Playing is Believing

Insurance Games with Farmers Promote Mutual Understanding of Climate Risk Concepts

Mrs. Sudawarti is the kepala dusun, or elected leader, of Klampisan hamlet in East Java, Indonesia. With this position, she holds particular responsibility for the wellbeing of her hamlet. In addition to farming rice and maize, she organizes the hamlet’s workforce, procures subsidized fertilizer and seed, and coordinates for farmers that may need help from the government’s agriculture extension service. The person in this position usually holds their office until they’re 60 years old.

The GIF above was taken during a recent trip in Indonesia conducted jointly between IRI, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), and Bogor Agricultural University to expand index insurance products in Indonesia. In the GIF, Mrs. Sudawarti is playing a game designed by SFSA and IRI’s Financial Instruments Sector Team to familiarize farmers with the concept of agricultural index insurance, and allows them an opportunity to trial the concept of insurance within their own experience.

The game also helps scientists better understand particular needs of farmers who make agricultural decisions on their farms while trying to handle climate risk.

In the games, farmers role-play the decisions they often make during a growing season, such as what kinds of seeds to plant, or the amount they are willing to invest in better quality inputs. The game also incorporates the ability to choose to buy insurance or not, and explores the limitations of insurance products. At the end of each round, the farmers draw blindly out of hat to find out if the growing season would suffer from a drought.

In this case, Mrs. Sudawarti picked a drought year, but since she had chosen to invest in insurance, she received a hypothetical insurance payout, and expressed her relief with her very communicative laugh.

“Playing those games with farmers is usually the best part of our trips,” said Mélody Braun, one of the IRI team members. “We don’t always use the term ‘games’ in the local languages, because in some cultural contexts it can be perceived as a waste of time, or an activity reserved to children. However, games always help break the ice and enable us to unpack complex concepts in a participatory, playful atmosphere.”

The enthusiasm from Indonesian farmers during index insurance games isn’t a surprise. On a previous trip, local partners incorporated into the games the songs that farmers usually sing during various activities of the growing season — e.g. planting and harvest songs. Video from that here.