Author: Janet Nackoney

Protecting women farmers from climate risk in rural Kenya

Source(s): Agrilinks

Women play a pivotal role in agricultural production.

Worldwide, women represent 43 percent of the agricultural labor force; in Kenya, that number is between 42 and 65 percent. However, a lack of access to land, financing, training and education among other factors place women farmers at a significant disadvantage. This results in considerably lower agricultural yields compared to their male counterparts. Women farmers also tend to have smaller farms overall. These conditions make them more vulnerable to climate shocks that can disrupt food production and result in financial hardship. 

A new activity is helping women farmers access agricultural insurance in rural Kenya. The Gender-sensitive Agricultural Index-based Insurance (GAIINS) project implemented by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in partnership with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The activity is funded through USAID’s Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) Fund and implemented through the SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa program. SERVIR is a USAID and NASA partnership in collaboration with regional institutions, such as RCMRD. SERVIR strengthens the capacity of local, regional and national governments to use satellite data and geospatial technology to address critical challenges in climate change, food security, water, disasters, land use and air quality. This partnership is also an example of how interagency collaboration under the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) is advancing adaptation needs around the world.

What is Index-Based Agricultural Insurance?

Farmers in East African countries like Kenya rely on index-based agricultural insurance to protect them against losses from crop damage caused either by extreme weather or other threats. Because weather (especially rainfall) is strongly correlated to agricultural yield, weather variables can be used as an “index” to trigger an insurance payout. Index-based insurance has proven to be cost-effective compared to traditional insurance programs as it provides faster payouts to farmers. In addition, index-based insurance has been shown to improve resilience to climate shocks, reduce extreme poverty and encourage crop diversification (including more climate-resistant crop varieties), thus increasing farmers’ financial resilience and stability.

Increasingly, index-based insurance programs are employing satellite Earth observations as a reliable source of weather and climate information that can be used to further develop and scale these programs. The data include vegetation conditions, soil moisture and rainfall estimates. This can help insurance companies easily detect and verify where and when financial payouts might be needed.

How Will GAIINS Help Women Farmers?

Though index-based agricultural insurance programs are becoming common, they disproportionately benefit men. Research has shown that women farmers tend to invest in index-based agricultural insurance considerably less often than men for a variety of reasons. These reasons range from lack of access to training and education, cost and tendency to invest in other forms of financial resilience such as savings programs. As a result, women farmers are not typically considered by insurance companies as potential clients. Insurance companies have therefore not customized their products to the needs of women farmers.

With women being disproportionately more affected by climate shocks compared to their male counterparts, finding solutions to increasing women’s participation and inclusion in the design and implementation of these programs is critical. GAIINS aims to empower and increase the capacity of women farmers to be resilient to climate shocks through the uptake of satellite-based index insurance. It also aims to train insurers to understand the importance of including women farmers in the design and implementation of insurance products and build a business case for the inclusion of women farmers.

GAIINS was launched at a collaborative workshop in Naivasha, Nakuru County, in June 2022. The workshop, led by RCMRD, brought together more than 50 key stakeholders from the Kenyan government, development organizations, the insurance and agricultural sectors, academics and local nongovernment organizations. The overall objectives of the workshop were to understand current priorities, progress, challenges and opportunities to address gender disparities in the agricultural insurance and finance sectors. In addition, the workshop discussed important strategies for engaging women and men farmers in agricultural insurance and financing and integrating gender considerations in the design and implementation of agricultural insurance products. 

The Director of Crops Management in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Mr. Douglas Kangi, opened the workshop and noted that less than one percent of smallholder farmers are currently protected by some form of insurance. As such, farmers who depend on rain-fed agriculture and use low-technology farming methods are acutely exposed to severe financial hardship resulting from drought. 

Over the next two and half years, the GAIINS project will work with the Kenyan government, insurers, women’s groups, financial partners and farmers to strengthen climate adaptation and resilience for women farmers through their participation in index-based insurance.

What GAIINS Will Do

Kenya is experiencing a higher frequency of drought. Just this year, Kenya is currently facing its worst drought in 40 years, causing major food insecurity due to below-average crop and livestock production and localized resource-based conflict. In 2015, the Government of Kenya initiated the Kenya Agricultural Insurance Program (KAIP), a program to cushion farmers and livestock pastoralists from climate-related risks. The program, developed in collaboration with the World Bank Group, consists of a partnership between the government and the private sector built on the experience of similar programs in Mexico, India and China. Since its introduction, SERVIR has helped the government of Kenya by integrating satellite data for crop area and crop conditions. This has drastically reduced the cost of data collection. The program, implemented by seven insurance companies in 33 selected counties, has helped hundreds of thousands of small-scale Kenyan farmers since its implementation.

GAIINS will co-create — with farmers and insurance companies — gender-sensitive metrics for index insurance products using analytics from innovative mapping technologies and state-of-the-art data collection tools. In addition, the project will train insurance sector players to measure and communicate variables that recognize women farmers’ unique challenges, such as time constraints, fewer agricultural inputs and multi-cropping practices. Finally, GAIINS will provide training for women farmers on the benefits of index-based agricultural insurance to increase their participation in these programs and better protect them from climate-related shocks. GAIINS is an important, locally-led contribution to protecting women farmers from climate risk in rural Kenya.

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