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Insuring livestock in Kenya, via satellite

Index-Based Livestock Insurance enables a private insurance company to create policies for northern Kenya’s herders. (John Warburton-Lee/Awl Images/Getty Images)

Camels mean cash in Kenya. But severe drought routinely kills off livestock, and families go bankrupt, unless they have an innovative insurance plan.

Brenda Wandera’s iPhone buzzes in her lap. A text message has made its way through the blurry heat of Kenya’s Chalbi Desert, and it changes her next move. “As soon as we get to Kalacha, we have to go to Network,” she says.

Go to Network, I wonder. That must be a Kenyan turn of phrase for “finding a cell tower.”

I’ve been warned that Kalacha is off the grid, which would make it one of the more remote corners of Africa, where mobile-phone and Internet service in even far-flung villages can be stronger and more regular than in parts of the American Southwest or Appalachia. Indeed, Kalacha is isolated. It sits in northern Kenya, about 40 miles from the border with Ethiopia, just at the edge of the Chalbi. Rounded huts of thatched grass zigzag across dry land. The horizon is dark and bulbous and looks very, very far away.

Our Land Cruiser drives toward one of those bulbs, a massive mound of volcanic rocks. Wandera hops out of the car, clutching her iPhone, and springs up the uneven hillock, 30 or so feet tall. At the top, a half dozen local women huddle on one edge. Their abayas — lemon-yellow, tomato-red, sequined garments — look especially colorful against the monochrome flatlands stretched out below. They chat on cell phones tucked under their tightly pulled scarves.

Read more….. by Jina Moore,  Miller Mc Cune (Feb 2012)

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