Index-based livestock insurance pilot launches today in drought-prone northern Kenya’s Wajir County

Kenya: drought leaves dead and dying animals in northen Kenya

Kenya: dead and dying animals in previous drought in Arbajahan, in northern Kenya’s Wajir County (photo credit: Brendan Cox / Oxfam).

Today (Sat 10 Aug 2013), Takaful Insurance of Africa is launching a pilot project providing satellite date-based livestock insurance cover for pastoral livestock herders in the drought-prone drylands of northern Kenya’s Wajir County.

The Takaful Livestock cover will provide livestock keepers in the county with covers against livestock deaths resulting from shortage of fodder due to prolonged dry weather.

Those who subscribe to this insurance policy will receive payments if the forage available for their insured cattle, camels, sheep or goats falls below a given threshold, with assessment of the state of vegetative cover in the county determined by satellite data.

Takaful Insurance is partnering in this project with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and MercyCorps. ILRI, under the leadership of Andrew Mude, is providing the satellite data and MercyCorps is coordinating public awareness campaigns.

Among those who will be in attendance are:

  • Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI
  • Andrew Mude, leader of ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project
  • Abdihafith Maalim, deputy governor of Wajir County
  • Liesbeth Zonnoveld, country director of Mercy Corps
  • Hassan Bashir, chief executive officer of Takaful Insurance of Africa

The launch of this new livestock insurance scheme, the first ever provided in this county, begins at 12 noon at the Wajir Guest House in Wajir town.

About Takaful Insurance of Africa
Founded in 2008 and licensed in Mar 2011 by the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), Takaful Insurance of Africa Limited (TIA) is pioneering an ethical approach to insurance in Kenya and the region based on the Shariah principles of togetherness, cooperation and mutual solidarity. Each participant contributes a given premium, which is pooled in a general fund managed by TIA on behalf of the members. Through the principle of Tabarru’, or donation, members allow the company to pay any loses suffered by participants contributing to the pool, while any surplus left from the pooled funds after payment of claims and other expenses is either used to grow the reserves or is distributed among members.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) ILRI is a not-for-profit institution with a staff of about 600 and, in 2012, an operating budget of about USD 60 million. A member of the CGIAR Consortium working for a food-secure future, ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and offices in other countries in East, West and Southern Africa and in South, Southeast and East Asia. ILRI works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.

Read more about ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project

Index-Based Livestock Insurance Blog

ILRI Clippings Blog
Livestock keepers in Kenya’s northern Isiolo District to get livestock-drought insurance for first time, 30 Jul 2013

ILRI News Blog
‘Livestock insurance project an excellent example of innovative risk management in Kenya’s arid lands’ Kenyan minister, 10 Sep 2012
Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance, 22 Feb 2012
Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders, 26 Oct 2011
Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa, 25 Oct 2011
Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments, 21 Oct 2011

Dryland agriculture program launched for developing countries: Hot topic for a hot climate

Coping with Disaster: Sandstorm in Kenya

A sandstorm on the western shore of Lake Baringo (photo on Flickr by UN/Ray Witlin).

A new science program launched in Jordan last week—the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems—is setting itself a huge ambition: To help many of the 2.5 billion people living in the vast drylands of the developing world raise their levels of both food production and security. A CGIAR Fund is supporting the program’s first three years of work to the tune of 120 million dollars.

This is the latest ‘research for development’ program of CGIAR, a global enterprise conducting ‘agricultural research for a food-secure future’. Some ten thousand scientific and support staff in the CGIAR community are at work with hundreds of organizations worldwide to design enduring food systems, via new means for healthy and productive lives and lands, across the whole of the developing world.

More than 60 research and development organizations, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are part of this new drylands program. It is targeting dryland farmers, livestock keepers and pastoral herders in some of the hottest dryland hotspots of both Africa (West Africa’s Sahel and dry savannas as well as the extensive arid and semi-arid lands of North, East and Southern Africa) and Asia (West and Central Asia, including the Caucasus, and South Asia).

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen leads the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems in East and Southern Africa, where, in the coming years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over some 600,000 square kilometres.

The program as a whole is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which, like ILRI, is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. Scientific, development, agri-business and local experts are joining forces to find new ways to help communities living in the harshest drylands to become more resilient and to help those in better-endowed drylands to increase their agricultural yields and incomes without degrading their natural resource base.

The dry areas of the developing world are likely to experience increasing poverty, out-migration and food insecurity’, says Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, adding that climate change is worsening agricultural and related livelihood prospects in many dry regions of the developing world.

The many scientists and partners in this program will investigate all options and combinations of options, including dryland cropping, livestock raising, mixed (agro-pastoral) crop-and-livestock production, integrating trees or shrubs in cropping and animal husbandry practices (agroforestry), and making diverse and sustainable use of different kinds of rangeland and aquatic resources. Among options to be developed are more sustainable farming techniques and management of water, land and other natural resources; genetically improved crop varieties and livestock breeds tailored for dryland environments; more enabling policy environments and infrastructure; and user-friendly ‘climate smart’ strategies and technologies.

Given the importance of agriculture to dryland developing countries, where farming remains the backbone of the economy but land is degraded, water scarce, rainfall and temperatures increasingly unpredictable, and civil strife (uncommonly) common, it will profit all of us to make sure that the world’s dryland communities can in future earn a decent living and produce food securely.

Note
The kinds of research, investment and policy support this sector needs to move forward in the face of climate change are outlined in a press release and report on Strategies for combating climate change in drylands agriculture, published in 2012 by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), ICARDA and the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems. The report examined the problem of changing climate patterns in dryland areas and its effects on rural populations and offered practical solutions as input to the Conference of the Parties (COP18) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The information came from discussions at the International Conference on Food Security in Dry Lands, held in Doha, Qatar, 14–15 Nov 2012.

Read a recent book, Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones. Published in 2012 by Routeledge, the book includes a chapter by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?, written by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen and colleagues. Parts of the book are available on Google books here.

Other related articles
ILRI News Blog: Pastoral livestock development in the Horn: Where the centre cannot (should not) hold, 31 Dec 2012.
ILRI News Blog: Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers, 6 Jun 2012.
ILRI News Blog: Experts comment on new drylands research program for eastern and southern Africa, 25 Jun 2012.

About the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems
The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems integrates research disciplines to bring rural communities living in the world’s dry areas practical solutions for improved livelihoods and food security. The program develops and refines strategies and tools that minimize risk and reduce vulnerability in low-potential drylands while helping farmers and herders in higher potential drylands to intensify their food production in sustainable ways.

Lowering the ‘water footprint’ of livestock products

vietnam fodder10_lo

A smallholder livestock farm in Dak Nong Province, Vietnam. Animals raised in mixed systems have a much lower water footprint on surface and groundwater bodies than those in industrialized farming systems (Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

A leading researcher in water resources says that the efficiency of water use in smallholder livestock systems in Africa could be raised significantly through such means as reducing levels of concentrate feed used in livestock feeding systems, raising more livestock in drylands unsuitable for crop farming, and greater cooperation between livestock sector players and water management experts.

Arjen Hoekstra, a professor in water management from the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, made these remarks during a ‘Livestock live talk’ on ‘The water footprint of livestock products’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 7 Feb 2013.

