Ongoing drought in Horn may trigger first-ever insurance payments to remote African livestock herders

ILRI researcher with local people in Marsabit, Kenya

ILRI researcher holds discussions with local pastoral herders in Marsabit, in Kenya’s northern drylands, for ILRI’s Index-based Livestock Insurance project (photo credit: ILRI/Mude).

SciDevNet reports that, due to the great drought engulfing the Horn of Africa, an ‘index-based’ livestock insurance scheme for herders in Kenya’s remote Marsabit District may make payments to those who had earlier purchased the insurance. This is the first time insurance has ever been offered Kenya’s remote livestock herders, and these would be the first payments for those who have insured their stock.

What is ‘index-based’ livestock insurance?
Index-based livestock insurance makes the risk-management benefits of insurance available to poor and remote clients. The product being piloted in Marsabit District by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other partners, including the private sector, aims to provide compensation to insured pastoralists in the event of livestock losses due to severe forage scarcity. Incorporating remotely-sensed vegetation data in its design, delivered via mobile ICT-based transactions platforms, and with experimental extension methods used to educate the remote pastoral herders, this insurance product boasts many firsts in product development. Payments are triggered when severe drought makes forage scarce over a long period and when it can be predicted from that that more than 15 per cent of livestock in the area will have died of starvation.

SciDevNet reports the following.
‘Insurers will assess in October whether Kenyan farmers signed up to the Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme will receive their first payment, after the worst drought in the region for 60 years.

‘The scheme, which has been piloted in northern Kenya since early 2010, uses freely-available satellite data to assess the state of pastures. When the images show that pastures have dried up, farmers can claim compensation for animals that have died as a result—without insurers having to verify the deaths in person.

‘In Kenya about 2,500 farmers have purchased the product since its inception, paying a yearly premium of up to US$100 for 6–8 animals. . . .

‘”So far, the predicted mortality [rate is] high—but we have to wait for the final tally at the end of October in order to determine whether or not there will be a payout,” said Brenda Wandera, project development manager at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya, which implemented the scheme.

‘The scheme will be extended to southern Ethiopia in February 2012 to help mitigate the effects of drought. It will initially target 2,700 pastoralists.

The aim is to find a viable insurance tool that could cushion pastoralists from heavy losses experienced during droughts, according to Wandera.’

‘ILRI will partner with the Nyala Insurance s.c. company in Ethiopia, with support from the International Food Policy Research Institute, the US international development agency USAID and the World Bank. . . .’

The technical partners in this project
Cornell University
Index Insurance Innovation Initiative
Syracuse University (Maxwell School)
University of Wisconsin (BASIS Research Program)

The implementing partners
Equity Insurance Agency
UAP Insurance Limited
Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya
Kenya Meteorological Department
Kenya Ministry of Development of Northen Kenya and other Arid Lands
Kenya Ministry of Livestock

The donor agencies
UK Department for International Development (DFID)
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
World Bank

Read the whole article at SciDevNet: Kenyan farmers may soon receive first drought payout, 15 Aug 2011.

For more information, visit the blog of ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance project.

Kenyans mobilize phone/web technologies to end famine: But can m- and e-philanthropy rescue the starving nomads in the north?

Mobile Phone with Money in Kenya

Mobile phone with money in Kenya (photo on Flicker by whiteafrican).

Kenya, which in recent years has built a reputation as an innovation hub—a nerve centre for young mobile and web developers—is making use of its new media technologies and platforms for dealing with an age-old problem of biblical proportions and resonance: a current drought and starvation now ravaging the Horn of Africa, including Kenya’s northern frontier districts of Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera.

With its vibrant cell phone infrastructure and use, Kenya is home to illustrious tech start ups such as Ushahidi, a ‘disruptive’ non-profit tech company (‘ushahidi’ means ‘testimony’ in Swahili) offering open-source software and crowd-sourcing tools to better inform responses to crises; the iHub, a new nerve centre for mobile and web developers; M-PESA, a mobile money transfer system readily available to the poor and initiated by Kenya’s big mobile company Safaricom; Virtual City, which is producing software for small business in this poor country;  and iCow, a mobile application that allows farmers to monitor the fertility cycles of their animals and pinpoint breeding windows.

Kenya’s new generation of tech luminaries includes Erik Herman, creator of Ushahidi who was raised and is now living in Kenya and writes the popular White African blog; Ory Okolloh, Kenyan lawyer activist and Ted talker and Ushahidi co-founder and new Google Africa policy and government relations manager; John Waibochi of Virtual City, a Kenyan mobile mega-entrepreneur whose company is pioneering mobile business management solutions for small traders and won the 2010 Nokia Innovation Challenge Award; Su Kahumbu Stephanou, of Green Dreams Ltd., who won first prize in an Apps4Africa Competition in 2010 and invented iCow; and Andrew Mude, a Kenyan from the country’s pastoral Marsabit District who is leading research on the first livestock insurance product made readily available to, and affordable by, Kenya’s remote livestock herders and who this year won Kenya’s inaugural Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Award.

