50,000 per acre. We were compensated almost Sh8 million, from the 600 acres. Actually, we lost part of the crop, and topped up what we didn’t get.”
Raymond Sirma, a manager at Makongi Farm in Eldoret says they have insured their 300 dairy cows.
“What drove us into insuring our livestock is that we host a big herd and each cow is valued at about Sh250,000. So, it’s a great loss when a cow dies and is not insured,” Sirma says.