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Kenya - Farmers advised on insuring crops, livestock

In an interview, Association of Insurance Brokers of Kenya (AIBK) chairman Nelson Omolo tells farmers to cushion themselves from calamities by partaking in agriculture insurance.

What is Agriculture Insurance and what is its intake in Kenya?

It is the protection farmers can get from insurance companies for their crops and livestock in case of a calamity. A farmer pays a small amount called a premium to an insurance firm to compensate him whenever he incurs losses.

Agriculture insurance has been in the country for many decades though many people are yet to take it up, probably because they lack proper information or think they cannot afford it.

What is the current food security situation in the country and how can agriculture insurance make it better?

Kenya is not safe when it comes to food security. The recent destruction of the maize crop in the country’s bread basket by the fall army worm and other pests and diseases has made the situation more dire.

Many parts of the country have also been hit by drought and floods, which destroyed thousands of acres of crops.

Livestock have not been spared by these calamities either, particularly in the north, northeast, Coast and other dry parts of the country.

The political situation in the country has also led to food shortages. We had a long electioneering period last year whose effects are still being felt. Some people never prepared their farms.

It should also be remembered that Kenya’s agriculture is 98 per cent rain-fed, making it highly vulnerable to climatic hazards such as droughts and floods.

Agriculture insurance thus ensures that despite all these problems, farmers are compensated and this motivates them to grow more crops and keep more animals.

It eventually ensures the country’s food security.

In which ways can one insure livestock and crops? What does a farmer stand to gain?

Farmers can apply for crop, livestock, horticulture and forestry or tree crop insurance.

These can still be divided into loan-linked, dairy and livestock, replanting guarantee and contract seed grower insurance.

There are also covers for calamities such as droughts, floods, pests and diseases and instances of political instability.

Through these covers, a farmer will still earn in the event of a disaster.

The fall army worm has destroyed crops in many parts of the country. There is also fear of an invasion by a new type of army worm currently ravaging the west and central Africa. Can farmers insure themselves against these pests?

Crop insurance covers these, as the calamities are not anticipated by the farmer.

Do insurance covers apply to smallholder farmers?

It has admittedly been hard reaching out to and getting smallholders into the schemes because a majority lack the knowledge on insurance and the means. Many rural smallholder farmers cannot pay the premiums.

We are, however, coming up with policies such farmers can afford. We want them to be protected from hazards and contribute to Kenya’s food security.

What advice would you give to a farmer who wants to cushion himself against the destruction caused by the fall and southern army worms?

Because these pests are unanticipated and controlling them has proved to be a big challenge, crop insurance is the best bet for the Kenyan farmer.

We encourage them to take in agriculture insurance. Even though it hasn’t been easy, especially for the smallholder farmers, we try to tailor-make cheaper packages for them.

We are also working with county governments and other stakeholders to help as many farmers as possible.

Droughts and livestock pests and diseases have been a challenge to farmers, especially in cattle, sheep, camels and goats. Do you cover these?

Initially, insurance covered only dairy cattle. Lately, however, the World Bank has facilitated scaling up agriculture insurance and it now also covers pastoralists, who largely keep cattle, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys.

How do you attract young people to farming through insurance?

While we do not have agriculture insurance policies specifically targeting the youth, we ask them to however embrace those that are available in the market.

Through these, the young Kenyan men and women can realise that even if their initial ventures fail, they are able to start all over again with the help of agriculture insurance. This should be a morale-booster.

What about insurance covers caused by risks such as fire destroying swathes of farmland?

While it is difficult to determine risks deemed to have been caused by human error or negligence, we have to accept that accidents do happen.

In such cases, we take an in-depth look into the situation to come up with a way forward that supports the farmer.

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