Expanding livestock insurance coverage in Turkana — and across all of Kenya’s great dryland pastoral communities
The following excerpts of an opinion piece were written by Andrew Mude,
a Kenyan economist who leads an Index-Based Livestock Insurance project at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mude’s commentary was originally published by The Standard newspaper (Kenya): Insurance only way to guard against weather-gone-awry phenomenon, 28 Apr 2017.
‘Somewhat lost in the politics of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Lodwar last month was the official purpose of his visit: the issuance of livestock insurance payouts triggered by the country’s ongoing drought.’
‘The Turkwel River . . . [flows] from Mount Elgon in the border of Kenya and Uganda to Lake Turkana. . . . The name Turkwel is derived from the Turkana name for the river, Tir-kol, which means translates to a river that “withstands the wilderness”. The Turkwel begins from the lush green slopes of Mount Elgon and the Cherangani Hills, traverses the Southern Turkana Plains, crosses Loturerei Desert near Lodwar and empties to the world’s largest desert lake, Lake Turkana. . . . When the [Turkwel and Kerio] rivers dry up, open-pit wells are dug in the riverbed; these are used for watering livestock and human consumption. There are few, if any, developed wells for community and livestock drinking water, and often families must travel several hours searching for water for their livestock and themselves.’ — Wikipedia
‘Turkana houses are constructed over a wooden framework of domed saplings on which fronds of the Doum Palm tree Hyphaene thebaica, hides or skins, are thatched and lashed on. The house is large enough to house a family of six. Usually, during the wet season, they are elongated and covered with cowdung. Animals are kept in a brush wood pen.’ — Wikipedia
‘That was a shame.
‘We should be focusing our energies right now on
alleviating the suffering of herders in Kenya’s arid north.’
— Andrew Mude
‘The second largest county by size, Turkana has among the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country, the lowest school enrolment rates and the lowest life expectancy. Also, the Human Development Index of Turkana is significantly lower than the weighted national average. At this time of the year, people living in rural parts of Turkana County are among the hardest hit by the on-going drought in Kenya. The United Nations and the Government of Kenya approximates that 2.7 million Kenyans are facing acute food shortage and the Government has declared the drought a national disaster. Things are looking up for Turkana County nevertheless. Not least in the reasons for new optimism is the fact that in 2012, the Government of Kenya announced that substantial oil deposits had been discovered in parts of Turkana County. Though it will be a while before the petrodollars begin to reflect in the economy, indicators such as an increase in services and jobs, expansion in activities in the hospitality industry, and increase in the frequency of flights to the county’s main town of Lodwar suggest a bright future. Two vast underground aquifers, storing billions of litres of water, have also been discovered. The aquifers could change the lives of people in the region.’
— Siddharth Chatterjee, Turkana County of Kenya, inspiring hope, 4 Mar 2017
‘We already have a promising path forward to mitigate the crisis. . . . President Uhuru [recently] issued payments to 2,500 households under the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP).
‘Currently covering 14,000 households across the arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) counties of Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo, Tana River, Turkana and Wajir, this progressive Kenya Government insurance programme triggered a total of Sh215 million in payments to 12,604 recipient households.’
‘That was really good to see. But it’s not nearly enough. Over 3 million herding households in Kenya depend on livestock as a key source of income and nutrition. For these Kenyan herders, drought is an ever-present risk, accounting for more than 75 per cent of their livestock losses.
‘All of these many herding families could, and should, benefit from the insurance coverage offered by KLIP.’
‘Index-based livestock insurance is a cost-effective way to manage the risks pastoralist herders face.
‘This innovative product, which uses satellites to monitor drought conditions and triggers payments in the event of severe forage scarcity, was launched as a pilot in Marsabit in 2010.
‘It is led by a consortium of partners, spearheaded by the team I oversee at the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).’
Life in Turkana County revolves around livestock. Cattle, camels, donkeys, sheep and goats are a major source of income for Turkana’s residents. ‘Livestock is an important aspect of Turkana culture. In this society, livestock functions not only as a milk and meat producer, but as form of currency used for bride-price negotiations and dowries. Often, a young man will be given a single goat with which to start a herd, and he will accumulate more via animal husbandry. In turn, once he has accumulated sufficient livestock, these animals will be used to negotiate for wives.’— Wikipedia
‘The Kenya Government, through its State Department of Livestock, should be applauded for its commitment to expand coverage through KLIP.
