Sunday, November 04, 2012

Kenyan Farmers Offered Crops Insurance Through Mobile Phone

Mobile communications is woven into our everyday lives and its use is reaching as far as the farm fields in Kenya.
Recently, it has been reported that maize and wheat crops can be insured by the Kenyan farmers to cover the risk against loss through bad weather, all with the help of a mobile phone. The farmers embracing this program carry a mobile phone that links to solar powered weather stations and the insurance company. The information related to rainfall, sun-heat radiation, temperature, wind speed and wind direction etc. is sent every 15 minutes by the weather stations to the mobile network.
The system works like this – the farmer has to purchase the seeds, pesticides and fertilizers from a registered store. The dealer at the store scans the barcodes of the items purchased via a mobile camera phone. The barcodes are instantly transmitted to the Insurance provider company UAP that confirms the policy to farmer on his mobile phone.
The loss is covered for the seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. In case of failure in the harvest because of bad weather, farmers get reimbursed when they buy seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and plough their crops again.
The effort to implement this program started after the severe drought in Kenya last year, when most of the crops dried up and died without giving fruitful returns. A selective group of farmers were involved in the pilot program last year and were compensated for the their crop failure due to drought.
Due to the lack of rains in 2008 and 2009 in East Africa, the prices of food items reached a peak. Conversely, this year the region is doing well in terms of crops due to a high rainfall.
To date, roughly 9,000 farmers have joined the program. However, an awareness program spearheaded by Sygneta Foundation is helping push the count higher, despite some farmers not being fully convinced that the program works. 
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