According to Hoekstra, every commodity has a water footprint –‘the volume of fresh water that is used to produce the commodity, summed over the various steps of the production chain’. This footprint includes when and where the water was used and the temporal and spatial dimensions of the water used.

About 4% of the global water footprint comes from domestic water use, but by far most of the world’s water footprint – 96% – is ‘invisible’ and is associated with agricultural and industrial products bought in markets.

‘Ninety-two per cent of humanity’s water footprint comes from agricultural production, and animal production is responsible for 29% of the water footprint of the global agricultural sector,’ said Hoekstra. Agriculture-related water use inefficiencies in developing countries contribute to a farming water footprint that is much larger in these countries than in developed countries.

Hoekstra presented results from a series of studies that looked at the globalization of water, the water footprint of animals and what can be done to reduce it. These studies focus on components of water consumption and water pollution in producing market commodities, including the volume of rain, surface or ground water evaporated or incorporated into a product and the volume of polluted water resulting from the processes of producing specific commodities.

His results show that in food production, animal products such as beef, poultry and pork had a consistently higher footprint than crops such as wheat and soybean.

‘The higher water footprint of animal products is mostly related to the origin and composition of animal feeds and the feed conversion efficiency’, said Hoekstra. ‘Whether concentrates are organic or conventional determines the pollution-related water footprint of the feed.’

Hoekstra noted that animals raised in grazing and mixed systems had a much lower water footprint on surface and groundwater bodies than those in industrialized farming systems. ‘Even though the conversion of feed to livestock product (milk or meat) improves as one moves from grazing to industrial systems, this is at the cost of more high-nutrient concentrate feed, which has a larger water footprint than roughages,’ he said.

Water footprint assessment is a growing field. ‘In future’, Hoekstra said, ‘stakeholders have the challenge of coming up with shared terminologies and calculations for a global water footprint standard and setting up benchmarks for quantitative water footprint reduction targets.’ A Water Footprint Network that brings together academia, governments and the private and public sectors has already been established towards this end.

View Arjen Hoekstra’s presentation:

Read a related article by Jane Gitau in ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment blog.

Pastoral livestock development in the Horn: Where the centre cannot (should not) hold

Pastoralism and Development in Africa

Who eats better, pastoral children in mobile herding or settled communities? (answer: mobile). Which kind of tropical lands are among those most at risk of being grabbed by outsiders for development? (rangelands). Are pastoral women benefitting at all from recent changes in pastoral livelihoods? (yes). Which region in the world has the largest concentration of camel herds in the the world? (Horn of Africa). Where are camel export opportunities the greatest? (Kenya/Ethiopa borderlands). Is the growth of ‘town camels and milk villages’ in the Somali region of Ethiopia largely the result of one man’s (desperate) innovation? (yes). Which is the more productive dryland livestock system, ranching or pastoralism? (pastoralism). Is irrigation involving pastoralists new? (no). Are we missing opportunities to make irrigated agriculture a valuable alternative or additional livelihoods to pastoralism? (perhaps).

The answers to these and other fascinating questions most of us will never have thought to even ask are found in a new book, Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, of the Feinstein International Center, at Tufts University; Jeremy Lind, of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and Future Agricultures Consortium; and Ian Scoones, of the Institute of Development Studies, the STEPS Centre and the Future Agricultures Consortium. Published in 2012, it includes a chapter by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?

Thirty-six experts in pastoral development update us on what’s so in pastoral development in the Greater Horn of Africa, highlighting innovation and entrepreneurialism, cooperation and networking and diverse approaches rarely in line with standard development prescriptions. The book highlights diverse pathways of development, going beyond the standard ‘aid’ and ‘disaster’ narratives. The book’s editors argue that ‘by making the margins the centre of our thinking, a different view of future pathways emerges’. Contributions to the book were originally presented at an international conference on The Future of Pastoralism in Africa, held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in Mar 2011.

Here are a few of the book’s ‘unstandard’ ways of looking at pastoralism.

‘Overall, mainstream pastoral development is a litany of failure. . . . Pastoral borderlands are . . . beyond the reach of the state, and so the development industry.  ·  Perhaps no other livelihood system has suffered more from biased language and narratives than pastoralism. . . . Hidden in these narratives also are political agendas that perceive mobile pastoralism as a security and political threat to the state, and, therefore, in need of controlling or eliminating.  ·  To avoid the Malthusian label, or simply out of ignorance, many social scientists have neglected the important implications of demographic trends in pastoral areas. . . . Some of the fastest growing towns in Kenya are in pastoralist districts.  ·  Local demand for education is consistently high among pastoralists, a pattern that was not the case even 10–15 years ago.  ·   It seems feasible . . . to propose a pastoral livestock and meat trade value approaching US$1 billion for the Horn in 2010.  ·  The past dominant livestock practice characterized as traditional mobile pastoralism” is increasingly rare. . . . The creation of a relatively elite commercial class within pastoral societies is occurring at a rapid pace in some areas.  ·  . . . [P]astoral lands are vulnerable to being grabbed. On a scale never before envisioned, the most valued pastoral lands are being acquired through state allocation or purchase . . . . The Tana Delta sits at the precipice of an unprecedented transformation as a range of investors seek to acquire large tracts of land to produce food and biofuels and extract minerals, often at the expense of pastoralists’ access to key resources. . . . A notable facet of changing livelihoods in the Tana Delta is the increasingly important role of women in the diversifying economy, a trend seen elsewhere in the region. . . . Until now, pastoralists have been mostly unsuccessful at challenging proposed land deals through the Kenyan courts.  ·  The shift from a breeding herd to a trading herd is perhaps the biggest shift in Maasai pastoralism.  ·  Although drought is a perennial risk to pastoralist livelihoods, an emerging concern is securing access to high value fodder and other resources to support herds, in areas where rangelands are becoming increasingly fragmented due to capture of key resource sites.  ·  During the 2009–2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, several hundred pastoralists who participated in an Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) scheme in northern Kenya received cash payments.  ·  Despite its many challenges, mobile pastoralism will continue in low-rainfall rangelands throughout the Horn for the simple reason that a more viable, alternative land use system for these areas has not been found. . . . But the nature of pastoralism in 2030 will be very different than today in 2012. . . .’

One of the book’s chapters is on Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism? It was written by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen (USA), whose broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies; and her ILRI colleagues Jan de Leeuw (Netherlands), an ecologist specializing in rangelands (who has since moved to ILRI’s sister Nairobi CGIAR centre, the World Agroforestry Centre); Mohammed Said (Kenyan), an ecologist specializing in remote sensing and community mapping; Philip Thornton (UK) and Mario Herrero (Costa Rica), agricultural systems analysts who focus on the impacts of climate and other changes on the world’s poor countries and communities; and An Notenbaert (Belgium), a land use planner and spatial analyst.

The ILRI scientists argue that if we’re going to find ways to adapt to climate change, we’re going to need to learn from pastoralists — who, after all, are demonstrably supreme managers of highly variable climates in addition to rapidly changing social, economic and political contexts — about how to make sustainable and profitable, if cyclical and opportunistic, use of increasingly scarce, temporally erratic and spatially scattered water, land, forage and other natural resources.