‘But only a small fraction of affected households are currently covered.
‘We urgently need to expand this program to more households because we know droughts will continue to afflict this region.
‘And we also know that under climate change, droughts are likely to occur here even more frequently in future.’
‘The Turkana are a Nilotic people native to the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, a semi-arid climate region bordering Lake Turkana in the east, Pokot, Rendille and Samburu people to the south, Uganda to the west, and South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north. They refer to their land as Turkan. According to the 2009 Kenyan census, Turkana number 855,399, or 2.5% of the Kenyan population, making the Turkana the third largest Nilotic ethnic group in Kenya, after the Kalenjin and the Luo, slightly more numerous than the Maasai, and the tenth largest ethnicity in all of Kenya.’ — Wikipedia
‘[T]he droughts that hit Kenya in 2009 and 2011 caused an estimated $12 billion in losses to the economy, of which 70 per cent was due to livestock sector losses alone. We can see the cost of this tragedy in people’s loss of livelihood and dignity.’
It’s been noted that contrary to the apparent situation in some pastoral groups, Turkana women are not more involved with small stock than with large stock husbandry. Small stock and large stock appear equally the concern of pastoral Turkana of all sexes and ages.
On the other hand, ‘Women in Turkana County are usually relegated to the periphery in many areas. They have lower political, social and economic status. In addition, the domestic and social burden mainly falls on the woman. The women are expected to undertake all the domestic chores like fetching water, firewood and looking after the children. The women also have the added burden of feeding their families.’ — County Integrated Development Plan, 2013–2017, Turkana County Government.
‘We can see the cost in their hunger and malnutrition, particularly for young children, for whom the costs of such early malnutrition endure throughout life, reducing their cognitive abilities and productive contributions to society.’
‘Turkana children usually look after sheep and goats, although some families take their children to schools. About 122,000 pupils are currently enrolled in the county’s 202 primary schools, with another 48,000 students attending high schools.’ — Kenya Information Guide
‘Offering insurance to more herding families is part of the answer.
‘The government needs to increase funding to KLIP and put in place transparent policy and operational frameworks that can help catalyse investment from the increasing number of private insurance companies and other commercial service providers interested in partnering with this insurance programme.’
‘To ensure sustainability, the government should consider partially subsidising the insurance premiums of all interested buyers rather than, as at present, paying the full premium amounts for a very small selected group of herders.’
‘We have seen bipartisan support for KLIP, and its recent successful payouts prove its value to Kenyans. . . .
‘[T]his is one program that all political parties and constituencies can and should support.’
‘I commend the concrete progress made by the current Government under the Kenya Livestock Insurance Programme.
‘Let’s build on this momentum and scale up this livestock insurance across all our arid lands.’
Andrew Mude is a principal economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the 2016 Norman Borlaug Field Award winner and a 2017 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. a.mude [at] cgiar.org
Read the whole commentary by ILRI’s Andrew Mude in The Standard:
Insurance only way to guard against weather-gone-awry phenomenon,
28 Apr 2017.
Read more about the Kenya Government’s Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP)
Kenyan Farmers to Benefit from Innovative Insurance Program, The World Bank, 12 March 2016.
Business of protecting wealth from drought, The Standard (Kenya), 7 Mar 2017.
Record payouts being made by Kenya Government and insurers to protect herders facing historic drought, ILRI News blog, 21 Feb 2017.
Sh214 million livestock insurance payout for drought-hit pastoralists, Business Daily (Kenya), 21 Feb 2017.
Livestock insurance in the Horn of Africa — The Guardian photoessay, ILRI Clippings blog, 11 Dec 2016.
On selling insurance (not lottery tickets) to Africa’s struggling (stargazing) livestock herders–New York Times, ILRI News blog, 11 Nov 2016.
Food prize puts Kenyan researcher on global map — Kenya’s Business Daily newspaper, ILRI Clippings blog, 2 Sep 2016
Watch short videos about this novel livestock insurance program
Govt. partners with seven insurance firms for livestock insurance cover, Kenyan Citizen TV, 20 Feb 2017.
Kenya drought insurance, CTGN, 13 Feb 2017.
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This article was first published on the ILRI News blog.