But can Kenyans really use their new m- and e-philanthropy platforms to help rescue starving desert nomads in the northern frontier? Watch this space.

Below is some of the news coming out this week on how regular, tech-savvy, Kenyans are making use of the new mobile and web technologies to help their countrymen and women in Kenya’s remote northern drylands feed themselves in a great multi-year drought that has desiccated the pastoral lands, withering crops, finishing forage and killing camels, donkeys, goats, sheep and cattle alike.

Safaricom Foundation press release, 27 Jul 2011
‘The Safaricom Foundation and KCB [Kenya Commercial Bank] Foundation today led a coalition of corporate Kenya and media in launching a massive fund-raising effort aimed at reversing the suffering of an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans faced with starvation. Dubbed KENYANS for KENYA and intended to raise over Sh500 million, in four weeks. The initiative has brought together a number of organizations among them Safaricom Foundation, KCB Foundation and the country’s leading media houses operating under the umbrella of the Media Owners Association (MOA). The effort will be administered by relief agency Kenya Red Cross Society. . . . KENYANS for KENYA, touted as the biggest such effort ever mounted in Kenya, shall be co-ordinated on several fronts, including pledges from corporate society that will be made public during a meeting set for next Friday, August 5 at Serena Hotel. Also key to the campaign is the use of M-PESA, Safaricom’s money transfer service to receive donations. This will ensure that even the smallest donation (as low as Sh10) is harnessed, as this will go a long way in improving the situation of millions of Kenyans currently staring starvation and death in the eye. Donations can be sent to the M-PESA PayBill number 111111 at no charge as this has been waived. Donations can also be sent to account number 11 33 33 33 38 at KCB.

Capital FM News, 28 Jul 2011
‘The Kenyan media has already joined hands with the corporate sector to raise Sh500 million in the next four weeks for drought stricken Kenyans. The initiative dubbed Kenyans4Kenya which was launched on Wednesday has brought together Media Owners Association, Safaricom and KCB foundations among other organisations. Kenya Red Cross Society will manage the fund that will be used to purchase food relief to the drought stricken Kenyans. Donations can be sent through the M-PESA Pay Bill number 111 111 at no charge or account number 11 33 33 33 38 at KCB.’

Mashable, 30 Jul 2011
‘Like most major international crises today, Twitter is the go-to forum for Africans to discuss the situation on the ground. Users are asking for the international community to send aid to the starving region of the world’s poorest continent. The International Business Times reported twenty tweets per minute relate to the famine in East Africa, using the hashtags #HornOfAfrica, #Famine, #Drought, #Somalia, #Kenya and #Ethiopia. Groups such as Kenyans4Kenya, a campaign of Kenyans helping other Kenyans, have started to respond to calls.’

‘Kenyans4Kenya’ initiative on Facebook, noon 30 Jul 2011
As at 10:00am ksh we are at 47,502,973 can we hit the 50M mark before noon? yes we can. let’s do it.
about an hour ago via Facebook Mobile
Gladys Kamau Nimehesabika! BN78KK393! GO KENYANS!
I knew we could do without the politiians….infact they are an expense to us!
Polly Mbugua Now they must be scared – all attention has shifted to this noble act…..Can we continue giving them a black out? Media houses you can be again of great help.’

Kenya Red Cross Society on Facebook: 29 Jul 2011
‘HI GOOD PEOPLE, THANK YOU FOR CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS KENYANS FOR KENYA & FEEDKENYA INITIATIVES. . . .  THERE ARE ONLY TWO INITIATIVES THAT KRCS IS RUNNING- THE MPESA NO FOR K4K IS 111111 AND FEEDKE IS 10000. THE KCB ACCOUNT IS 1133333338 ANY BRANCH. BY KRCS PR AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, NELLY MULUKA. LET US CONTINUE ALLEVIATE HUMAN SUFFERING.’

Blog by Ahmed Salim: #FEEDKE social media campaign, 10 DAYS and Counting, 29 Jul 2011
After 10 days of full dedication to an initiative I started off with just one tweet has taught me a lot. . . . A campaign that is ongoing for more than a week with no offline help makes me proud to say Social Media is our future. . . . Do you realize for the 1st time Kenyans Online all over the world are doing something as ONE with ONE common goal?? The support im getting online on all social platforms just boosts my energy to ask for one more tweet – and you know what? WE WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN. I am NOT stopping as yet – together we will Feed Kenya. . . . Till date of this post we have raised Kshs.624,602.20/= from 1130 donors via Online, Mpesa and Airtel. We are all Kenyans and let’s keep everything else behind us today and stand proud to do something for this country – lets Unite and speak one language. . . . Kenyans WE can DO this together – We can show our strength as ONE – We can make a difference just as an individual. Your say counts, your participation counts, your heart counts and more your ACTION counts.
Sacrifice A Meal Today; Take pride, stand for Kenya and support FeedKE:
M-Pesa Paybill to ‘10,000’ Acc ‘feedke’
On Airtel nickname ‘REDCROSS’ reference ‘feedke’
Online: www.kenyaredcross.org
Ps: all funds are collected directly by the Kenya Red Cross Society and a report is available on request. . . .
My name is Ahmed Salim and I’m a Kenyan!!
May God Bless YOU and GOD BLESS KENYA!!!!