In important respects, pastoral people are at the forefront of responses to climate change, given their experience managing high climate variability over the centuries. Insights from pastoral systems are critical for generating wider lessons for climate adaptation responses.’

What scientists don’t know about climate change in these and other drylands, they warn, is much, much greater than what we do know. So:

The key question is how to make choices today given uncertainties of the future.’

Because ‘the more arid a pastoral environment, the less predictable the rainfall’, and because ‘vegetation growth closely follows rainfall amount, frequency and duration, . . . the primary production of rangelands is variable in time and space’, with the primary driver of this variability in livestock production in pastoral areas being the availability or scarcity of forages for feeding herds of ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, sheep, goats, camels). In severe or prolonged droughts, forage and water scarcity become a lethal combination, killing animals en masse. The authors quote former ILRI scientist David Ndedianye, a Maasai from the Kitengela rangelands in Nairobi’s backyard, and other ILRI colleagues who report in a 2011 paper on pastoral mobility that pastoral livestock losses in a 2005 drought in the Horn were between 14 and 43% in southern Kenya and as high as 80% in a drought devastating the same region in 2009. It may take four or five years for a herd to recover after a major drought.

Map of flip in temperatures above and below 30 degrees C
Maps of a flip in temperatures above 30 degrees C. Left: Threshold 4 — maximum temperature flips to greater than 30°C. Right: Threshold 5 — maximum temperature in the growing season flips to greater than 30°C. Map credit: Polly Ericksen et al., Mapping hotspots of climate change and food insecurity in the global tropics, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), 2011.

Evidence from a range of modelling efforts was used by the authors to calculate places in the global tropics where maximum temperatures are predicted to flip from less than 30 degrees C to greater than 30 degrees C by 2050. This temperature threshold is a limit for a number of staple crops, including maize beans and groundnut. Heat stress also affects grass and livestock productivity. Large areas in East African may undergo this flip, according to these models, although the authors warn that these predictions remain highly uncertain.

Thornton and Herrero in a background paper to the World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report investigated the impacts of increased drought frequency on livestock herd dynamics in Kenya’s Kajiado District. ‘Their results indicate that drought every five years keeps the herds stable as it allows sufficient time for the herds to re-establish. A once in three year drought interval by contrast drives livestock density to lower levels . . . . Hence, if there is a greater frequency of drought under climate change, this might have a lasting impact on stocking density, and the productivity of pastoral livestock systems.

The results were extrapolated to all arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya and estimated that 1.8 million animals could be lost by 2030 due to increased drought frequency, with a combined value of US$630 million due to losses in animals, milk and meat production. . . .’

In the face of changes in climate (historical and current), many pastoralists will change the species of animals they keep, or change the composition of the species in their herds. In the space of three decades (between 1997/8 and 2005–10) in Kenya, for example, the ratio of shoats (sheep and goats) to cattle kept increased significantly. Goats, as well as camels, are more drought tolerant than cattle, and also prefer browse to grasses.

Such changes in species mix and distribution will have important implications for overall livestock productivity and nutrition, as well as milk production.’

While change is and always has been fundamental to pastoralist livelihood strategies, much more—and much more rapid and diverse—change is now sweeping the Horn and many of the other drylands of the world, with local population explosions and increasing rangeland fragmentation and civil conflicts coming on top of climate and other global changes whose nature remains highly uncertain. New threats are appearing, as well as new opportunities.

While the ILRI team argues that we can and should look to pastoralist cultures, strategies and innovations for insights into how the wider world can adapt better to climate change, they also say that ‘development at the margins’ is going to be successful only where pastoralists, climate modellers and other scientists  work together:

. . . [A]daptation and response strategies in increasingly variable environments must emerge from grounded local experience and knowledge, as well as be informed by increasingly sophisticated [climate] modeling efforts.’

Support for the conference and book came from the UK Department for International Development, the United States Agency for International Development in Ethiopia, and CORDAID. Purchase the book from Routledge (USD44.96 for the paperback edition): Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, first issued in paperback 2012, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones, Oxon, UK, and New York: Routledge and Earthscan, 328 pages. You’ll find parts of the book available on Google books here.

To read the ILRI chapter—Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa: What consequences for pastoralism?, by Polly Ericksen, Jan de Leeuw, Philip Thornton, Mohammed Said, Mario Herrero and An Notenbaert—contact ILRI communications officer Jane Gitau at j.w.gitau [at] cgiar.org.

‘Livestock insurance project an excellent example of innovative risk management in Kenya’s arid lands’ – Kenyan minister

Kenya Rural Development Programme launch in Kiboko, Kenya

Marjaana Sall, deputy head of delegation of the European Union to Kenya, Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, Mohammed Elmi, Kenya’s minister of state for development of northern Kenya and other arid lands and Romano Kiome, permanent secretary in Kenya’s ministry of agriculture at the launch of the Kenya Rural Development Programme (KRDP) at the KARI centre in Kiboko, Makueni on 7 Sept 2012 (photo credit ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Kenya’s minister of state for development of northern Kenya and other arid lands, Mohamed Elmi, has praised a livestock insurance project implemented in Kenya by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners for its role in improving the productivity of the country’s drought-prone arid and semi-arid lands.

‘The index-based livestock insurance project in Marsabit District is an excellent example not just of innovative risk management, but of how, with thought and imagination, basic services such as insurance can be brought within reach of those previously excluded,’ said Elmi.

The minister was speaking last week (7 Sep 2012) at the launch of a five-year Kenya Rural Development Programme at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute rangeland research station at Kiboko, located in Makueni County. Representatives from the Kenya government, the European Union and international research organizations, including ILRI, participated in the launch.

The Kenya Rural Development Programme is a new five-year agricultural support program funded by the European Union at 66 million euros. It is seeking to improve drought response and management and agricultural productivity in the country’s arid lands and to reduce the vulnerability of people living in these areas.

Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, who attended the launch, said the index-based livestock insurance project is making rangelands-based livelihoods more sustainable.

‘Promoting food security and reducing poverty in arid areas is a key priority for the government. I’m delighted the minister highlighted the role IBLI is playing in this process; ILRI is committed to making an important contribution,’ said Smith.

The insurance project, which was piloted in Marsabit District, in northern Kenya, in 2010, is a component of the Kenya Rural Development Programme. The project is a result of collaborative efforts between ILRI, UAP Insurance, Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative, based at the University of California at Davis. A second phase of the project, which started in southern Ethiopia in August 2012, has received 1 million euros from the European Union.

‘The Kenya Rural Development Programme responds to the development needs of the rural people in Kenya and the support given by the European Union to the agricultural sector will improve the lives of people in the country,’ said Marjaana Sall, deputy head of delegation of the European Union to Kenya.

The event featured displays of European Union-funded activities in Kenya’s rangelands from the Kenya Rural Development Programme, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and ILRI, among other exhibitors, and was attended by local community members and farmers in Kiboko.

Read recent stories about index-based livestock insurance: http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/8149

Read more about the Kenya Rural Development Programme: http://www.dmikenya.or.ke/

Experts comment on new drylands research program for eastern and southern Africa

Watch this brief ILRI video (run-time under 7 minutes) of quick comments made by six participants following a recent inception workshop hosted by ILRI to plan work in eastern and southern Africa by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

Excerpts of the filmed interviews follow.

Iain Wright, CGIAR/ILRI

There’s been lots of discussions on what we call the ‘impact pathway’—how do we get our research products and research outputs to have an impact on the lives of tens of millions of people who live in these drylands?

Peter Thorne, CGIAR/ILRI
We’re trying to get to what are the desirable developmental outcomes of this program and what research outputs will contribute to those outcomes.

As we move into the more marginal areas, issues of risk, vulnerability and resilience become much more important and we have to tread much more carefully intensifying those kinds of systems. It’s not us researchers who have to bear the risk; it’s the farmers or pastoralists who are engaged in them. So we have quite a lot of responsibility.

Farmers with vulnerable livelihoods have to be risk averse. If we produce technologies that don’t account for that, then we run into this longstanding problem of lack of adoption.

There’s no point our doing the research if it can’t be adopted. And that’s why we want to tie research outputs to developmental outcomes.

Jonathan Davies, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
This meeting has brought all these different disciplines together, which is what’s necessary. It resonates with what I’m trying to work on, which is ecosystem-scale planning.

If you want to protect ecosystems as the basis of life, as the basis of food or other kind of welfare, you can’t approach them from different sectors. You have to treat them as one thing, one entity, and figure out how to manage them as such.

And people don’t deal well with that sort of complexity, especially when you add people and livelihoods and economies into the mix. That’s far too complex for people to handle; they need much more simple things to deal with.

I think this meeting might take us towards that, not just to have tools or research but to have people who can think across all the different systems and at the necessary scale.

John Lynam, consultant/smallholder agricultural specialist
One of the challenges and opportunities of these new CGIAR research programs is determining how research can be better integrated into the development process. We have been too separate in the past. That integration necessarily is going to involve partnerships.

You can’t work with everybody, so there’s going to have to be some whittling down to a number of partnerships that actually work. But that’s one of the opportunities of these new CGIAR research programs.

Florence Wambugu, NGO/Africa Harvest
Regarding adoption of technology, the main thing the farmer wants to know is, ‘Can I find those improve breeds of cows or seeds or whatever it is—can I find it? Where do I find it?’ The next information farmers want to have is agronomic: ‘How do I get value from recommended foliage, from health care, from vaccination’. And the most important market is the home market: ‘Can I drink the milk? What kind of surplus and income can I generate?’

We have to consider the whole value chain and to begin to think of how to remove barriers and bottlenecks in the value chain. We need to take the research into farmer’s lives, and to do that we need partnerships that can make this work.

Wycliffe Kumwenda, NGO/National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi
Several factors are responsible for technologies not being adopted by farmers. In Malawi, like in other countries of Africa, the landholding size is small—on average, one hectare. From that one hectare, the smallholder farmer is supposed to produce enough to eat, and at the same time, to have money to send the children to school and to hospital.

The key drivers of adoption of technology by the smallholder farmer are the principles of extension, which are: The farmer wants to see, the farmer wants to hear, and the farmer wants to touch.

 

Who’s who

Iain Wright is an animal nutritionist with 30 years of experience in developing agricultural systems for both agricultural and environmental objectives, the effect of policy on livestock systems and the role of agriculture in rural development; Wright is director of People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, one of ILRI’s three global research themes, and is based in Addis Ababa, where he also serves as ILRI’s representative to Ethiopia.

Peter Thorne, also based in Addis Ababa, is a crop-livestock systems scientist with expertise in feed, water, information and other resources needed by smallholder mixed crop-livestock farmers. Formerly working for the Natural Resources Institute, at the University of Greenwich, in Kent, UK, Thorne joined ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment Theme at the beginning of 2012.

Jonathan Davies, an agricultural economist specializing in rangeland ecology and nomadic pastoralism, heads the Global Drylands Program at IUCN, in Nairobi, which works to overturn the widely held belief that drylands are wastelands by providing evidence that conservation of drylands, which cover 40 per cent of the earth’s surface, is critical not only to millions of their inhabitants but also to our global environment.

John Lynam, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation and an independent Nairobi-based consultant since 2000, has worked for three decades for smallholder-led agricultural development in Latin America, Africa and Asia within diverse programs and approaches, from commodities to farming systems to natural resource management.

Florence Wambugu, a plant scientist and biotechnology expert and the founder, director and chief executive officer of the non-profit, Nairobi-based Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, has won numerous awards and served on many distinguished boards of directors due to her longstanding work and commitment to increase food production in Africa.

Wycliffe Kumwenda is with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, which, through a network of smallholder-owned business organizations, promotes farming as a business, develops the commercial capacity of its members and enhances their productivity.

For more on this workshop and related matters, see:

ILRI News Blog: Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers, 6 Jun 2012

ILRI News Blog: Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012

ILRI Clippings Blog: Hunger in Sahel worsens as ‘lean season’ begins: ‘The worst is yet to come’, 14 Jun 2012.

CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems website.

Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand

Kitengela rangeland in Kenya: Fencing

Research by ILRI is helping pastoralists in the Kitengela ecosystem better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources (photo: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A paper by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that shares experiences from a project that worked to help Kenyan pastoralists better manage their lands, livestock and wildlife resources has won the 2012 Sustainability Science Award.

The yearly award is given by the Ecological Society of America to the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the preceding five years that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.

The winning paper, ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, was published in 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a prestigious American science journal. The paper shared experimental work in boundary-spanning research from the Reto-o-Reto (Maasai for ‘I help you, you help me’) project, which was implemented between 2003 and 2008 to help balance action in poverty alleviation and wildlife conservation in four pastoral ecosystems in East Africa, including the Kitengela pastoral ecosystem just south of Nairobi National Park.

Lessons from this project supported the development and adoption of a land-use master plan in Kitengela, which is now helping Maasai pastoralists better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources.

The announcement of this award comes at an appropriate time, just as an inception workshop takes place on ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week (Jun 5-7) for the eastern and southern Africa component of a CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agriculture.

The following story, written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith in 2010, shares experiences of pastoralists in Kitengela, their challenges and their hopes, as a result of this award-winning project.

Saving the plains

Talk to the Maasai who herd their cattle across the Athi-Kaputiei Plains to the south of Nairobi and they’ll tell you that the last (2009–2010) drought was one of the worst in living memory. ‘Many people lost almost all their livestock,’ says pastoralist William Kasio. ‘The vultures were so full they couldn’t eat any more. Even the lions had had enough.’

At the slaughterhouse in Kitengela, over 20,000 emaciated cattle were burned and buried during the drought, and the surrounding plains were littered with sun-bleached carcasses. But for the Maasai, droughts are nothing new, and indeed many believe there is an even graver threat to their survival as cattle herders. ‘Land sales, and the subdivision and fencing off of open land—that’s been the biggest problem we’ve faced in recent years,’ says Kasio, chairman of a marketing organization based at the slaughterhouse.

