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Following a successful pilot phase for the new insurance scheme developed by UAP in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation, Kenyan farmers will be able to purchase insurance against the effects of drought and excessive rain.
The program is the first of its kind. Here are more details:
Under the novel system, farmers register their purchases by sending an SMS to a phone number provided by UAP. The weather stations then monitor the weather and inform the insurance company of impending crop failure and subsequent compensation. Each farmer is then informed via SMS about the payouts. Costs are kept down through the use of automated weather stations which avoid the need for expensive field visits to farms to ascertain risk and loss. This makes the insurance feasible for both the farmer and the insurance company.
The first pay-out to farmers affected by drought happened in Nanyuki last week. UAP Head of Marketing and Distribution Joseph Kamiri said that the company had developed the product in response to a great need identified while developing agriculture insurance products for the Kenyan market in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation.
The early success of the programme has given it the go-ahead to be released across the country in 2010, said Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya:
Traditionally, smallholder farmers have been totally dependent on the vagaries of weather. In times of drought they lost their crops and their investment in seed and fertilizer. To make matters worse, farmers then had to pay for a second lot of seed to enable them to replant. But because they had not obtained a crop, they had little money, if any, to repurchase the seed.
In recent months, Kenya has been hit by severe drought, so this new programme will likely go a long ways toward helping impacted farmers get back on their feet.
Two UN groups are teaming up to help identify and respond to areas likely to be impacted by food shortages in the future.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has agreed to share data concerning floods, hurricanes, mudslides, drought and other forms of severe weather with the World Food Programme (WFP).
This information can help the WFP provide better and faster assistance to those living in areas impacted by climate-related disasters:
Severe weather, brought on by climate change, has a direct impact on people’s food security. Floods, hurricanes, mudslides, drought and other weather events destroy crops, homes, and lives – increasing hunger among the world’s poorest people.
Climate change is accentuating the suffering caused by political and economic instabilities in many countries.
The March 2009 policy brief from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) discusses several key areas where increased knowledge and innovation can help progress the world’s level of agricultural development.
Like the Farming First plan, IFPRI’s recommendations include a farmer-centric approach with scaled-up investments and proactive policy changes for research, training, and institutional reform for the sector.
The report notes:
the rural poor draw on indigenous knowledge and innovate through local experimentation and adaptation…. Emerging issues such as high food prices, climate change, and demands for biofuels require complementary knowledge from formal agricultural research and development (R&D) and support from policies and other institutions.
The report continues:
Formal and informal knowledge and innovation must therefore be linked to accelerate sustainable agricultural development.
Sharing and scaling up local knowledge helps maximize agriculture’s potential to improve livelihoods. For instance, researching drought and flood resistant crops can help those regions already being affected by climate change. Equally, scaling up successful training and microcredit programmes improves small-scale farmers’ capacity to feed themselves and the rest of the world’s population.
Losses to crops can also come from excess water rather than drought or damage from pests.
In areas prone to flooding, the development of ‘waterproof rice’ could make a dramatic difference.
Scientist at IRRI have identified a gene which allows rice plants to withstand be submerged for two weeks without damage. The gene has already been transferred to a rice variety used in Bangladesh and is showing positive results.