• More than 1.7 million farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have taken out crop insurance.
• The focus is on value-chain crops such as maize, sorghum, potatoes, pulses and livestock.
The vagaries of climate change, such as drought and excess rainfall, coupled with pests and diseases, are driving farmers to take out crop insurance.
Nixon Kosgei, a large-scale farmer at Technology Farm in Nakuru county, is one of the farmers who have seen the benefit of insuring his crops against drought.
He grows maize seeds for Kenya Seed and East Africa Seed in 600 acres. To cushion themselves against drought, they have taken an insurance cover with ACRE Africa for the past five years.
Kosgei says Nakuru is prone to drought and farmers often lose their crops. This informed the decision to take out insurance.
“In 2017, there was a serious drought across the country and our maize seed production was low. At the end of the year, we launched our claim with ACRE Africa and we got nearly Sh6 million payout, with which we bought this year’s fertiliser,” he says.
The insurance cover is a hybrid product that combines both weather risks such as drought and excess rainfall and multi-peril cover against risks that cannot be quantified by data from the satellite and automated weather stations such as pests and diseases, hail and frost.
“Through insurance, we have been able to recover whenever there is drought, and this ensures we have money to start off again. We look forward to the cover being extended to other crops besides maize,” Kosgei says.
Joseph Ibeere, a small-scale farmer from Tigania West in Meru county, is also a beneficiary of crop insurance.
“Last year, I had insured my one-acre maize farm for Sh1,000. I incurred losses due to crop failure caused by unpredictable weather conditions. I received a payout of Sh7,500,” he says.
Ibeere said crop insurance has encouraged farmers to move from tilling just half an acre to three acres.
Agriculture & Climate Risk Enterprise-Africa CEO George Kuria says cushioning smallholder farmers from unseen occurrences can be a sustainable approach to unlocking investments in agriculture and improve their resilience and eventually productivity.
ACRE-Africa is an agri insurance service provider.
Kuria explains that the focus on smallholder farmers is informed by the fact that food is a critical element in our well-being. Smallholder farmers are the key producers of food in Africa, hence, the need to link them to insurance products so they can confidently invest in their farms, he says.
Kuria says they have so far helped more than 1.7 million farmers in various countries, including Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Focus is on maize, sorghum, potatoes, pulses and livestock. In Kenya, ACRE-Africa is now in 15 counties and looking to spread further.
Kuria says crop insurance protects farmers from financial risks posed by weather unpredictability. It has been widely advocated as a tool to help farm households escape poverty traps and invest in climate-smart agriculture.
Kuria says even though the government is coming out strongly to encourage and enable farmers access insurance, uptake has been slow.
This, he says, could be due to the fact that farmers produce too little to enable them to afford to pay for insurance. Another factor is that smallholder farmers are based in remote and rural areas compared to other insurance buyers.
“Insurance has certain weaknesses that need to be overcome if we are going to be successful and one of them is trust,” he says.
To address these challenges, Kuria says they have developed an affordable and innovative approach to increase the uptake of agri insurance by smallholder farmers through the village champion model. This is with support from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa under the Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers in Africa Programme.
Muthithi Kinyanjui, business development manager and partnership lead at ACRE-Africa, says the village champion model was developed to identify ways of taking agriculture insurance solutions to smallholder farmers.
“Due to the level of remoteness and the capacity of insurance companies, we realised that distributing products to smallholder farmers was not going to be possible if we utilised traditional methods,” she says.
Hiring officers was also tricky because it is resource-intensive, she says.
“It is also expensive and requires a lot of consistency in order to build the level of knowledge and understanding required by farmers before they can start demanding the insurance product.”
Muthithi says they came up with the idea of village-based extension providers, also known as village champions.
The aim is to change farmers’ perception of insurance, help them understand how agriculture insurance works and how it is different from other insurance policies.
The village champions, she explains, are themselves farmers so they have a certain level of credibility in their communities.
“We train them on agriculture insurance and how it works, then they are able to convey that information to the farmers in a language that the farmers understand. They are able to drive demand for insurance to the farmers,” Kinyanjui says.
She says they identify village champions in a certain locale based on ACRE-Africa’s partnerships and take them through a recruitment process.
“We train them extensively and capacitate them with training materials. We also give them branding because it is important that farmers establish trust quickly with whoever approaches them with the solutions,” she says.
“We task the village champions with organising farmers’ groups, which is an easy way to reach them and impact information.”
She says they have recruited more than 500 village champions across the country. More than 60 per cent of these are women while the rest are men and youth.
Pauline Mutisya, from Ndalani in Yatta subcounty, Machakos county, is a village champion who has trained more than 250 farmers.
She says nearly 100 of them have taken out crop insurance. Mutisya has also insured her own four-acre land, with two acres under maize the other two under green grams.
“Farmers believe us because we are also doing the same, unlike people who just come and tell them what to do and go away. Once a farmer insures his or her crops, I start monitoring from planting to harvesting and give the information to ACRE,” she says.
Muthithi says they are targeting to reach 100,000 farmers by 2021 through the village champion model. So far, they have achieved about 40 per cent. More than 43,000 farmers have signed up despite the Covid-19 setbacks.
She adds that they have been working closely with county governments and the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation to verify research and farm input companies due to the large network of village-based extension service providers.
Kuria says the view is a farmer will not succeed with insurance alone; all other factors need to be in place.
“They have to be using certified seeds and the right fertiliser as well as support on insurance, finance and market. Then this will enable farmers to be more successful,” he says.
“The village champions help enable these by also distributing inputs to farmers. Since they are in touch with almost 100 to 200 farmers, they can then become mini-shops where the farmer will easily access inputs and services.”
Dennis Kiogora, a business developer from APA Insurance, says agriculture insurance has come a long way.
“Many small-scale farmers are still not aware of the existence of crop insurance, those who have so far embraced this are the large-scale farmers,” he says.
“This is because many of the small-scale farmers are not doing agriculture as a commercial business and do not therefore see the need for insuring their crops. But we also encourage those with insurance cover to practise good crop management.”