Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Satellite images help insure Kenya cattle

By Will Ross
BBC News, Nairobi

A Turkana man with camel
Animals are used as a store of wealth in rural Kenya

A new insurance scheme has been launched in northern Kenya which offers herdsmen a chance to protect their livestock against drought.

The initiative uses satellite technology to check the pasture available for the herders.

Arid northern Kenya suffered a severe drought last year and hundreds of thousands of animals died.

Until now insuring herds of livestock in rural Africa has been all but impossible.

Partly because it has simply been too expensive for insurers to go and count the number of dead animals which might be spread over a vast rural area.

But a new initiative launched in Marsabit in northern Kenya offers some hope at a time when frequent droughts are hitting communities hard.

Commercially sustainable

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) says satellite imagery will be used to monitor the landscape - if the images show a lack of pasture then it will be assumed the animals are likely to die and the owners can receive a pay-out.

ILRI's Andrew Mude told the BBC that they had spent four years on the project and wanted it to be commercially sustainable.

Out of a population of around two million goats and sheep, around 300,000 died in Turkana district during the recent drought
Michael Ameripus
Vets Without Borders

"The percentage premium will depend on the area. Upper Marsabit is more [drought-]prone and the premium will be 5.5% of the value of the livestock whereas in Lower Marsabit people will pay 3.25%," he said.

The scheme will be run by a Kenyan bank together with a local insurance firm.

The initial aim is to get 1,000 families in northern Kenya to insure their cows, goats, sheep and camels.

To insure a herd of 10 cows for example a family would pay the equivalent of around $50 (£31).

It sounds a lot but paying out less than a third of the value of a single cow to insure the herd of 10 might be tempting given the potential losses due to drought.

Last year, Kenyan pastoralist communities lost hundreds of thousands of livestock after the rains failed and there are signs that climate change is having a detrimental effect across vast swathes of Africa.

The animals are for many people the equivalent of their bank account, so insuring their herds may be a way of avoiding future economic crises.

If successful the initiative would be rolled out across the region and other arid parts of Africa.

"It would be very popular if they introduced it here," said Michael Ameripus, who works with Vets Without Borders in northern Kenya's Turkana district.

"Out of a population of around two million goats and sheep, around 300,000 died in Turkana district during the recent drought," he said.

"So insurance would offer people here a great boost."

Print Sponsor

Drought: Kenya's own banking crisis
11 Oct 09 |  Africa
Kenya school battles huge drought
27 Aug 09 |  Africa
Audio slideshow: Kenya's drought
31 Aug 09 |  Today
Kenya drought worsens hunger risk
20 Aug 09 |  Africa
Kenyan mobilises for drought aid
11 Aug 09 |  Africa
UN set to double Kenya food aid
18 Mar 09 |  Africa


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

IOL Herders get livestock insurance - 52 hrs ago Satellite insurance for cows - 54 hrs ago
Mail & Guardian Online Kenyans to be offered livestock insurance against drought - 55 hrs ago
Times Live South Africa Kenyans get satellite insurance - 57 hrs ago Kenyans get satellite insurance for cows, camels - 58 hrs ago

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific