by Kagondu Njagi | Thomson Reuters Foundation

A new project is training farmers to use smartphones to chart the health of their crops, so that they are more likely to receive compensation when droughts or flooKenyan farmers snap crops with phones to improve insurance payoutsds hit By Kagondu Njagi

MUIRI, Kenya, Oct 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Farmer Thomas Mwiraria surveyed the parched terrain at a church compound in Muiri village in central Kenya, and asked a passing agricultural officer when he thought the rains would come.

Like many others here, Mwiraria had yet to harvest anything from his land since a long drought began in January.

The officer pointed to Mwiraria's neighbour, Joseph Ibeere, who was seated under a giant tree working out how local farmers could receive compensation for their lost crops using "picture-based" insurance.

The new way of tracking and verifying when harvests fail, using an app on a smartphone, is intended to result in a cheaper and more effective type of insurance than commonly used schemes based on satellite imagery or agents visiting fields in person.

"Index-based" crop insurance, which has been promoted widely among small-scale farmers in recent years, depends on satellite images to detect if a given area - which may cover up to 1,000 farmers - is being hit by extreme weather.

But the growing use of satellite mapping to determine payouts has not worked well for many farmers, according to Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

That is because the technology gathers data on a wide area, giving a general view of whether it is affected by drought or floods but does not measure rainfall at a local enough level, said Jemimah Njuki, an IDRC specialist in agriculture and environment.

"In a situation where satellite data indicates that a region had sufficient rainfall, some farmers there who experienced crop loss due to micro-climates are not given insurance payouts. Feeling upset, some opt out of the insurance scheme," she said.

But a solution is on offer in some villages like Mwiraria's.


Using smartphones, farmers are learning how to take photos of their land, starting from before a crop is sown to after it is harvested or damaged by weather extremes, said Ibeere.

The snaps should include a recognisable landmark so they can be verified and are shared with researchers and insurance agents, helping them decide more precisely which farmers have suffered losses.

"This project is trying to combine the information collected by farmers on their smartphones with satellite data. The combined data makes it easy to determine whether a farmer gets a payout," said IDRC's Njuki.

The pilot aims to boost farmers' trust in crop insurance, which has been dented by the bluntness of satellite technology as a basis for approving payouts, she added.

The new data source also makes it possible to determine if a crop failed due to too much or too little rainfall, or was harmed by pests and diseases, she noted.

Partnering with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and insurance product developer ACRE Africa (Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd), the new project aims to work with 50,000 farmers, she said.

The CAD$1.7 million ($1.3 million) project, which began in April, will run for three and a half years and has so far enlisted farmers in the central counties of Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu.

ACRE Africa, which mediates between farmers and insurers, is introducing an app called Kilimo Care to help farmers take good-quality, accurate photos, according to Joseph Chegeh, its portfolio manager.

Developed by an expert at the International Food Policy Research Institute, picture-based index insurance has been tested in India with success in estimating losses and reducing administration costs, ACRE Africa said on its website.


Farmer Purity Nkatha, 41, from Luuma village in Meru County, said that under the old system based on satellite images farmers were not sure of receiving payouts when merited. But that "trial and error" approach is now changing, she said.

"I feel I am part of making decisions for my insurance payouts with this system that involves me in collecting data through photography," she added.

The Nairobi-based Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) said satellite imagery does offer a high enough resolution to detect potential weather problems and their impact on crop health over a period of time.

But additional information to complement satellite data can help provide insurers with a more detailed picture, said director general Emmanuel Nkurunziza.

"The more information the better. Instead of going with one, it is better to increase the sources," he said.

Michael Hailu, director of the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), told a recent conference in Accra that combining digital innovation like drones, smartphones and artificial intelligence with satellite data could build more comprehensive information on weather and agricultural field work in Africa.

New technology has huge potential to boost productivity, incomes and resilience among small-scale farmers, he added.

But Muthomi Njuki, governor of Tharaka Nithi County and chair of the Kenyan parliament's agricultural committee, said those innovations should be made affordable to farmers - by providing credit, for example - so they can benefit.

"Weather extremes in Kenya have made most farmers poor," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

($1 = 1.3329 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Kagondu Njagi; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

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Original post on Reliefweb

Nairobi, Kenya, 14th October 2019

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Severe drought is again ravaging parts of Kenya and other countries in the Horn of Africa, where 12 million people now require immediate humanitarian assistance. According to Kenya National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), in Kenya, an estimated 2.6 million people face acute food insecurity. This number is likely to increase to an estimated 3.1 million people in the 2019 August to October lean season, based on the October 1st food security nutrition working group estimates.

In an urgent response to address growing humanitarian needs, the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) has released 3.15 million euros to the Kenya Cash Consortium, led by ACTED in partnership with Oxfam, Concern Worldwide, and members of the ASAL Humanitarian Network including: Arid Land Development Focus (ALDEF), Pastoralist Community Initiative Development and Assistance (PASIDA), Pastoralist Integrated Support Program (PISP), Pastoralist Girl Initiative (PGI), Sustainable Approaches for Community Empowerment (SAPCONE) and Turkana Pastoralist Development Organization (TUPADO).

