Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kenyan herders to be offered livestock insurance against drought

Xan Rice in the Guardian (UK): Herders in northern Kenya who suffered large cattle losses during recent droughts are to be offered livestock insurance in a pioneering project that uses satellite imagery of available grazing to determine when payouts occur.

The scheme, billed as a world first by the International Livestock Research Institute, is being launched today in the arid Marsabit district. Pastoralists in Marsabit keep more than 2m cows, camels, goats and sheep, worth an estimated $67m, but currently have no way of rebuilding herds decimated by starvation because of the lack of the grazing after rains fail with increasing frequency.

While there have been 28 droughts in the area over the past century, four have struck in the past decade alone, causing significant animal loss and pushing many families towards poverty.

Previously, insuring livestock for pastoralists has proved near impossible due to the difficulty of verifying the death of animals over a wide and remote area. But ILRI said it has found a way around the problem with a scheme that pays out not on death but when satellite imagery shows that available forage is so scarce that animals are likely to starve.

Under the new scheme, which will be administered by local firms Equity Bank and UAP insurance, around a thousand farming households are expected to pay between 3.25% and 5.5% of the value of their herds to insure them for a year. For a cow the cost would start at £3.25 an animal, for a goat or sheep 33p. Payouts will depend on the predicted mortality levels….

A young Maasai herder in Kenya from 1979, shot by John Atherton, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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