A generation ago, livestock and wildlife ranged freely across the plains. Today, their movements are hindered by fences, roads, quarries, cement works, flower farms and new buildings. If the development trends of the past decade continue, then the pastoral way of life, and the great wildlife migrations in and out of Nairobi National Park, could become little more than a memory. But now, thanks to a community-inspired planning exercise, there’s a good chance this won’t happen.

The Athi-Kaputiei land-use ‘master plan’, launched in 2011, provides the local council with the legislative teeth it needs to ensure that large expanses of land remain free of fencing, and that new developments are confined to specific areas. ‘We see the master plan as our survival strategy,’ says Stephen Kisemei, a member of Olkejuado County Council. ‘It means we can now plan for the future in a way we never could before.’

The master plan is the culmination of years of research and discussion involving local communities, the council, central government and a range of organizations involved in conservation and animal husbandry. ‘It’s been a very democratic process,’ explains Ogeli Makui of the African Wildlife Foundation. ‘The council and the Department of Physical Planning drafted the master plan, but the Maasai landowners’ associations and other local groups were closely involved in all the discussions.’

Since 2004, teams of young Maasai have helped to draw up maps, which illustrate the scale of land sales and the loss of open rangeland. Managed by ILRI, the mapping program and the associated research showed just how rapidly life has changed on the plains over recent years, and provided much of the data used in the master plan.

At the end of the 19th century, the Athi-Kaputiei Plains were said to boast the most spectacular concentration of wildlife in East Africa. In those days, there were four times as many wild herbivores as there were cattle. Now the reverse is true, with the wildlife beating a steady retreat.

Between 1977 and 2002, the wildlife populations in the plains to the south of Nairobi National Park fell by over 70%. Particularly hard hit were migratory animals such as wildebeest, which traditionally graze in the national park during the dry season and move south in search of new pasture during the wet season. From nearly 40,000 migrating animals in the 1970s, wildebeest numbers have fallen to about 1000 today.

ILRI research suggests that two factors are to blame: poaching, and the loss of habitat and open space. The sub-division of land, frequently followed by the erection of fences, has also made it harder for the pastoralists to move their animals around in search of water and fresh pasture. Paradoxically, the Maasai are partly to blame, as they voted for the privatization of communal ranches in the 1980s. All of a sudden, many families realized they were sitting, within gazing distance of Nairobi, on valuable real estate. Land sales rapidly increased, new developments proliferated and the population of Kitengela almost trebled during the 1990s, from 5,500 to over 17,000.

‘When I was a child in the 1970s,’ recalls Ogeli Makui, as he sips tea outside a shopping mall in Kitengela, ‘there were just a few small stalls here, nothing else. I can remember one year when there were so many wildebeest migrating across this area, followed by packs of wild dogs, that my father told me to drive our sheep home to keep them safe.’ Nowadays, speeding lorries are the main danger.

Even before ILRI produced its first maps, conservationists realized something had to be done to keep the migratory routes open. A Wildlife Conservation Lease Programme, launched in 2000, encouraged pastoralists to keep their land open by paying them 300 shillings (USD4) per acre per year. By 2010, 275 families, owners of some 30,000 acres, had signed up to the latest lease scheme.

The lease scheme is helping to protect one of East Africa’s five great migratory routes, but it isn’t enough on its own to prevent further losses of wildlife, says Jan de Leeuw, head of ILRI’s pastoral livelihoods group. ‘The master plan will certainly help, and it’s a very important step towards improving the management of the plains, but it’s also imperative that we improve the financial situation of the pastoralists to a level where they become the champions of conservation,’ he says.

The better off the Maasai are, the more sympathetic they are likely to be to wildlife conservation, even if they occasionally lose livestock to lions and other predators. The Kitengela Conservation Programme, which is managed by the African Wildlife Foundation, is currently promoting various business enterprises, including community-based tourism, and ILRI is providing support for pastoralists to improve the marketing of their livestock. All this will help, says de Leeuw.

This is one of the few places in the world where you can see major wildlife populations, including 24 species of large mammals, grazing and hunting against the jagged backdrop of a populous city, often in the company of Maasai cattle. Little wonder, then, that there are conflicts between conservation and development, and sometimes between wildlife and the Maasai. Some of these conflicts will persist—the locals are deeply concerned, for example, about the building of a new town for Nairobi slum-dwellers—but the master plan provides the local council, for the first time, with the means to control development.

‘I’m very optimistic,’ says Councillor Kisemei. ‘I think the master plan will help us to secure the future for the Maasai and for the wildlife. And if we succeed, it will provide a model which could be used in other areas where wildlife and humans live close together.’

Pastoralists still vulnerable

Despite the successes of projects such as Reto-o-Reto in helping pastoral groups, governments and policymakers work together to better manage the resources in pastoral lands; pastoralists are still vulnerable to drought and changes in land use. Scientists from Colorado State University and ILRI have looked at how modelled scenarios relating to factors like access to forage, water and fuel tied to decisions made by pastoralists at household level. Stressors like drought remain a major threat to pastoral livelihoods and more so in areas where livestock compete with wildlife.

The research, carried out in Kenya’s Kajiado District, was published in a paper: ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services.’ It evaluates pastoralist household wellbeing if access to reserve grazing is lost and the impact of compensation for those who lose access to grazing. The study showed that even though pastoralists that lose access to pasture are likely to experience large livestock losses, those in areas where livestock do not compete with wildlife have greater resilience to drought.

‘Maintaining access to reserve grazing lands is essential in helping pastoralists cope during severe drought,’ said Philip Thornton, a scientist with ILRI and one of the authors of the report. ‘We also found that compensating pastoralists for loss of access to reserve grazing lands increased their resilience.’

The above Kitengela story was written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith.

For more on ILRI’s recent award, see: ILRI pastoral research team wins Sustainable Science Award, by Jane Gitau.

Download ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, by R S Reid, D Nkedianye, M Y Said, D Kaelo, M Neselle, O Makui, L Onetu, S Kiruswa, N Ole Kamuaroa, P Kristjanson, J Ogutu, S B BurnSilver, M J Golman, R B Boone, K A Galvin, N M Dickson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 Nov 2009.

Download ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services’, by R B Boone, K A Galvin, S B BurnSilver, P K Thornton, D S Ojima, and J R Jawson, Ecology and Society 16(2): 6, 1 Jun 2011.

Read more about the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and more on ILRI’s news blogs (below) about the three-day planning workshop for this program, which ends today:

ILRI Clippings Blog: Foolhardy? Or just hardy? New program tackles climate change and livestock markets in the Horn, 7 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Taming Africa’s drylands to produce food, 5 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Collaboration in drylands research will achieve greater impact, 5 Jun 2012.

 

 

Africa’s vast eastern and southern drylands get new attention–and support–from agricultural researchers

Strategic research themes of CRP on Dryland Systems

A new CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is being planned to find ways to help dryland communities climb out of poverty while enhancing their food security and protecting their natural resources. This program will conduct four strategic research themes in five regions. Two of the research themes—reducing vulnerability/managing risk and sustainably intensifying production—make up the ‘meat’ of what has come to be called ‘the hamburger’ diagram. The top and bottom ‘buns’ represent the other two research themes:  strengthening innovations systems and measuring impacts/synthesizing knowledge across regions, respectively (figure by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems).

