Kenyan farmers use mobiles to secure crops

Whether it is a new home or a television, having good insurance is a pretty important thing to have to maintain a sound mind and prevent future problems for the many investments in our lives. So, it is no surprise that farmland should also be given the same consideration for insurance. A new protection policy in Africa is using technology to insure some of the world's most vulnerable farmers.

Last year's droughts throughout Africa were some of the worst in decades, causing higher food prices, illness among both people and animals and destroyed crops that took months to repair. To address these problems, the Agricultural Index Insurance Initiative at the Syngenta Foundation launched last week Kilimo Salama, Swahili for "safe farming", to provide insurance plans for Kenyan farmers.

Here is how it works: When purchasing seeds from an retailer, farmers register to insure their seeds by filling in the insurance card. The registration process is completed when the farmer sends a text message on their mobile phone, and a record is created in a database. A local weather station records the rainfall and sends the data to the insurance company, which then calculates a payout according to an agronomic model. At the end of the season the farmer receives a text message if there is a payout and can pick up their payout at the original retailer where the insurance was purchased.

Kilimo Salama actually began as a small pilot project last year with a group of 200 farmers in the central region of Laikipia. Most of the farmers were highly impressed with the program, as many of them received a payout of up to 80 percent. This year the insurance program will cover at least 5,000 maize and wheat farmers in Central, Rift Valley and Western provinces, which is at high risk of drought. This program shows that even a simple tool like a mobile phone can make a big difference in the lives of many.

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