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Livestock insurance – A chance to outsmart drought?

A village meeting in Dirib Gombo for farmers who took out livestock insurance to receive their first payout after a prolonged drought in the region. Credit: Neil Palmer/ CIAT

Marsabit District — The first thing that hits a visitor to Ginda village in northern Kenya is the smell.

Farmer Haro Sora’s land is littered with the carcasses of cattle and donkeys that have collapsed following an intense, prolonged drought. A skull here; half a ribcage there. In some places there are whole animals slumped on the roadside.

Ginda, in Marsabit District, has been hit by the Horn of Africa drought. It triggered a food crisis affecting around 13 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, by the time the rains finally returned to Ginda after more than a year.

The fact that the food crisis in the Horn was the result of a livestock crisis has been well documented. The area is a major pastoralist zone. When vegetation for grazing began to dry-up and livestock started to die, the knock-on effects on farmer livelihoods became strikingly clear.

Some observers balk at the idea of a financial institution selling insurance to already cash-strapped smallholder farmers to protect them against the risk of drought. The 650 livestock keepers in Marsabit, who are delighted to be receiving their first payouts, might give critics pause.

Sake Dabasso Halake stands proudly in front of Equity Bank’s Marsabit branch. She smiles, clutching an envelope filled with 16,000 Kenyan shillings that she just received. It was her insurance payout for the 10 cows she lost during the drought.

The Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme is run by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in collaboration with several technical partners, the government of Kenya and commercial partners UAP Insurance and Equity Bank. The project is funded by UKAID, USAID and the World Bank, among others.

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