• IFAD says crop insurance can buffer the worst of these effects, allowing farmers to avoid the spiral of debt and low production.
• Crop insurance can be used to ease the transition from recurrent food insecurity to market-oriented agriculture.
Farmers have been told to insure their crops against losses due to drought.
Tabitha Njuguna, managing director of Africa Exchange (AFEX) Trade Limited Kenya, said farmers should ensure they insure their crops due to uncertainties such as rough and flooding.
“You never know about tomorrow. Climate change is a reality that Kenyans have to live with. Crop insurance is the best cover for farmers and the best approach to cushion themselves against crop loss due to drought or poor rains,” Njuguna said.
The Kenya Meteorological Department's March-April-May (MAM) 2023 outlook indicates that below-average rainfall is expected over most parts of the county.
This includes the Lake Victoria Basin, Highlands West of the Rift Valley, Central Rift Valley, Highlands East of the Rift Valley (including Nairobi county), Coastal region, most of Northeastern and Southeastern Lowlands and Western parts of Narok.
Generally, near-average rainfall is expected over parts of Northwestern (Central and eastern Turkana), parts of South Rift Valley (Eastern Narok), parts of Southeastern lowlands (Kajiado) and the Western parts of Marsabit.
According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) drought can do more than cause crop losses for one season and the effects can ripple out into the mid- and long term.
“Planting itself can become a risky investment and if production is low again, farmers can find themselves both struggling to repay loans and unable to purchase the inputs for the following season to try to get back on their feet,” Ifad said. It is international financial institution and an agency of the United Nations.
Crop insurance can buffer the worst of these effects, allowing farmers to avoid the spiral of debt and low production.
“By protecting farmers against risks beyond their control, insurance can be used to ease the transition from recurrent food insecurity to market-oriented agriculture and help strengthen their livelihoods,” Ifad posted on their website.
Njuguna appealed to the agricultural sector to work together to create resilience.
“We have forecast data we can utilise to plan ahead. We need to start looking for a solution ahead of 2024 if the climatic situation does not get better,” she said.
She said they are also helping farmers access necessary inputs like seeds, crop protection products and fertiliser to supplement the government's subsidy program.
Between March and May of 2022, Afex financed 3,000 farmers of their target of 5,000 farmers with a Sh255 million input programme covering 25,000 acres in Uasin Gishu county
“With 17 warehouses spread across two counties, the company has traded over 11,000 metric tonnes of maize. For the 2023 season, the company projects to finance 10,000 farmers covering 60,000 acres of in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia Counties,” Njuguna said.
She said they are providing the cropping needs of the farmers including planting fertiliser, top dressing fertiliser, herbicide seeds, crop yield insurance and agronomy services.
Njuguna said they walk with farmers throughout the season up to when they harvest the crop and aggregate it at the warehouses.
“By unlocking input loans for farmers through financing from retail and institutional sources, we are ensuring an increase in farmer productivity, improving farmers’ yields at harvest time, and helping them secure better livelihoods from their production activities,” she said.
Farmers are exposed to suboptimal yield and low profits due to their inability to invest in quality inputs. As a result, production levels of key staple crops in Kenya are relatively low.
She said going forward, the company is planning to expand to other counties like Nakuru, Narok and other crops like coffee.
(Edited by V.Graham)