Why women’s inclusivity is vital for the uptake of agricultural Insurance in Africa

Over the years of operations in providing smallholder farmers with integrated risk management solutions to increase their productivity and enhance livelihoods, the need for gender inclusivity in our approaches has proved to be vital.

Studies show that women account for nearly half (43%) of the world’s smallholder farmers and produce about 70% of Africa’s food Yet, in most of the African countries, less than 20% of land is owned by women. In Kenya for instance, land is still governed by customary laws that sometimes discriminate against women, limiting their land and property rights.

Among the farmers reached by ACRE Africa, most women farmers when asked admit that they have to access land through either their husbands or male in-laws. Therefore, as much as women may form the majority of the workforce on the farms amongst the rural population, they do so on land they have no right to own, make decisions, use as collateral or sell the output without consent from the men.

ACRE’s typical farmer’s profile.

Gender and Financial Inclusion

A gender gap exists in financial inclusion, specifically on insurance access and usage where women have access to information regarding insurance but are not the key decision makers for uptake. According to a report from UNDP. 2012 on the Overview of linkages between gender and climate change, Women make up 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries however women receive less than 10% of the credit granted to small producer farmers in Africa. This limits their ability to take full advantage of climate-adapting technologies like insurance.

Traditionally, Insurance policies have heavily been linked to credit facilities which women are not custodians of. Collateral requirements for loans and the KYC (know your customer) protocols, requiring documents and security by financial institutions and insurance providers during onboarding have limited access by women. Women do not own and lack or have very little control over productive resources like agricultural land and property that would act as collateral.

Women and Index Insurance

The World Bank noted that since its engagement in index insurance, in 2000, the financial instrument has been widely accepted as an innovation that helps smallholder producers gain access to finance, build resilience, increase productivity and sustain their livelihoods.

Due to a lack of capital and lack of adequate mechanisms to mitigate or transfer agricultural risks, coupled with other pressing bills, farmers often underinvest in their farms after facing a catastrophe. This case is severe among women farmers in rural areas who are always tasked with the responsibility of providing food for their households. Most of them divert savings meant for farming into supporting other needs like food and school fees for their children.

Traditional insurance has in the past taken a “gender neutral” approach where there is no account for the differences between men’s and women’s needs, nor the levels of access and inclusivity. However, increased evidence shows that there is no such thing as a gender-neutral approach to climate risk insurance products. There exist gender norms that prescribe what are deemed appropriate and inappropriate social relations between men and women, which influence the design, product development, distribution and servicing of insurance products. For instance, women are more organized in groups and more responsive to learning and sharing new ideas making it easy to reach female farmers and conduct capacity building, unlike men.

A representation of Gender Inclusivity under the Village Champions model for the Picture-Based Insurance Project

Women and smartphones

A gender gap in women’s access to mobile phones is observed in low and middle-income countries where on average women are 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. In rural Kenya, gender differences exist in access to smartphones. GSMA, in a 2018 report on Connected Women: The Mobile Gender Gap reported that 83% of Kenyan adults have phones with 60% of these sales being smartphones and 38% of the smartphone sales being for women. When this data is extrapolated, out of 100 people, only 19 women will have a smartphone.

Innovations addressing challenges faced by farmers are now more than often being accessed through smartphone technologies. This, combined with stark gender differences in smartphone access, is significantly hampering women’s ability to access information, products and services.

Women and Extension

Agriculture Insurance as a risk transfer and management solution is new within rural farming communities in Africa. A situational analysis of the agriculture insurance landscape in Kenya done by the Association of Kenya Consumers in 2016 indicates that 3 out of 10 farmers have heard or have some knowledge about agricultural insurance. However, there is a significantly low transition from awareness to evaluation of agriculture insurance options available. A viable solution presented to bridge this gap has been the use of farmer-to-farmer extension models.

Mr. Joseph Ibeere, a supervisor training village extension service providers (champions) in Meru County.

Responsibilities such as household chores and long distances to be covered, cause women not to take part as extension service providers. This creates a time and mobility restriction for women to participate and attend informational forums that are not close to their homesteads. However, women’s higher acumen in having organized groups and great involvement in existing social gatherings like church meetings plays a role in ensuring reach to women.

To address the gender gaps in access to a wide range of agricultural resources such as education, extension services, credit and farm input, ACRE Africa developed a high touch solution dubbed “the Village Champion model”. Through this model, we have been able to train over 550 village change agents in Kenya while ensuring gender standards, that include workplace dignity for men, women and youths coupled with equal pay based on individual targets achieved. 60% of these village change agents are women.

This model has proved to engage more women as extension officers and in return ensure reach to other women in rural areas. The champions leverage on existing social structures like chamas (women saving groups), churches and markets to reach their fellow women without having to inconvenience them to spare a day from their already pressing household chores.

  • References:
  • The gender strategy: Improving Agriculture Production and Resilience with Satellite and Cellphone Imagery to Scale Climate Smart Insurance project (Picture Based Insurance) under CultiAF 2, funded by IDRC and ACIAR and also by the Netherlands-CGIAR research program, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO-WOTRO).
  • The Getting Farmers Insurance Ready Project funded by AGRA
  • ACRE Africa Farmer insights report by 60_decibles under AgriFin, MercyCorps
  • ACRE Africa’s Soil Moisture Index project
ACRE Africa
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