The Kenya Cash Consortium is providing cash assistance of KES 4,711 a month, quantified from household food needs, for a duration of three months, to 17,500 families who face acute food and nutrition insecurity, in the hard-hit counties of Tana River, Turkana, Baringo and Marsabit. The action is aligned with the Government’s response plan, but more needs to be done.

In light of this, Ahmed Ibrahim, convener of the ASAL Humanitarian Network and CEO of ALDEF, said:

“The support from ECHO is much needed to meet some of the immediate and growing humanitarian needs in Kenya. However, it is essential that the Government of Kenya now provides sufficient and timely resources – as the primary duty bearer – to meet the humanitarian needs of its citizens. The KES.5.4 billion that the government has set aside in its budgets for the comprehensive drought response plan needs to materialize and be fully accounted for. At the same time, more sustainable resilience-focused interventions need to be scaled-up to address the persistent vulnerability of people to drought in the ASALs of Kenya. Our country has sufficient resources, what’s missing is political will.”

According to an assessment of over 17,000 individual households in the counties of Baringo, Marsabit, Turkana, and Tana River, the Kenya Cash Consortium found that almost 77% of households still fell within “borderline” or “poor” categories for the Food Consumption Score (FCS). Meaning they had extremely reduced quantity and diversity of meals.

Based on the NDMA long rains assessment released in August 2019, in each of the targeted sub counties a significant proportion of the population were categorized as having poor or borderline food consumption scores (FCS); Marsabit (29%); Turkana (50%), Baringo (50%) and Tana River (82%). In total, the consortium has reached 17% of the food insecure populations within these sub-counties, as per the following breakdown; Marsabit (18%); Turkana (11%), Baringo (19%) and Tana River (32%).

Almost 12% of households in pastoral livelihood zones reported having migrated to new areas in search of water and pasture. This displacement has put significant strains on resources for all hosting communities and has also triggered land conflicts in areas like Tana Delta, where water for pastoral use is still available. 43% of all households surveyed needed to purchase of food on credit or borrow food from others. With an average monthly income of KES 2,936 this will be a significant burden for these populations to recover from, especially for women and girls, who disproportionately bear the negative impacts of drought.

Scale up to reach those still in need is urgently needed. In the immediate term, the national and county government drought response plans must be prioritized and funded. Where the government cannot do so, it should make the funding gap clear, and request assistance from development partners.

Responsibility also lies with county governments with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), 2012 requiring counties to allocate up to 2% of their budgets for climate change adaption, disaster risk management and other contingencies. These funds must be utilized, and, in consultation with affected citizens and their representatives, prioritized to ensure a timely, efficient and effective humanitarian response.

The current drought is a terrifying portent of things to come. The climate crisis is increasing the frequency and intensity of drought and floods. Drought cycles are now occurring every 2-3 years instead of 5-7 years historically. Communities cannot recover before a new drought again decimates their livelihoods.

Urgent action is needed by national authorities and the international community to strengthen resilience to climate shocks and address extreme inequalities. All counties should adopt the climate adaptation and disaster risk management legislation which have provision for increased revenue mobilization, improved governance and accountability of funds for this very purpose. Such action requires the participation of all citizens, especially women and youth, community structures, county and national authorities, the private sector and development partners.

For more information contact Kirsten Poole - Kenya Cash Consortium Coordinator:

In 2016, the government of Kenya and key stakeholders revealed that they was going to set up a National Addressing System (NAS) for the state. NAS will see streets and buildings assigned names and numbers for easy identification.

The project named the Communications Authority of Kenya as a primary player, which also developed a framework for numbering of streets, properties and parcels of land to aid recognition.

According to the ICT Ministry, the government is now in the final stages of developing NAS.

“The Govt, through the CA and other stakeholders, is at the final stages of developing a National Addressing System for Kenya. In this regard, the necessary national standards for naming and numbering streets and property have already been developed,” reported Ms. Julia Yampan who was representing CS Joe Mucheru in a recent event.

For context, NAS is backed up by the Kenya Information and Communications (Numbering) Regulations 2010, which tasks the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to set up a National Communications and Addressing Plan (NCAP) for postal codes, communication numbers and addresses in collaboration with global organizations that deal with numbering and addressing systems; and make sure that NCAP includes geographical postal points of delivery.

This development is preceded by a 2016 inaugural workshop that was attended by several stakeholders, including KEBS, IEBC, and HELB. The exercise has since seen the development of draft NAS standards and other critical guiding frameworks for implementing the addressing system.

“The system, once implemented, will go a long way in stimulating and enhancing national security and the growth of e-commerce and m-commerce in the country, and thus open up additional opportunities for the Post,” concluded Ms. Julia Yampan.

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