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Livestock insurance will “save” African pastoralists 0

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have tested an innovative insurance scheme designed to protect pastoralists against drought-related livestock deaths. Andrew Mude, who joinded ILRI in 2006 as an Economist at ILRIs Targeting and Innovations Program, manages the livestock insurance project. Read his interview released to, Le Confident (Central African Republic), Le Républicain (Niger) and Les Echos (Mali).

What is the objective of this pilot project that allows pastoralists not to sell their animals in difficult periods to buy food?

The idea with the livestock insurance is not to discourage pastoralist to see their animals if they are desperate and need food.  Rather the idea is that should pastoralist lose their animals to severe drought conditions as they often do, they are able to receive monetary compensation that can either allow them to restock faster, invest in other productive activities or even purchase food and other items of necessity. Livestock being pastoralists key asset, this insurance aims to help protect pastoralists against the full impact of drought-related livestock losses.

What are the preconditions that farmers must meet to qualify for this insurance?  Most of the insurance programs for farmers are subsidized in Western and emerging countries. Is it possible to experiment this project in the Sahel where the climatic conditions in which farmers are living are even more harsh?

The insurance product is currently provided by commercial insurance companies.  As such pastoralists do not need to ‘qualify’ as such.  They only need to show an interest and be able to purchase the insurance.  It should be noted that while the insurance contracts are sold through the market, about 40% of the premium is currently being subsidized.  There are, however, supply side prerequisites for this type of insurance – index-based livestock insurance – to be effective, it requires that drought-related losses, in which losses are realized across the affected geographical region, are the main mortality threat to livestock; livestock are both a principal asset and source of income for the target population, and finally data on livestock mortality are available to allow the insurance contracts to be appropriately calibrated.

In Africa drought is the major cause of death of livestock, which is the main cause of vulnerability of pastoralists. What are your proposals for improving the response capacity of pastoralists to climate change?

The index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) program focus on reducing the vulnerability pastoralists face to the climatic extreme of drought.  As the program expands, it is considering various complimentary programs that are related to improving climate-change related response options.  For example, we are looking into conditional insurance transfers whereby pastoralists could receive premium discounts on their insurance subsidies if they adopted behaviors that were deemed to reduce their vulnerability, or mitigate climate change.

In African countries in general and Central African Republic in particular, farmers who are moving with the revenues generated by their activities do not pay taxes to ensure a happy retirement etc. Does ILRI look into strategies and policies to entice farmers’ activities from informal framework to formal framework?

ILRI works to try and encourage enhanced productivity and returns from livestock-based livelihoods and champions access to markets, whether through formal or informal channels as one key pillar of this.  ILRI, however, does not typically work on developing, implementing or advocating for the provision of social safety nets that would – for example – offer a retirement benefit to its constituents.

Pastoralism develops in the North because farmers are trained and receive credits and subsidies. How can we proceed to have in the South, a new generation of breeders competent, dynamic and sustained?

Within it’s various research arms, ILRI is working to develop comprehensive agendas that address the full gamut of concerns.  ILRI has adopted a marketing chain approach in several of its programs to ensure that livestock keepers are not only able to effectively access inputs necessary for efficient production (feeds, insemination, proper breeds, vaccines, veterinary support, extension advice) but that they are also organized in such a way as to better leverage for wider markets and better prices.  Supporting this research agenda must be a focus on improving breeding practices and developing more effective ways to deliver animal health and productivity inputs. Attention to the environment and particular its interaction with climate change ensures that livestock system scan flexibly adapt and adopt new breeds and/or production systems consistent with long-run sustainable growth.  ILRI, together with her partners, works on the intersection of all these issues ensuring a holistic and comprehensive approach to the enhancing livestock-related livelihoods for the poor.

By Joshua Massarenti (, Momet Mathurin (Le Confident), Alexis Kalambry (Les Echos) and Ousseini Issa Djibo (Le Républicain)


© Les Echos (Mali), Le Républicain (Niger), Le Confident (Central African Republic) and (Italy)

This article is published in the framework of an editorial project supported by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in the framework of Brussels Development Briefings, but does not necessarily reflect the views of the this organisation.

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