Nelly Bassily | November 23, 2009
When Jimale Irobe was a young man, he guided his cattle and camels through knee-high grass. He is now 64 and has seen the landscape of northern Kenya change. These days, scrubby blades of grass barely reach his ankles. There is never enough fodder to go around.
Kenya has not experienced a regular rainy season in the past three years. This year’s drought was devastating. It was followed by disastrous flooding. In northern Kenya, many pastoralists lost cattle. A new insurance program aims to protect pastoralist livelihoods from drought and floods.
The insurance program has been developed by the International Livestock Research Institute. It will be piloted in the Marsabit district of northern Kenya. Andrew Mude is an economist based at the institute. He says people in Marsabit are very interested.
The insurance program would work as follows. Pastoralists would pay about 3,800 Kenyan shillings (approximately 50 American dollars or 35 Euros) to insure up to six head of cattle. Households with more cattle would pay a higher rate.
The institute would then monitor the levels of rainfall in Marsabit. If a serious drought or flood occurred, the institute will be able to estimate cattle mortality rates. Participants in the insurance program would be automatically compensated. Compensation would be based on the estimated mortality rates. Therefore, pastoralists will not have to prove their livestock have died.
The institute describes the insurance plan as a way to protect pastoralists against climate change. It is also expected to reduce cattle rustling, since it is often an attempt to replenish livestock lost to drought or flood.
Two local insurance companies – UAP and Equity Bank – are in discussions with the institute to implement the program. It’s expected that pastoralists in Marsabit will be able to purchase livestock insurance starting in January.