Crop insurance eases burden on farmers in southern Kenya

As a result of the drought, a total of US$41,500 was paid out to farmers

Martin Karimi
World Food Programme Insight
4 min readNov 2, 2017


A group of 963 farmers in Kitui County, southern Kenya participated in the first pilot of a crop insurance initiative known as the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4). Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi.

It is planting season in Kitui County, one of the marginal agricultural regions in the southern parts of Kenya.

The fields are ready. The stalks from the previous crop all cleared out. Farmers are eagerly waiting for the rains, including 45-year old Munyange Kilonzi.

“I hope that this season will be good,” she says. “Last season was poor. The harvest was dismal because the rains failed.”

Unfortunately this is not the only season that has performed poorly.

“The last time we had a bumper harvest was a couple of years back,” Munyange adds.

Total crop failure is devastating, and it is becoming all too common.

Perennial losses

This is where Munyange Kilonzi stores her food. Following a poor harvest in June, the rack is empty save for a couple of maize combs and a few handfuls of cowpeas pods. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi.

Failed harvests are taking a huge toll on farmers in Kenya. The weather patterns have changed and rains have become more and more unreliable.

“I planted green grams, sorghum and cowpeas,” explains Munyange. “The green grams crop failed completely and I was only able to harvest about 10 kg of cowpeas and 5 kg of sorghum.” In a good season, her three-acre plot should give her about three 90-kg bags of green grams, three bags of cowpeas and a bag of sorghum.

Farmers like Munyange rely on the harvest to feed their families, pay for medicine and school fees. With more frequent and increasing weather-related shocks such as droughts, farmers are forced to take desperate measures, such as selling their assets or taking their children out of school.

Facing climate risks with insurance protection

To address this problem and support farmers better face climate shocks, the UN World Food Programme has introduced crop insurance through the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4) in Kitui in 2017.

R4 is a strategic partnership with Oxfam America that enables the poorest farmers to access crop insurance by participating in risk reduction activities including building community assets such as water ponds and soil-conserving terraces.

When a shock hits, compensation for weather-related losses prevents farmers from having to take desperate measures and stimulates faster recovery. By protecting farmers’ investments in case of a bad season, R4 enables them to afford quality seeds, fertilizers and new technologies in the next season.

Munyange is one of the 963 farmers who enrolled in the first R4 pilot in Kenya. Because of the dry season and lack of rainfall, insurance payouts were triggered and a total of US$41,500 distributed to the group. The payouts will enable affected families to purchase agricultural inputs for the next season or alternatively, cover the food gap for two months.

Increasing adoption of dryland farming methods

Farmers participating in the R4 insurance initiative are required to adopt dryland farming methods such moisture conserving pits and to grow one of these drought-resistant crops: green grams, cowpeas, sorghum or millet. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi.

“I’m happy with the cash payout,” says Munyange. “This will help me buy seeds and fertilizer.”

“We experienced close to a total crop failure,” says Joyce Raphael Mwasa, another farmer in Kwa Vonza. “I will use the money to buy some maize for food and buy seeds with the remainder.”

Farmers involved in assets creation activities, receive a monthly cash transfer of US$20 in return for days worked on various assets such as the moisture retaining pits, water ponds, and soil-conserving terraces. The farmers were asked to increase the time spent on building community assets as a contribution to the insurance premium.

“We worked extra days to be eligible for the insurance cover during the short rains,” Munyange explains. “It is hard work but at the end of the day, we are developing our own farms — so we stand to gain even more.”

R4 will extend the insurance cover to 5,200 farmers in Kitui during the 2017 short rains starting in October, working in collaboration with the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MoALF), the County Government of Kitui, the Catholic Diocese of Kitui, and private sector partners. The Ministry has committed to include the covered families in the Kenya Agriculture Insurance Programme so that they can benefit from a 50 percent insurance premium subsidy.

In 2018, R4 plans to scale up to 10,000 farmers for the short rains in Kitui, and in five years the programme will reach two other marginal counties — Kilifi and Makueni.

Farmers participating in this initiative are required to grow at least one of these drought-resistant crops: green grams, cowpeas, sorghum or millet.

Click here to read more about R4 Rural Resilience Initiative.