Magu Ngumo in an opinion piece in Kenya’s Saturday Nation newspaper, 30 Jul 2011
‘. . . Politics has overtaken agriculture as the mainstay of our national life. Even MPs from the famine-stricken parts of Kenya are not coming out boldly to rally support from the entire nation for their dying kith and kin. As recently observed by the world respected Special Adviser to the United Nations, Prof Jeffrey Sachs, Kenya has all the time ignored the early warning signs for its recurrent drought and resultant famine. How can the nation abdicate its cardinal responsibility of feeding its people and wait for the rest of the world to feed it? . . . The time for saving Kenyans who are dying of hunger is now. The war to save Kenyans from hunger should not just be left to the Government. It is every Kenyan’s war. . . .’

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If you’d like to donate to the famine victims through international organizations, here are eight of the bigger humanitarian agencies collecting money online:
CARE
Concern
International Rescue Committee
Oxfam
Save the Children
UNICEF
World Food Programme
World Vision

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A video production of Kenyan musician Eric Wainaina and children singing his popular Kenyan song Daima, is making new rounds in the social media. ‘Eric chose to work with Shangilia kids to make this video soon after Kenya’s post-election violence of 2007. The voices of the kids are mixed in with Eric’s original track. This patriotic song was used extensively to bring back sanity to a beautiful land that was rapidly consuming itself after the 2007 elections. The video is on Eric’s music video DVD called ‘Daima: The Music Videos’ that has been on sale for some time now.’ The Swahili lyrics and English translation of the chorus of Daima follow.

Lyrics of the chorus of Eric Wainian’s ‘Daima’ (‘Always’)
Naishi, Natumaini,
Najitolea daima Kenya,
Hakika ya bendera
Ni uthabiti wangu
Nyeusi ya wananchi na nyekundu ni ya damu
Kijani ni ya ardhi, nyeupe ya amani
Daima mimi mkenya
Mwananchi mzalendo

English translation
I live, I hope, I give myself for Kenya.
The certainty of the flag is my steadfast support.
The black is the people, the red is the blood,
The green is the soil,
The white is peace.
Forever I am a Kenyan,
A patriotic citizen.

ILRI livestock insurance innovation highlighted at launch of Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’

Kenya Government 'Open Data Web Portal' launch: Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and ILRI's Bruce Scott and Andrew Mude

ILRI’s Bruce Scott and Andrew Mude (right) discuss ILRI’s use of open data with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (centre), Minister for Information and Communication Samuel Pogishio (centre left), Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication Bitange Ndemo (centre right), and other dignitaries when they visited ILRI’s booth at the launch of the Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’ on 8 Jul 2011 in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Njiru).

An ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was today (8 July 2011) highlighted as one of the successful, innovative and technology-driven initiatives using open data to create solutions that contribute towards helping Kenya achieve its long-term national development plan.

Speaking during the presidential launch of the ‘Kenya Government Open Data Web portal’ at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Andrew Mude, a scientist with ILRI who leads the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project, described how the project has developed an insurance model for pastoralist livestock keepers using open data. The project uses satellite-based readings of forage cover to find out how much fodder is available for livestock in northern Kenya and the data is combined with livestock mortality data from the Kenya Arid Lands Management project to predict livestock deaths against which livestock herders can insure themselves.

‘This model allows us to predict the current state of livestock mortality in northern Kenya. It currently shows there is a high livestock mortality rate in Marsabit District, which means that insurance may be paid to pastoralists this year,’ said Mude. Marsabit District, in Kenya’s northern drylands, is currently facing a severe drought that is also affecting Somalia and southern Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.

Stared in January 2010, the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project is insuring over 2600 households in Marsabit, which is helping livestock keepers there to sustain their livelihoods. The project is supported by the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development and the United States Agency for International Development, among other donors. It has received considerable support from the Kenya Government and recently received the Vision 2030 ICT award for ‘solutions that drive economic development as outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030.’

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Kenya Government Open Data portal. He said the new open data platform would allow policymakers and researchers to find timely information to guide-decision making. ‘This launch is an important step towards ensuring government information is made readily available to Kenyans and will allow citizens to track the delivery of services,’ Kibaki said.

The new Kenya Government Open Data Web portal will make available to the public several large government datasets, including information on population, education, healthcare and government spending in an easy to search and view format. The portal will allow Kenyans to search and display national and county-level data in graphs and maps for easy comparison and analysis of information.

