Zimbabwe: Insurance against unpredictable weather creates security for livestock and crop farmers (by Nqobani Ndlovu, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| April 7, 2014

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Fortune Dliwayo wishes he could forget the year 2010. Mr. Dliwayo is a livestock farmer in Guyu, in the province of Matabeleland South, a part of Zimbabwe known for cattle ranching. In the nightmare year of 2010, he lost 25 of his 36 cattle to drought.

Cattle farming in this area is largely dependent on rain-fed pasture lands. But the poor rains in 2010 dried up grasslands and water sources. More than 9,000 cattle died due to drought in Matebeland South.

The drought forced Mr. Dliwayo to embrace crop and livestock insurance. He explains: “I was never for the idea of paying monthly premiums, but the 2010 drought forced me to do so. I can now make claims and be refunded to restock whenever my cattle die for whatever reason.”

His livestock policy covers losses resulting from fires, lightning, diseases, accidents, explosion and electrocution. Mr. Dliwayo is one of the many small-scale farmers who have bought policies to protect against crop failures and livestock deaths.

Insurance companies charge farmers between $50 and $500 per month. Mr. Dliwayo pays $70 per month for his policy.

Noreen Mukombwe is a farmer from Umguza in Matabeleland North province. An agricultural extension worker encouraged her to insure her crops.

She notes, “I was reluctant to join these policies, [but] ever since I started insuring my crops, it has been worth it − especially with unpredictable weather patterns like poor rains.”

Her policy covers losses caused by fire, lightning and flooding in planted crops such as maize. Ms. Mukombwe says she does not pay premiums all year round; she pays only for the time period for which she is covered − from planting till her crops are delivered to the buyers.

Berean Mukwende is the Vice President of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, or ZFU. He says the organization encourages farmers to insure their crops and livestock, and that insurance cannot be ignored by any serious farmer.

Mr. Mukwende says: “[Insurance] creates a sense of security for any farmer when they face challenges. Farming cannot survive where there is no funding, and insurance cover is one source of funding needed for the sector.”

Mr. Mukwende says ZFU knows that farmers need a lot of education on the benefits of crop and livestock insurance. He says ZFU has no statistics on the number of small-scale farmers who are now insuring their crops and livestock.

Econet is Zimbabwe’s largest provider of mobile telecommunications. Late last year, the company also introduced crop and livestock insurance. Under their scheme, farmers get coverage for as little as eight US cents per day, which is deducted from their prepaid phone account during the farming season.

If there is no rain, registered farmers are given up to US$100 for every 10 kilograms of seed they planted.

Mr. Dliwayo hopes he will be able to build up his business and enter the export trade. He says: “I am encouraged by the fact that, despite the risks associated with livestock farming like cattle dying …  I can always be assisted to restock when the unexpected happens, and achieve my dream.”