This week in Nairobi, Kenya, opening on a morning as grey and cold as London’s weekend Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the Thames, a Regional Inception Workshop of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems for East and Southern Africa is being held. The 3-day workshop (5–7 Jun) is organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This inception workshop brings together more than 50 experts working in the drylands of eastern and southern Africa to identify key hypotheses and research questions for the research program, to agree on initial sites for its activities and to develop impact pathways and implementation plans. See the introductory slide presentation by Maarten Van Ginkel, deputy director general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA): The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems: Scientific content and progress in the inception phase.

The planners of this CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (the full mouthful of a title of which is ‘Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas’) say this large, multi-institutional, multi-stakeholder and multi-diciplinary research program aims to develop a series of complementary technologies, policies and institutional innovations that will help very poor and highly vulnerable dryland populations improve their livelihoods—and do so over the longer term.

As its full name suggests, this CGIAR research program will apply ‘integrated systems’ approaches, which focus less on technical fixes for discrete problems and more on how interventions can be combined to meet the many needs of a profitable, equitable and sustainable agricultural production system. And the program will use large, so-called ‘landscape level’ frameworks to help scientists think through the links between farm or community practices and the broader ecosystem in which they are located; such analyses should allow, for example, more comprehensive assessments of the increasingly hard trade-offs in use of natural resources.

See consultant John Lynam’s slide presentation (below), which gives a comprehensive overview of ‘systems thinking’. Lynam argued that we need to change our research designs and methods if we’re going to serve the expanding agendas for international agricultural research. In his presentation he asked asked some provocative questions, such as, ‘How do we (should we) understand system performance? Is it by productivity, profitability, or income? Is it levels of vulnerability or food security? Or is it resource efficiency or resilience?. . . . Why do we have plantain (matoke) systems in Uganda while beer banana systems dominate in Burundi and Rwanda? . . . Why are many more people exiting agriculture in Africa than they are in Asia?’

The dry areas of the developing world occupy some 3 billion hectares, which represent 41% of the earth’s land area. These drylands are home to 2.5 billion people, who make up about a third of the population in developing countries. At least 16% of this population lives in chronic poverty.

These people make a living from the drylands by growing and managing a mix of food, fodder and fibre crops; vegetables; rangeland and pasture grasses, shrubs and trees; fruit and fuel-wood trees; medicinal plants; livestock; and fish. These dryland people face enormous environmental challenges, which in many regions are likely only to worsen with climate change.

This program targets two kinds of drylands. The first are those with the deepest endemic poverty and the most marginalized and vulnerable people, the most extreme environmental variability, and often the greatest natural resource degradation as well. The second are those with the greatest potential to increase food security and reduce poverty over the short to medium terms.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI

Table discussions at an ILRI-hosted inception workshop for eastern and southern Africa component of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agricultural Systems, 5-7 Jun 2012 (photo by ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The future of dryland farming communities, the research planners assume, depends largely on their ability to more effectively manage  risk as well as to diversify and intensify their agricultural production systems. The integrated approach the program will take should help people better manage their natural resources and improve their crop, vegetable, livestock, tree and fish production. The approach should also help facilitate for dryland communities the establishment of enabling policy environments; the provision of greater institutional support; and a more equitable distribution of, and control over, resources, access to information, livelihood opportunities and decision-making.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Agenda

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Outcomes

More specifically, this dryland research program aims to:

  • prioritize agricultural systems for impact
  • identify key researchable issues
  • increase the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use
  • develop more resilient agricultural systems to manage risk and production variability
  • promote in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity
  • improve the productivity and profitability of dryland agricultural systems through sustainable intensification, diversification, and creation of value-added products and market links
  • identify niches of importance to the most vulnerable livelihoods (even if they appear to have low marketing potential)
  • address constraints faced by the most marginal farmers
  • develop new partnerships and models of working together.

Dryland Systems Workshop at ILRI: Organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF

Dryland Systems inception workshop for East and southern Africa organizer Polly Ericksen of ILRI (left) and facilitator Constance Neely of ICRAF (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The structure and process of this workshop, which is focused on eastern and southern Africa, have been developed by an interdisciplinary research team headed by ILRI’s Polly Ericksen, with participants from the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Water Management Institute and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, as well as agricultural research consultants John Lynam and Brian Keating. The lead centre for this CGIAR research program is the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.

In this region, the drylands program plans to work to reduce vulnerability in three areas of three East Africa countries:
Northern Kenya/southeastern Ethiopia: the triangle from Garissa in Kenya to Borana in south-central Ethiopia to Somali Region in southeast Ethiopia
Central Kenya: Baringo District
Southern Kenya/northern Tanzania: Kajiado and Narok districts and Serengeti National Park and Monduli and Samanjiro districts.

The program plans work to intensify agricultural production in three areas of three eastern and southern African countries:
Zambia-Malawi-Mozambique: the Chinyanja Triangle
Northeast Tanzania: from Kahama through Shinyanga to Babati districts
Ethiopia: the Oromia zones of East Shoa, West Shoa, Horogudru and the Amhara zone of North Shoa

For more information, visit the website for this CGIAR Research Program.

See previous blogs about this workshop:

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

A set of images of this workshop are on ILRI’s Flickr site.

 

Short films document first index-based livestock insurance for African herders

For those readers interested to get more local context about the recent first insurance payouts to livestock herders in Kenya’s northern Marsabit District (go here for an assembly of recent stories on this), here are two films ILRI produced on the subject when the insurance was first made available to Marsabit’s pastoral herders, in January 2010.

Livestock Insurance for Pastoralists in Kenya
January 2010 saw the launch of the world’s first livestock insurance for remote African pastoralists as a result of years of research.
Running time: 2:49

Development of World’s First Index-Based Livestock Insurance for African Pastoralists Herders
In Kenya’s drylands, drought has always been the greatest hazard faced by livestock herding families. Modern pressures are making this situation worse.This film tells the story of a research project started in 2007, which this year introduced a new form of insurance to remote herding peoples who had never been provided with insurance before. This new insurance product has potential to protect many other herding communities throughout Africa.
Running time: 12.36.

Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa

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ILRI director general Jimmy Smith speaks to residents of Marsabit, in northern Kenya, where a livestock insurance scheme has made its first payouts to small livestock keepers following a prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, made the following remarks on the occasion of the first payouts of index-based livestock insurance policies ever made to livestock herders in Africa in a region that has been afflicted by the drought that has reduced herds in the drylands of the Horn by a third.

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Inhabitants of Marsabit town, in northern Kenya, attend a special event marking the first payouts of  a livestock insurance scheme to small-scale livestock keepers following a prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘Today ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project provides 650 livestock herders in Kenya’s remote Marsabit District with the very first payments of index-based livestock insurance claims ever made on this continent.

‘That makes this an important as well as historic moment.

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Members of the Marsabit community listen to speakers at the launch of the first payouts of livestock insurance in Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘The success of any insurance scheme depends on its clients being confident that payments will be made if and when an insured event occurs. I hear that many have been reluctant to purchase the livestock insurance policies being offered to Marsabit’s livestock keepers in August and September of this year [2011] because the herders first wanted to be assured that this insurance product works and—in this time of great drought and livestock losses here and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa—if it will payout. Now that the appropriate payments are being made and in a timely manner, we hope we have earned the trust of people here, trust that will generate more widespread awareness and interest in this livestock insurance product.