The launch brought together government officials, policymakers and ICT-sector players who are using open data to build applications that take information closer to Kenyans. Among today’s presentations was the National Council for Law Reporting Kenya Law Reports website, which is making available to the public for the first time the Kenya Gazette (from 1899 to 2011) and all of Kenya’s parliamentary proceedings since 1960.

‘Open data leads to open knowledge, which leads to open solutions and open development,’ said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, who shared lessons from the World Bank’s experience and said open data can ‘fuel innovation in Kenya’s technology sector.’

‘This is a turning point in Kenya’s history,’ said Bruce Scott, ILRI’s director of Partnerships and Communications. ‘Kenya is among the first African countries that have made available this kind of information to their citizens online; this will empower its people in line with the country’s new constitution. ILRI is happy to be associated with this event.’

For more information about IBLI see the following.
ILRI news articles
http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/5000
http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/3180

Short video
http://blip.tv/ilri/development-of-the-world-s-first-insurance-for-african-pastoralist-herders-3776231

To read more about the Kenya Open Data portal, visit their website:
http://www.opendata.go.ke

Visit the IBLI project website

ILRI livestock insurance project features in presidential launch of Kenya Government’s ‘Open Data Web Portal’

Training livestock herders in Marsabit in new insurance scheme available

The Index-Based Livestock Insurance project, which works with pastoral livestock keepers in Kenya’s Marsabit District, is being highlighted in a launch on 8 July 2011 of the Kenya Government’s Open Data Web portal (photo credit: ILRI/Mude).

Andrew Mude, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who leads an ‘Index-Based Livestock Insurance’ project, on 8 July 2011 will describe how his project is using satellite imagery to provide the first livestock insurance to pastoral livestock herders in Kenya’s northern drylands. He is making this presentation at the launch of a new Kenya Government Open Data Web portal. The launch will be opened by Kenya President Mwai Kibaki at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, in Nairobi’s city centre.

The Index-Based Livestock Insurance project is a novel scheme that provides livestock insurance against animal losses to over 2000 households in Kenya’s Marsabit District. This insurance product, the first to ever be offered in the district, is helping livestock keepers to sustain their livelihoods during droughts. The project was started by ILRI in partnership with UAP insurance and Equity Bank, along with other partners, in January 2010.

The new Kenya Government Open Data Web portal is one of the first in sub-Saharan Africa and it will, for the first time, make several large government datasets available to the public in an easy to search and view format. The portal will allow Kenyans to search and display national and county-level data in graphs and maps and allow for easy comparison and analysis of information.

The launch of Kenya Government Open Web portal is also bringing together over 30 exhibitors who will showcase their use of technology to share information. ILRI has an exhibit showcasing its Index-Based Livestock Insurance project.

Use of open-source technology to store, analyze, manage and display data is on the rise in Kenya and recently received a boost with the launching of  Virtual Kenya, a new website that hosts maps and spatial data about the country, making them available for use by citizens. Started by Upande Ltd., a Nairobi-based technology company, Virtual Kenya, has expressed interest in hosting some of the data generated by ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance project to demonstrate how open-source technologies are improving information access in the country.

Critically low forage availability in Marsabit District in June 2011

Map showing the critically low forage availability in Kenya’s Marsabit District in June 2011; the entire district is at acute (red) to severe (black) low levels of forage to feed the district’s many livestock (map by ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance project and made available on the Virtual Kenya website).

One such map generated by data from the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project is already available on the Virtual Kenya website. The map shows viewers that in the current severe drought affecting northern Kenya, as well as southern Ethiopia and Somalia, throughout Marsabit District livestock forage availability is at acutely to severely low levels. That is, the amount of forage available to feed the pastoral livestock herds that support most people’s livelihoods in this district is significantly below long-run averages for this time of year, indicating that many of the domesticated livestock are expected to starve. (The next rains in the region are not due until October.)

In April 2011, ILRI’s Index-Based Livestock Insurance project won the Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Award for ‘the overall best innovation for their mobile-ICT-based livestock insurance solution.’ This award event was organized by the Kenya ICT board and the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, which said the ILRI project was ‘a promising and exciting innovation in insurance design that allows the risk-management benefits of insurance to be made available to poor and remote clients.’

The Index-Based Livestock Insurance project also won a best-practice award from the Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network in recognition of its innovative approach in combining scientific research and practical solutions; that award was bestowed in September 2010 in South Africa.

To find out more about the Open Data Web portal, visit the Kenya ICT board website: http://www.ict.go.ke/

Visit the IBLI project website

ILRI livestock insurance scheme wins inaugural Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Award

Andrew Mude, Scientist, Targeting and Innovation

Andrew Mude, scientist leading the award-winning Index-Based Livestock Insurance project at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

A novel livestock insurance scheme for poor pastoral herders in Kenya’s Marsabit District, initiated by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with private sector and other partners, has won the inaugural Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Award.

‘Eleven companies received a V2030 ICT Innovation Award at a ceremony held on 20 April 2011 in Diani as part of the Kenya ICT Board’s Connected Kenya Summit. The Kenya ICT Board and the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat invited companies that have developed solutions that drive economic growth and social development as outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030 to participate in the inaugural Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Awards. The Award is proudly co-sponsored by Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP).

