ERRATIC WEATHER

Crop insurance picks up among smallholder farmers

The Picture Based Insurance model uses satellite and smartphone imagery to assess losses.

In Summary

• Agriculture insurance was first introduced by the colonial government in 1942 under the Guaranteed Minimum Return scheme that covered selected crops.

• Over 4,000 small scale farmers in seven counties are being targeted to take up crop insurance.

Pauline Mutisya, from Ndalani in Yatta subcounty, Machakos county, is a village champion who trains farmers on the need to insure their crops. She has so far trained 250 farmers and by 2020, 100 of the farmers had insured their crop.
Pauline Mutisya, from Ndalani in Yatta subcounty, Machakos county, is a village champion who trains farmers on the need to insure their crops. She has so far trained 250 farmers and by 2020, 100 of the farmers had insured their crop.
Image: AGATHA NGOTHO
I am a beneficiary of crop insurance. In 2019, I 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
Farmer Joseph Ibeere

Crop insurance for long has been a preserve of large-scale farmers, but small-scale farmers are slowly embracing it.  

Agriculture insurance is not a new concept in Kenya as it was first introduced by the colonial government in 1942 under the Guaranteed Minimum Return scheme that covered selected crops.

Not much was happening on agriculture insurance until 2016, when the government launched the Kenya National Agricultural Insurance Programme.

This was meant to help farmers cope with the effects of climate change such as drought and floods, with a focus on livestock and crops (maize and wheat).

Uptake by small-scale farmers was slow, but the erratic weather, coupled with interventions and awareness creation by the government and private sector, are driving more people to take up crop insurance.  

Joseph Ibeere, a small-scale farmer from Tigania West in Meru county, insured his farm against poor weather last year.

“I am a beneficiary of crop insurance. In 2019, I 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 said.

Ibeere said crop insurance has encouraged farmers to move from tilling just half an acre to three acres. 

Pauline Mutisya, from Ndalani in Yatta subcounty, Machakos county, is a village champion who has trained more than 250 farmers on the need to insure their crops.

She said about 100 farmers have insured their crops.

Mutisya has also insured four acres of crops, two under maize the other two under green grams.

“Farmers believe and trust me because I have also insured my crops. Once a farmer insures his or her crops, I start monitoring from planting to harvesting and give the information to the insurers,” she said.

More than 4,000 small-scale farmers in seven counties are being targeted to take up crop insurance under a new insurance model.

The Picture Based Insurance model uses satellite and smartphone imagery to assess losses.

Farmers acquire a smartphone and then download a freely available, easy-to-use mobile application – Seeitgrow – onto their phones. They then submit initial pictures of the plot, they are required to regularly upload pictures to help assess and process any damage
Lilian Waithaka, the principal investigator with ACRE Africa

Eliud Kireger, director general of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, said the livelihoods of smallholder farmers are under threat from the impacts of climate change such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, pests and diseases.

He said many farmers face 100 per cent crop failure.

“The project has developed innovative climate-smart insurance product that uses satellite and smartphone imagery to assess losses, monitor management practices and engage with farmers, and rigorously evaluate the demand for and impacts of the product,” Kireger said.

He said the PBI approach assesses individual crop damage from a stream of crop pictures uploaded by farmers.

“This service can help insurers verify claims without having to send an insurance agent into the field for every claim received,” Kireger said.

The project targets Bungoma, Busia, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Makueni and Machakos counties. It is being implemented by Kalro, the International Food Policy Research Institute, Wageningen University & Research, Groningen University and practitioners from the Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd. 

The project has been co-funded by the Cultivate Africa’s Future Phase 2 Programme of the International Development Research Center and Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and the Dutch Research Council, Netherlands.

Lilian Waithaka, the principal investigator with ACRE Africa, explained that farmers take images of crops damaged and share them with their insurers. 

“Farmers acquire a smartphone and then download a freely available, easy-to-use mobile application – Seeitgrow – onto their phones. They then submit initial pictures of the plot, they are required to regularly upload pictures to help assess and process any damage,” she said.

Waithaka said under the project, lead farmers dubbed champions are trained on good agricultural practices as well photo capture and transmission. They are also equipped with smartphones to facilitate photo transmission and advisories interaction.

“Farmers involved are also trained on good agricultural practices, [we] send them advisory messages through phone, collect data on demand for inputs and sell or provide the inputs at a commission," she said.

"The project is promoting stress-tolerant varieties through climate-smart insurance [innovative PBI] by bundling stress-tolerant seeds with a comprehensive picture-based insurance-advisory service.” 

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya

Joseph Ibeere, a small-scale farmer from Tigania West in Meru county, insured his one-acre farm against poor weather in 2020.
Joseph Ibeere, a small-scale farmer from Tigania West in Meru county, insured his one-acre farm against poor weather in 2020.
Image: AGATHA NGOTHO