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Women of the Marsabit community listen to speakers at the launch of the first payouts of livestock insurance in Africa (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘We are celebrating today not only the first payouts but also that the livestock index that predicts mortality in this region seems to be working well; several of our on-the-ground partners in Marsabit are in agreement with the figures. Our relatively inexpensive way of estimating livestock deaths in a time of drought and forage loss appears to be reliable and could now open the door to making livestock insurance widely available in Marsabit and similar areas in Kenya’s northern drylands, which are home to many of its pastoral peoples.

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At a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, farmers who took out livestock insurance hear they are to receive their first payout after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘For all its initial success, this insurance project remains a work in progress. We’re aware of the challenges of raising awareness of the program in the more distant areas of Marsabit and making sales across the entire district. And even as we trust that those who purchased this livestock insurance will receive their payments in the shortest time possible, we recognize that many clients will have to be paid manually, a process that involves costly driving to areas as far as Loiyangalani and Illeret, where some pastoralists also bought contracts. That said, over the last three insurance sales periods since January 2010, Equity Bank’s Point of Sale systems and UAP’s telephone scanners have made the process more efficient. Over the next several seasons, on-going efforts will continue to improve the technology platforms delivering IBLI services, making them increasingly more cost-effective and accessible.

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At a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, officials prepare to make the first insurance payouts after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘The most important sign of success is the response of the client. So even as payments are being made, we at ILRI want to know what impact the payments are having and how valuable the insurance product is. You will see the ILRI team in this area conducting research to understand how IBLI is benefiting the community and those households that bought livestock insurance. We worked with members of the community to design and develop this product, and we are keen to receive your suggestions about ways to improve it.

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At a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, farmers who took out livestock insurance receive their first payout after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘‘A project such as this is necessarily a product of collaboration. ILRI and our commercial partners Equity Bank and UAP Insurance—those who actually market and sell the product—are quite visible, but there are several others that must be recognized. Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4) based out of the University of California at Davis have been instrumental in the development of the IBLI product and supporting the research agenda behind it. Closer to the ground, members of the Marsabit District Steering Group have offered invaluable support and advice to the project team, as has Food for the Hungry International. The project has also received tremendous support from the Ministry of the Development of Northern Kenya and the Ministry of Livestock and the Provincial Administration, from the District Commissioner to chiefs and counsellors across Marsabit. Finally there are the hundreds of young men and women across all divisions of Marsabit who have worked tirelessly conducting surveys and product education and extension.

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Leader of the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project, ILRI’s Andrew Mude (right), answers a questions from the Marsabit community (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘We’re now working to see if IBLI can be sustained by commercial partners such as Equity Bank, UAP and others that may be interested. Currently, however, the research, design and implementation of the IBLI project has been funded by numerous donors who believe in its potential. For this we must thank the European Union, the Global Index Insurance Facility, the Microinsurance Facility, the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development.  The British Government, through UKAID, has been one of the largest supporters of the project and, together with the European Union, will be funding the second phase of scaling up.’

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A farmer awaits a livestock insurance payout following a village meeting in Dirib Gombo, near the northern Kenyan town of Marsabit; some farmers in the village took out livestock insurance, and this year are receiving the first payouts after a prolonged drought in the region (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

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One of the many head of cattle that perished for lack of fodder in the drought that dried up the rangelands of Kenya’s Marsabit District this year (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Read a related story on this ILRI News Blog: Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments

Editor’s note, 26 Oct 2011: The original title of this blog post, ‘Livestock director and partners launch first-ever livestock insurance payments in Africa,’ was changed to ‘Livestock director and partners launch first-ever index-based livestock insurance payments in Africa;’ other forms of livestock insurance (not index-based) have been available in other parts of Africa. Two similar statements in the body of the blog were similarly corrected.

Herders in drought-stricken northern Kenya get first livestock insurance payments

Education on livestock insurance

Pastoralists from Marsabit, in Kenya’s remote northern drylands, play a game crafted by ILRI scientists to simulate livestock losses that could occur due to drought, in which the local herding communities are educated about how index-based livestock insurance works (image credit: ILRI).

As livestock deaths mount, a small group of herders in Kenya’s Marsabit District is first to benefit from program that tracks forage conditions via satellite.

In the midst of a drought-induced food crisis affecting millions in the Horn of Africa, an innovative insurance program for poor livestock keepers is making its first payouts today, providing compensation for some 650 insured herders in northern Kenya’s vast Marsabit District who have lost up to a third of their animals.

Known as index-based livestock insurance, or IBLI, payouts are triggered when satellite images show that grazing lands in the region have deteriorated to the point that herders are expected to be losing more than 15% of their herd. The current readings for which indemnities are now being paid show that between 18 and 33% of livestock have been lost to drought this season.

‘It’s terrible that we are seeing this level of loss, but gratifying that the policies are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to help herders avert disaster when weather conditions dry up pasture lands and animals begin to perish,’ said Isaac Magina, head of agriculture insurance at UAP Insurance Ltd.

‘When you look at a 33% loss, that is a significant portion of the asset base of any business and it would be difficult to survive without insurance,’ added Magina.

The insurance project was developed in partnership by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative program at the University of California at Davis. Commercial partners Equity Bank and UAP Insurance Ltd implement the program. The IBLI project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union, the British Government, the World Bank, the Microinsurance Facility and the Global Index Insurance Facility.

The Marsabit District alone is home to some 86 thousand cattle and 2 million goats and sheep that generate millions of dollars in milk and other products and serve as the main source of sustenance and income. ILRI estimates that up to one-third of all livestock in the region have perished during the current drought.

In East Africa, an estimated 70 million people live in the drylands, and many of them are herders. In Kenya, the value of the pastoral livestock sector is estimated to be worth USD800 million. And the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa, which takes a regional approach to combating drought in six countries of the Horn, estimates that over 90% of the meat consumed in East Africa comes from pastoral herds.

Under the terms of the policy, insured herders are compensated for any losses above 15%, with the 15% threshold acting as a sort of deductible. For example, a cattle herder who lives in an area with a livestock mortality rate of 33% receives a payout covering 18% of his or her animals. With cattle valued at about 15,000 Kenyan shillings (Ksh) per head (about USD150), an insurance policy covering 10 animals, or Kshs150,000 in cattle, would pay out at about Kshs27,000 (about USD270).

When the 15% deductible is factored in, compensation ranges from 3% in areas where the drought has been more moderate to 18% in the areas where herders were hit particularly hard. But in an indication of the severity of the drought, all of the areas where the policies were sold have exceeded the 15%mortality threshold that triggers a payout. Thus far, the policies cover about 1,100 animals—mostly cattle, but some goats and sheep and a few camels as well.