‘Over 170 companies participated in the online process. All applications were received on an online platform set up by the Kenya ICT Board that allowed applicants to create an account and fill out their application over time. Of the companies that participated in the Call for Applications, 82 successfully completed the process.

‘The Kenya ICT Board convened a team of seven independent judges representing the ICT private sector, academia, public sector and civil society. The judges began their work on April 13 and reviewed each complete proposal against the criteria outlined in the call for applications. To ensure integrity in the process, Deloitte Consulting are auditing the review process.

‘The winners each get a commemorative trophy, certificate and $1,000 prize money from Accenture. The overall best innovation award was awarded to International Livestock Research Institute for their mobile-ICT based livestock insurance solution. ILRI received an additional $ 5,000 as their award.

‘Index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) is a promising and exciting innovation in insurance design that allows the risk-management benefits of insurance to be made available to poor and remote clients. The IBLI product being piloted in Marsabit District aims to provide compensation to insured pastoralists in the event of livestock losses due to severe forage scarcity. Incorporating remotely-sensed vegetation data in its design, delivered via mobile ICT-based transactions platforms, and with experimental extension methods used to educate the remote pastoral herders, the IBLI product boasts many firsts in product development.’

Read more about the Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Awards on the Connected Kenya website.

IBLI web site

The future of pastoralism in Africa debated in Addis: Irreversible decline or vibrant future?

Maasai man takes his goats out for a day's grazing

A Maasai man takes his goats out in the early morning for a day’s grazing in northern Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

An international conference deliberating the future of pastoralists in Africa is taking place this week (21–23 March  2011) at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Big changes are occurring in, and to, Africa’s vast pastoral regions. Livestock herders’ access to resources, options for mobility and opportunities for marketing are all evolving fast. Is there, the organizers of this conference ask, opportunity for a productive, vibrant, market-oriented livelihood system or will pastoralist areas remain a backwater of underdevelopment, marginalization and severe poverty?

The Future Agricultures Consortium, an alliance of agricultural development researchers and practitioners that facilitates policy dialogues and debates on the role of agriculture in broad-based African growth, and the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, which also has a mixed staff of development researchers and practitioners, have jointly organized this conference to share new learning about ongoing change and innovation in Africa’s pastoral areas.

One of the aims of the conference organizers is to shift the crisis narrative that so often dominates news and discussions of pastoralists in Africa. As noted on the Future Agricultures Consortium website: ‘Frequently depicted as in crisis, pastoralists are changing the way they live and work in response to new opportunities and threats revealing the resilience that pastoralists have demonstrated for millennia. Accessing new markets and innovating solutions to safeguard incomes, this often misunderstood and marginalised community is re-positioning itself to make the most of the East African economy. . . .

‘The pastoralist way of life—synonymous with irreversible decline, ‘crises’ and aid rescues—is poorly understood. And whilst the words ‘pastoralism’ and ‘crisis’ have become fused in the minds of many, there are positive signs of vibrant pastoralist livelihoods that debunk the usual reportage of pastoralists depicted as insecure, vulnerable and destitute. . . .

‘Failed by generations of unsuccessful state development plans and aid strategies, pastoralists have been let down because the real problems and issues they face have not been taken into account. A more accurate understanding of the processes of change happening within pastoralist areas, which are significant and complex, has been obscured by the perpetuated myths of pastoralism in crisis.

‘Understanding the complexity and potential for pastoralism is crucial to informing policies for securing the future of this age-old and resilient sector in sub-Saharan Africa.’

Hot topics
The new research and practical experiences being shared at this conference are on the following hot topics in academic and development research.
Regional pastoralist policies (and the politics of pastoralist policy)
Mobility and the sustainability of pastoralist production systems
Impacts of climate change on pastoralism
Commercializing pastoralism through better markets and trade
Delivering basic health, education and veterinary services to pastoralists
New approaches for strengthening pastoralist livelihoods and social protection systems
Alternative livelihoods and exit strategies for pastoralists
Pastoralist views of land grabbing and land tenure
Pastoralist innovations
How conflicts are affecting pastoralist development in the Horn of Africa
The place, and potential, of youth and women in pastoralist societies

Researchers, policymakers, field practitioners and donor representatives at this conference are assessing the present and future challenges to African pastoralism so as to begin to define new research and policy agendas.

For more information, visit the Future Agricultures Consortium website conference page or blog and revisit this ILRI News blog.

Index-based livestock insurance project in northern Kenya wins best practice award

Andrew Mude of ILRI receives IBLI award

Andrew Mude of ILRI receives the best-practice award for the Index-based Livestock Insurance project from Manfred Wiebelt, the director of PEGnet (Photo: PEGnet) 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) led Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project in northern Kenya, which provides livestock insurance to over 2000 households in Marsabit district to help livestock herders sustain their livestock-dependent livelihoods during drought, has received a best-practice award from the Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network in recognition of the project’s innovative approach of combining scientific research and practice.

