By Dorah Nesoba

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have launched a new project to promote gender-sensitive insurance products for farmers in Bungoma, Embu, Makueni, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties Kenya.

The project, Gender-sensitive Agricultural Index-based Insurance (GAIINS), will be implemented through the SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa (E&SA) program. It aims to empower and increase the capacity of women farmers in the five counties to be resilient to climate shocks through uptake of index-based insurance, and simultaneously build the capacity of insurers to institutionalize gender transformative approaches to index-based insurance products.

Over the next two and half years, the GAIINs project will work with the Government of Kenya, regulatory authorities, insurance actors, farmer organizations, women groups, financial and enabling partners, and farmers, to identify opportunities with significant potential to create index-based insurance products that address gender priorities in the five counties.

This will be done through assessing the dual needs of women farmers and insurance providers including the social and gender norms affecting access and use of satellite-based index insurance products, codeveloping gender sensitive quality metrics for index insurance products with both farmers and insurance companies, training actuaries and other insurance sector participants to measure and communicate gender-sensitive variables that inform the calculation of risk as well as providing access to and training women farmers on the ability of index-based agricultural insurance to protect them from climate-related shocks. RCMRD and partners will facilitate growth in this sector through innovative mapping technologies coupled with state-of the art data collection tools to meet the objectives of the project.

From Left to Right: Ms. Emily Adams the SERVIR Regional Science Coordination Lead at NASA Science Coordination Office in Huntsville, Alabama, Ms. Chiheyo Kangara USAID Kenya and East Africa, Mr. Douglas Kangi, Director of Crops Management, Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza Director General (RCMRD and Dr. Diana West of the GAIINS Project Implementation Team.

GAIINS was unveiled at a workshop in Naivasha, Nakuru County that was convened by RCMRD. The workshop which was held from 6-10 June 2022 brought together key stakeholders drawn from the Government of Kenya, development partners, the insurance sector and private sector players in the agriculture sector. Mr. Douglas Kangi, Director of Crops Management officially opened the workshop on behalf of Dr. Francis O. Owino, the Principal Secretary for State Department for Crops and Agricultural Research of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza, RCMRD Director General noted that the linkages and integration of satellite data technologies with the insurance sector demonstrated the reality of the SERVIR program mantra, “connecting space to village”. He further thanked NASA and USAID for continued support to RCMRD and partners, to ensure that satellite data and geospatial technologies contributed to solving national development problems.

RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza addressing the participants

Emily Adams, the SERVIR Regional Science Coordination Lead at NASA Science Coordination Office in Huntsville, Alabama, underscored the value of satellite data in developing environmental indices relevant for the insurance sector highlighting the value of satellite data in identification and sampling of unit areas insurance used by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ms. Faith Kinyanjui, Senior Project Manager at Pula, noted that agricultural insurance is promising and offers hope to crop farmers and livestock keepers because it helps them recover from losses (climate related shocks) thus enhancing their resilience. She however observed that more work is needed to integrate satellite-based indices into insurance products offered to farmers.

Ms. Chihenyo Kangara, Program Management Specialist, Climate Change and Resilience, USAID Kenya/East Africa emphasized the importance of the GAIINS project in responding to the needs of women farmers by cushioning them against their vulnerability to threats from climate change.

Left Ms. Chiheyo Kangara USAID Kenya and East Africa, Centre RCMRD DG. Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza and Right Ms. Emily Adams the SERVIR Regional Science Coordination Lead at NASA Science Coordination Office in Huntsville, Alabama.

While important steps have been taken towards establishing crop and livestock insurance programs that protect farmers against climate related risks, more work remains to be done around sensitization and awareness of insurance products to increase uptake, diversification of funding portfolios to support agriculture index-based insurance and decentralization of policy framework to devolved units.

The County Directors of Agriculture from the five counties believe the solution lies in the co-development insurance products as well as including agriculture insurance information in extension packages. They also believe that uptake of agriculture insurance in counties can be improved if the government, private sector and development partners could set aside more funds for agricultural insurance covers, train extension officers as champions for crop insurance, and roll out mass sensitization programs on crop insurance benefits.

Kangi lauded the initiative noting that smallholder farmers who depend on rain-fed agriculture and use low-technology farming methods are particularly vulnerable to droughts, given that less than 1% are currently protected by some form of insurance. It is estimated that every 3-4 years, a severe drought strikes the country.

Between 2008 and 2020, Kenya has experienced five extreme droughts with economic losses estimated at USD 14 billion, with the livestock sub sector alone incurring 72% of this loss. The estimated crop losses during the period were more than Kshs. 121 billion (about USD 1.2 billion).

Besides drought, Kenyan farmers have also suffered from floods as well as emerging pests and diseases associated with climate change. “These devastating shocks and stresses push farmers and pastoralists into poverty and destitution, with smallholder farmers being the most vulnerable,” stated Kangi.

Mr. Douglas Kangi, Director of Crops Management on behalf of the Principal Secretary for State Department for Crops and Agricultural Research of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives

GAIINS will build on the various types of crop and livestock insurance products the Kenya government and partners have initiated to cushion farmers from climate related risks such as the subsidized crops and livestock insurance that the government introduced in 2015 to mitigate the challenges of climate change and alleviate the small holder farmers’ vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

Since its introduction, over 650,000 farmers in 39 counties have benefited from the subsidized crops and livestock insurance programs. Under the Kenya Agricultural insurance program (KAIP) the government partnered with development partners like Financial Sector Deepening (FSD-Kenya), World Bank, insurers, re-insurers and regulators to support the start of the program. The Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) scheme developed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that was introduced in northern Kenya in 2010 and Ethiopia in 2012 insures pastoralists in arid and semi-arid lands against drought-related deaths of their livestock.

GAIINS focus on women is driven by various factors. One, women play a pivotal role in agricultural production and they make up between 42% and 65% of the agricultural labor force in Kenya in addition to their traditional domestic role. Two, although agricultural insurance has the potential to cushion Kenyan smallholder farmers from risks associated with vulnerability to climate change, covers for women farmers are not yet mainstreamed in the insurance policies/products.

The Index-based agricultural insurance which has been adopted by the government has the potential of covering more farmers compared to traditional types of individual-based insurance.

Satellite-based index insurance has been identified by the African Risk Capacity and the World Bank as a key tool for increasing farmer resilience against climate shocks. Investing in women, who form over 40% of African farmers, can lead to greater returns across the Social development Goals. With men and women being disproportionately affected by climate shocks and in turn affecting their resilience mechanisms, a gender sensitive lens is required to increase participation and inclusion in the design and implementation of resilience mechanisms including index-based insurance.

The author is the Public Relations and Communication Officer, RCMRD