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Africa’s first ‘Islamic-compliant’ livestock insurance pays 100 herders in Kenya’s remote drylands of Wajir for drought-related livestock losses


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A boy and a woman struggle with the dusty wind looking for water in Wajir, Kenya (photo on Flickr by Jervis Sundays, Kenya Red Cross Society).

Today, for the first time in Africa, an insurance policy that combines an Islamic-compliant financial instrument with innovative use of satellite imagery is compensating Muslim pastoralists for drought-induced losses suffered in Kenya’s northeastern Wajir County, where livestock are valued at Ksh46 billion (USD550 million).

Thirty women and 71 men in arid and semi-arid Wajir are the first beneficiaries of livestock insurance that conforms to the Islamic concept of takaful, in which risks are shared among a group of participants. Through a contract called tabbaru (donation), participants make contributions to a risk fund. In the case of a payout, which happened today, the fund makes payments commensurate with the contributions received.

The pilot program is paying approximately Ksh500,000 (USD5,800) for losses suffered to their herds of sheep, goat, cattle and camels during the long dry season that typically ends in March.

The herds were insured last August by Takaful Insurance of Africa (TIA) with an Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) product, branded as Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT).

IBLI uses satellite imagery—measuring the conditions of grazing lands—that is fed into an algorithm that predicts livestock loses. Predictions beyond the 15-percent level trigger indemnity payments. Drought conditions in much of Wajir County have surpassed the index trigger and active contract holders in these areas were compensated today.

This payout is critical for building confidence in the concept of insurance for the pastoral, drought-prone regions of East Africa, where life revolves around livestock and droughts can bring disaster,” said Andrew Mude, who leads the IBLI program of the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

It’s particularly important to make livestock policies work for places like Wajir,” he added, “where many thought the combination of isolation from economic activity and the vast, remote areas covered by pastoralist herders made protecting livestock assets with market-mediated insurance products impossible.”

Kenya: drought leaves dead and dying animals in northen Kenya

Dead and dying animals at Dambas, in the Arbajahan area of Wajir District, in northeastern Kenya, which in the mid-1990s dried up due to successive years of very little rain; Africa’s climates have always been erratic but there is evidence that global warming is increasing droughts, floods and climate uncertainty and unpredictability (photo on Flickr by Brendan Cox / Oxfam).

ILRI works in collaboration with a wide array of partners in this program that include the government of the Republic of Kenya, Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4), among many others.

ILRI and partners want to see livestock insurance available throughout East Africa, where an estimated 70 million people live in drylands, many of them making their living by herding animals. In Kenya alone, the pastoral livestock sector is estimated to be worth at least USD5 billion. The eight-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) estimates that over 90 percent of the meat consumed in East Africa comes from pastoral herds.

So far, about 4,000 pastoralists in northern Kenya, not all of them Muslim, have bought IBLI contracts since the project launched in 2010, an indication that there is both interest in and demand for livestock insurance.

Our goal is to show pastoralists that they can use a fair and ethical business model to protect their assets from a natural hazard of keeping livestock in East Africa,” said Hassan Bashir, the CEO of Nairobi-based Takaful Insurance, whose father is a client and received a payout today.

Takaful earns a management fee from participants who pay contributions to become members of a fund or risk pool. The pool receives contributions and makes payments when the contract pays out. If a surplus results, it is distributed equitably to those members who are not recipients of the payout.

Experts at ILRI say that in semi-arid and arid regions, insurance can make keeping livestock a more effective and sustainable livelihood strategy and can act as a cushion to household assets and income in times of distress. Initial studies from other pastoral regions that have access to the IBLT product showed that droughts were less likely to damage diets in households that had bought insurance. The insurance also was linked to a 50 percent drop in distress sales of livestock and a 33 percent drop in reliance on food aid.

The IBLI program in Kenya is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Australia and the European Union.

Without aid we would be dead

Sixty-three-year-old Yarey Abdi iIobe lives in Shabantaabaq Village (the name means ‘five acacia trees’), in Wajir District, in the northeast corner of Kenya’s vast drylands. In 2001, the village had not seen rain in two and a half years and some 80% of its cattle died as a result (photo on Flickr by Oxfam East Africa).

ILRI researchers note that making livestock insurance commercially viable in East Africa will require catalyzing a critical mass of informed demand. They acknowledge this will be a challenge in a region where many herders occupy vast remote areas where communication and transport are difficult. But some experts believe the potential to protect pastoralists from drought and help them improve their herds justifies support from governments and donors, just as agriculture insurance is often subsidized in many countries across the globe.

We saw what Wajir was like in 2011 when the worst drought in decades killed almost half the livestock in the region and lives were left hanging in the balance,” said Liesbeth Zonneveld, country director of Mercy Corps, an organization that is a partner in the IBLT project. “Today we see a situation where drought remains a threat, but people have a way to protect their central source of food and income.

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith said the success of the IBLI program is evidence that pastoralists in Africa are as receptive as livestock keepers anywhere to options for managing risk.

These are people who over the centuries have learned how to nurture herds in some of the most challenging conditions in the world,” Smith said. “They may not have encountered livestock insurance before, but they have quickly understood how it can help bring a new level of stability to the pastoralist way of life.

The Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT) is a brand of the Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project developed in partnership by ILRI, Cornell University and Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4) at the University of California at Davis. The ILRI-led IBLI and IBLT projects are part of ILRI’s Livelihoods, Gender and Impact Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Further information on the wider program agenda is available at www.ilri.org/ibli.

Takaful Insurance of Africa Limited (TIA) is a dynamic insurance company responsible for pioneering the Takaful concept, a new and ethical perspective to the insurance industry in Kenya and the region. http://www.takafulafrica.com/

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research on efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock. The products generated by ILRI and its partners help people in developing countries enhance their livestock-dependent livelihoods, health and environments. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a second principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other offices in Southern and West Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia.

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
ILRI films on research helping Africa’s small-scale livestock keepers better adapt to changing climates, 13 Jan 2014
‘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

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