The award was presented to Andrew Mude, an economist with ILRI, who also heads the Index-based Livestock Insurance project, during the Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network’s conference ‘Policies to Foster and Sustain Equitable Development in Times of Crises’ held in Midrand, South Africa, on 2-3 September 2010.

Over the past two years, ILRI in collaboration with partners from Cornell University, the BASIS I4 project at the University of California – Davis, and Syracuse University, have come up with a research program that has designed and developed the insurance program. It is now being implemented by commercial partners as a market-led index-based insurance product that is protecting livestock keepers from drought-related animal losses particularly in the drought-prone arid and semi arid areas of Kenya. The program uses satellite imagery to determine and predict potential losses of livestock forage and issue insurance payouts to participating members when incidences of drought occur.

The first pilot product of this project, launched in January 2010 in Marsabit, brings together Equity Bank of Kenya, UAP Insurance and Swiss-Re as commercial partners who are running a commercially viable insurance product. This is a first-of-its-kind initiative in Africa and it holds enormous potential for benefitting livestock keepers in the region and across the continent. So far, the project has recorded over 2000 contracts covering livestock worth over US$1 million and attracting premiums of over US$77,000.

The project is expected to bring economic and social benefits to livestock keepers and protect households against drought-induced livestock losses thereby reducing their likelihood of descending into poverty. By insuring the assets of pastoralists against catastrophic losses, members will be able to come out of poverty, be protected from the risk of falling into poverty and at the same time will have opportunity to explore other activities for household economic development.

The impact of the project is currently under assessment to find out its benefits before it can be scaled up to other districts in the country. 

The Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network brings together researchers with an interest in issues revolving around poverty, inequality and growth in developing countries and links them to German development policy bodies with the aim of among others, using research results for policy advice on pro-poor growth strategies.

More information about the Index-based Livestock Insurance project can be found on the project website: www.ilri.org/ibli/

The following ILRI news article shares information about the project’s launch in Marsabit:  http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/1440

To find out more about the Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth Network’s 2010 conference please visit http://www.pegnet.ifw-kiel.de/

World’s first livestock insurance supports African herders

Drought is the greatest hazard facing livestock herders in Kenya. Their livelihoods have been greatly affected, and often devasted, by animal losses as a result of severe droughts, especially in the past 10 years.

In this 12-minute film, Andrew Mude, an economist working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), shares the story of a pilot project introduced in Marsabit District of northern Kenya in 2007 to provide a new and innovative livestock insurance scheme to Kenyan herders. The project is a result of joint research and collaboration by partners from different sectors, including private insurance companies, working in the region as well as institutions overseas.

This initiative is helping livestock keepers in some of Kenya’s most marginal areas to escape poverty and, as the film shows, has great potential to help other herding communities in Africa.

ILRI hosts Ethiopia workshop on index-based livestock insurance

On 12 July 2010, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will convene a workshop in Addis Ababa to introduce partners and key stakeholders to the concept of index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) – as used in northern Kenya – and to explore whether such an initiative could be developed for southern Ethiopia.

This video explains the ILRI-supported IBLI project in Kenya:

Location, location, location: Geographic techies explore ways of navigating a better future

If, as the popular science saying goes, we can understand only what we can measure, what shall we say about what we can locate on a map? Is that, too, a foundation for real understanding, or is mapping more like taxonomy, more critical to scientific knowledge (categorization) than to scientific understanding (causation)?

A group of some 80 international and developing-country experts in the use of geographical information systems (GIS), remote sensing and other high-tech tools developed in the field of what was once innocently called ‘geography’ met in Nairobi last week (8–12 June 2010) to see if they couldn’t, by working together better, speed work to reduce world poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. (Oddly, this gathering of people all about ‘location’ tend to use a forest of acronyms — GIS, ArcGIA, CSI, ESRI, ICT-KM, AGCommons, CIARD, CGMap  — in which the casual visitor is likely to get lost.)

The participants at this meeting, called the ‘Africa Agricultural GIS Week’, aimed to find ways to offer more cohesive support to the international community that is working to help communities and nations climb out of poverty through sustainable agriculture.

The world’s big agricultural problems – too little food to feed the 6-plus and growing billions of people on the planet, too extractive (unsustainable) ways of producing food, too little new land left to put to food production, too few viable agricultural markets serving the poor, too high food prices for the urban poor, too extreme and variable climates for sustaining rural agricultural livelihoods – appear to be fast closing in on us. Our global agricultural problems are of an increasingly connected and complex nature. Most experts agree that silver-bullet solutions are not the answer. We must tackle these problems holistically or, in the jargon of agricultural science, from a systems-based perspective.

And that, perhaps, is where these high-tech geographers can most help us navigate the future of small-scale food production.