The payments are being dispatched in the middle of a humanitarian crisis endangering 12 million people in the Horn that is prompting a call for new ways to manage food security risks in East Africa’s arid drylands. For example, a recent report from ILRI has found that the pastoral approach to livestock production, in which herders make do with marginal lands by regularly moving their herds, could be very effective at averting weather-related food shortages. ILRI experts say that in arid and semi-arid regions, keeping livestock can be a more effective coping strategy than cultivating crops—if herders have options for reducing their vulnerability to drought.

‘Drought insurance is one important way to help livestock keepers maintain food security even in very harsh environments,’ said Andrew Mude, the IBLI project leader at ILRI. ‘Insurance is not by itself sufficient,’ he added, ‘But if it is accompanied by other risk-reducing strategies, such as better access to grazing lands and watering areas, then the pastoralist approach, which some people dismiss as a backward lifestyle of the past, emerges as a very effective way to meet future food needs.’

Mude said that it is too early to tell just how the payouts from the policies will affect food security and other welfare indicators. For example, it’s not yet clear how many herders will use the compensation to replace animals lost to the drought. But Mude said one major success thus far is that the livestock mortality index that is at the heart of the program appears to be working. The fatality rate predicted by the satellite assessments of forage loss is tracking very closely surveys of animal deaths on the ground.

That’s crucial because using freely available satellite images of pasture lands to accurately predict animal deaths overcomes a major barrier that has bedeviled past efforts to provide livestock insurance in poor regions: the prohibitively high costs and logistics of confirming animal deaths in herds that roam across vast distances in extremely remote areas.

‘This is all still a work in progress,’ said Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI. ‘But the fact that our relatively inexpensive approach to estimating livestock deaths seems to be accurate could open the door to making livestock insurance widely available in many parts of Africa.’

Going forward, experts believe a key issue will be whether livestock insurance in East Africa would be commercially viable by itself or whether its ability to protect herders from the impact of prolonged drought might justify some level of financial support from governments or donors, as agricultural insurance programs in Western countries often do.

‘This is asset insurance for animals that are the centerpiece of livelihoods, providing a stream of income and nutrition for years and years,’ said Mude. ‘The investment in insurance=based asset safety nets protecting these herds could have a more cost-effective welfare impact over the longer term than other forms of response such a food and cash assistance.’

‘This insurance scheme is a great example of how partnerships with the private sector can lift people out of poverty and provide long-term solutions to food crises,’ said Andrew Mitchell, the British international development secretary.

‘To many farmers, losing their cattle means losing everything, as they are not just a source of income but are their only source of food. Support from Britain and others means that more than 600 herders in Northern Kenya can buy more cattle to replace those they have lost. This means they are better able to cope with this and future devastating droughts.’

Hunger in the Horn: Risk management key to coping with drought

Cover of ILRI report on impacts of ALRMPII

The cover of a 2011 ILRI report that evaluated a long-term drought management project–the Arid Lands Resource Management Project–in Kenya (photo credit: ILRI).

The current drought in the Horn of Africa is once more stressing the urgent need to invest in agricultural development in the region. Adopting new approaches for drylands agriculture, increasing support for agricultural research and better cooperation between partners will help farmers and herders in these areas to cope with increasingly harsh climates and improve their food production.

A 2011 report of an evaluation of a long-term drought management initiative in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) indicates that long-term interventions in Africa’s drylands can lower the levels of vulnerability to drought and reduce the need for food aid. Such initiatives help speed emergency responses, improve food security, empower locals to influence policies and promote often-neglected drylands issues at national levels.

This review is of the second phase of a project known as ‘Impacts of the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMPII).’ It was carried out by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to assess the project’s impact on livelihoods and vulnerability in 10 arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya. The ALRMPII is a community-based drought management initiative that was implemented by the Government of Kenya with support from the World Bank in 28 districts.

The first phase of this project concentrated on improving drought management, marketing, infrastructure and community development in 10 of Kenya’s arid districts over seven years (1996–2003). The project increased the response capacity of herders during the 1999 and 2001 droughts, implemented over 1000 micro projects that benefited over 180,000 people, created grazing reserves for pastoralists in 24 areas and supported initiatives to reduce land degradation. Following these successes, the project’s second phase or ALRMPII, started and was expanded to include semi-arid regions of the country with the aim of enhancing food security, increasing access to basic services, and reducing livelihood vulnerability in 28 drought-prone ASAL districts. This second phase of the project was carried out between 2003 and 2010.

ILRI’s evaluation of ALRMPII reviewed activities in Garissa, Kajiado, Laikipia, Mandera, Marsabit, Mwingi, Narok, Nyeri, Tharaka and Turkana districts using household surveys, focus group discussions and interviews with relief and development agencies in the districts as well as people involved in policy processes in Nairobi.

The review assessed the project’s key performance indicators, which were:

  • Decreasing the number of people needing free food aid
  • Reducing emergency response times
  • Improving child nutrition
  • Increasing access to water, health, education and other social services
  • Strengthening local people’s contribution to policymaking

The review found that in arid areas, herders felt it ‘difficult to abandon pastoralism,’ which was the only suitable form of livelihood in these areas. In the semi-arid districts, on the other hand, communities were more likely to be settled because mixed crop-livestock farming was allowing them to diversify their livelihoods. As a result, many households in the semi-arid districts were increasingly relying on agriculture, and a growing cash economy enabled some herders to hire labour to manage their animals.

The report, by ILRI’s Ayago Wambile and Nancy Johnson, interestingly found that while according to local indicators long-term interventions were effectively decreasing livestock losses in arid districts, food aid needs in those districts were increasing. The authors conjectured that increasing need for food aid could have resulted from prolonged dry seasons, which make it harder for households to re-build their herds and from increases in resource-based conflict.

The report points out that although the arid areas had shown an increased demand for food aid, investment from Government through this project was lowering these needs. In the arid districts, ‘ALRMPII expenditure is negatively and significantly associated with the percent of people needing food aid,’ which means that as expenditure—a proxy for the intensity of project activity—increased the number of people needing aid declined.

Also, the review suggests, the project bulletin had ‘become the most useful and most used source of early warning information for response agencies.’ Users of the bulletin also felt emergency responses were faster, better coordinated, and more appropriate, a claim that was supported by data on response times. The review shows that ALRMPII appears to have improved child nutrition and provided a ‘nutritional safety net’ in participating communities. Further, the project enabled local people to participate in policymaking. Key stakeholders from these regions were invited to take part in ASALs policymaking processes where they ‘contributed evidence and experience.’ (However, while access to social services did increase in the ALRMP study communities, this cannot be attributed to the project since it also increased in control communities).

Even though the changes observed in these areas during the review may not all have resulted from ALRMPII–mobile phone coverage, rapid responses by relief agencies and international funding for emergency responses all increased during this period–this review found that the project did make a difference. But even with the successes of ALRMPII, challenges such as conflict are still a threat to livelihoods in much of the region.  Regarding repeated environmental shocks on households, the review recommends focusing ‘on interventions that go beyond current drought to address issues such as conflict or dependency.’

Finally, it recommends that future ALMPII reviews be expanded to cover impacts of the project on the environment, capacity building, community empowerment and overall risk management coordination in these regions.

Download the complete report: http://mahider.ilri.org/bitstream/handle/10568/3416/9291462578_content.pdf?sequence=1