VISH NENE, Director of the Biotechnology Theme

At the opening of this Week’s events, held at the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Vish Nene, a molecular biologist who directs ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme, spoke on behalf of ILRI’s director general, Carlos Seré, who was on mission travel abroad. Nene welcomed Kenya’s Assistant Minister of Agriculture and MP, Hon Japhet Mbiuki, who gave a keynote speech on behalf of Kenya’s Minister for Agriculture, Hon Dr Sally Kosgei.

Nene said that ILRI was particularly pleased to be hosting this meeting, as it has a long track record in the use of GIS in its research portfolio, having developed a GIS Unit first some 22 years ago and being a leader today in large-scale, fine-resolution, mapping of the intersection of small-scale livestock enterprises and global poverty.

An M.O. Notenbaert, Scientist, GIS Analyst, Targeting and Innovation

The second day of the Week, An Notenbaert, a GIS expert at ILRI, gave the participants an overview of what ILRI has been doing in the area of geospatial research, and what particular kinds of geospatial services and expertise ILRI could offer new ‘mega-programs’ of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Notenbaert sketched two of ILRI’s research projects that require a ‘spatial’ foundation.

Protecting remote herders with their first drought-related livestock insurance

The first ILRI project Notenbaert described is one that this year is piloting ‘index-based livestock insurance’ for remote Kenyan livestock herders. This project, she said, is all about managing risks in dry, harsh lands, where most people’s livelihoods still depend on livestock herding. Because traditional livestock insurance is impractical for the dispersed herding populations of Kenya’s northern frontier, ILRI researchers initiated a study on the feasibility of using information not about the number of livestock deaths in droughts over the years, but rather an indicator associated with such drought-related animal deaths. ‘We are using satellite images of vegetation of the region to come up with a livestock mortality index,’ she said. ‘This is quite a neat application of remote sensing data.’

The pilot project was launched in Kenya’s Marsabit District in January 2010. Livestock owners in the district have bought insurance premiums that will pay out not when their animals die (which would require a logistically complex and expensive procedure to verify animal deaths), but rather when satellite images show that livestock forage has dipped below a predetermined threshold, with the likely result of many animals dying.

Down-scaling climate projections for more useful information for policymakers

The second ILRI project Notenbaert described to the assembled group of spatial experts is working to make more local, and thus more useful, assessments of the impacts of climate change on poor communities in the tropics.

Little information, for example, is available on climate change in East Africa, whether at country or local levels. While a projected increase in rainfall in East Africa to 2080, extending into the Horn of Africa, is robust across the ensemble of Global Circulation Models available, other work suggests that climate models have probably underestimated the warming impacts of the Indian Ocean and thus may well be over-estimating rainfall in East Africa during the present century.

In 2006, ILRI researchers estimated changes in aggregate monthly values for temperature and precipitation. Possible future long-term monthly climate normals for rainfall, daily temperature and daily temperature diurnal range were derived by down-scaling the outputs of Global Circulation Models to WorldClim v1.3 climate grids at a resolution of 18 square kilometres. Outputs from several Global Circulation Models and scenarios made by the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2000) were used to derive climate normals for 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2020, 2025 and 2030 using the down-scaling methodology described in 2003 by ILRI researchers. Although the figures derived for Kenya correspond with findings of long-term wetting, the ILRI researchers also found the regional variations in precipitation to be large, with the coastal region likely to become drier, for example, while Kenya’s highlands and northern frontier are likely to become wetter.

For more information, see:

Africa Agriculture GIS Week

Index-based Livestock Insurance

Climate Projection Data Download

AGCommons: Location-specific information services for agriculture

Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development

ILRI, Equity Bank and UAP Insurance launch first-ever project to insure cows, camels and goats in Kenya’s arid north

Satellite images of remote African lands are used to insure herders from devastating droughts

Arid lands

Thousands of herders in arid areas of northern Kenya will be able to purchase insurance policies for their livestock, based on a first-of-its-kind program in Africa that uses satellite images of grass and other vegetation that indicate whether drought will put their camels, cows, goats and sheep at risk of starvation.

The project was announced today in northern Kenya’s arid Marsabit District by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), microfinance pioneer Equity Bank and African insurance provider UAP Insurance Ltd.

The index-based livestock insurance program will use satellite imagery to determine potential losses of livestock forage and issue payouts to participating herders when incidences of drought are expected to occur. If successful in the Marsabit District—where few of the 86,000 cattle and two million sheep and goat populations, valued at $67 million for milk and other products, are rarely slaughtered—the program would be offered to millions of semi-nomadic pastoralists and livestock keepers in other parts of the east African region.

“Today, our agents will begin selling insurance policies backed by UAP that for the first time will provide pastoral families in Kenya’s remote Marsabit District with a simple way to reduce their drought risk —the biggest threat to their cherished herds of cattle, sheep, goats, and camels—from devastating lives and livelihoods,” said Equity Bank Managing Director James Mwangi. “Livestock is the key asset for families in this region and securing this asset is critical to their ability to obtain credit and investments that can allow them to grow and prosper.”

ILRI, which is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), developed the project with partners at the Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya, Cornell University, Syracuse University, the BASIS program at University of Wisconsin, and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative. The project is funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank and Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSD Kenya).

Insuring livestock of pastoral families has long had been considered impossible due to the formidable challenges of verifying deaths of animals that regularly are moved over vast tracts of land in search of food. ILRI and its partners have overcome this impediment by combining satellite images of vegetation in the Marsabit District with monthly surveys of livestock deaths to pinpoint the level of forage reduction that will cause animals to die. This program is different from all others because it does not pay clients based on the actual loss of their livestock assets, but rather on indicators that the animals are at risk of death.

“The reason this system can work is that getting compensation does not require verifying that an animal is actually dead,” said Andrew Mude, who is the project leader at ILRI. “Payments kick in when the satellite images, which are available practically in real time, show us that forage has become so scarce that animals are likely to perish.”

Droughts are frequent in the region—there have been 28 in the last 100 years and four in the past decade alone—and the losses they inflict on herders can quickly push pastoralist families into poverty. For example, the drought of 2000 was blamed for major animal losses in the district.

“Insurance is something of the Holy Grail for those of us who work with African livestock, particularly for pastoralists who could use insurance both as a hedge against drought—a threat that will become more common in some regions as the climate changes—and to increase their earning potential,” said ILRI Director General Carlos Seré.

The cost of the plans offered will vary depending on the number of animals and the area of coverage. The policies contain a clause akin to a deductible, in which a family would buy coverage that would pay-out when livestock losses are expected to exceed a certain level. “We believe this program has potential because it has the elements insurers need to operate, which is a well-known risk (drought), and an external indicator that is verifiable and can’t be manipulated, which in this case is satellite images of the vegetation,” said James Wambugu, Managing Director of UAP Insurance.

The data on forage availability are derived from satellite images of plant growth in the region that are part of a global survey known as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or NDVI, a database regularly updated by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). To develop the livestock insurance program, ILRI used NDVI data collected since 1981 estimating forage availability vegetation in the Marsabit District. This information was combined with data on livestock deaths that have been collected monthly since 2000 by the Kenya Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP) and USAID’s Pastoral Risk Management Project. The result is a statistical model that reliably predicts when and to what degree forage reductions will result in drought-related livestock deaths.

Given the complexity of index-based livestock insurance, ILRI and its partners have developed an insurance simulation game for local communities to explain the key features of the insurance policy and tested it across the Marsabit District. ILRI’s Mude said many of the herders who played the game became intensely involved in the simulation. “It helps them understand how insurance can protect them against losses. They also appear to simply enjoy playing the game itself, which generates a lot of animated discussion,” said Mude.

Mude said there is a potential for livestock insurance to be valuable even without a drought that triggers payments. For example, a policy could prevent stock losses by providing pastoralists the means to obtain credit for purchasing feed and drugs that would allow animals to survive the tough conditions. Similarly, pastoralists who want to expand their herds to take advantage of Africa’s rising demand for livestock products are likely to find it easier to obtain capital from private creditors now unwilling to lend due to the risks associated with droughts.

But more fundamentally, ILRI believes insurance can help avert an all too common catastrophe, and one that could occur with more regularity if climate change alters rainfall patterns in the region: droughts pushing pastoralist families into chronic impoverishment by inflicting losses from which the people cannot recover.

For further background information on project details visit the IBLI website and associates ILRI stories

Satellite images of remote African lands to be used to insure herders from devastating droughts

ILRI, Equity Bank, and UAP Insurance Launch First-ever Project to Insure Cows, Camels, and Goats in Kenya’s Arid North Thousands of herders in arid areas of northern Kenya will be able to purchase insurance policies for their livestock, based on a first-of-its-kind program in Africa that uses satellite images of grass and other vegetation that indicate whether drought will put their camels, cows, goats, and sheep at risk of starvation. The project was announced today in northern Kenya's arid Marsabit District by the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), microfinance pioneer Equity Bank and African insurance provider UAP Insurance Ltd. “The reason this system can work is that getting compensation does not require verifying that an animal is actually dead,” said Andrew Mude, who is the project leader at ILRI. “Payments kick in when the satellite images, which are available practically in real time, show us that forage has become so scarce that animals are likely to perish.” Droughts are frequent in the region—there have been 28 in the last 100 years and four in the past decade alone—and the losses they inflict on herders can quickly push pastoralist families into poverty. For example, the drought of 2000 was blamed for major animal losses in the district. “Insurance is something of the Holy Grail for those of us who work with African livestock, particularly for pastoralists who could use insurance both as a hedge against drought—a threat that will become more common in some regions as the climate changes—and to increase their earning potential,” said ILRI Director General Carlos Seré. For more information, please contact: Jeff Haskins at +254 729 871 422 or +254 770 617 481; jhaskins@burnesscommunications.com or Muthoni Njiru at +254 722 789 321 or m.njiru@cgiar.org Background Materials Project Summary