For a long time, majority of Kenyan farmers have had no medical insurance cover due to various reasons. Meagre earnings and lack of exposure are huge contributing factors.
But there is hope on the way. A farmers' lobby and advocacy organisation, the Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) has embarked on an ambitious drive to enhance, not just crop and livestock insurance, but also the uptake of health insurance among farmers.
The federation conducted a study among its 1.6 million members last year and revealed that more than 90 per cent of them do not have any form of health insurance, a dire situation given the prevalent unfolding eventualities and other unforeseeable health emergencies.
KENAFF Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mwenda M'Mailutha has disclosed that they are shopping around for a credible health insurer for a deal that will also sensitise farmers on the importance of health insurance.
"The country is going through a number of challenges that affect its agriculture sector. And while we all suffer some of these challenges, it is farmers - who for the most part depend on selling their farm produce for their livelihood - who suffer more, especially when they cannot sell. When looking at issues that address farmers' welfare, we must also look at their own health," Dr Mwenda told Smart Harvest.
The farmers' lobby is devising ways to facilitate access to health insurance by its members. It has been engaging different insurance companies including Madison Insurance, Britam, Jubilee and even the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Mwenda said by November, they will have settled on an insurance firm to work with and that by December during their Annual General Meeting, they will have identified a viable health insurance package.
"The health insurance will work this way; as members pay their KENAFF membership fee, part of this amount will go to the cover. Our target is at least 500,000 of our members to be enrolled in the scheme and paying their health insurance by 2025. By 2027, we intend to have about a million members paying their health insurance. By doing this, we will be contributing to the government's universal healthcare ambition," said Mwenda.
He also lamented their dispossession of farmers' representation at the NHIF board after the new NHIF Act was signed into law earlier this year, noting that as a federation, they will push for a return.
"In fact farmers ought to have more than one seat in the NHIF board because they constitute majority of the population," he added.
He also expressed his disappointment that most farmers continue to languish in poverty despite contributing greatly to the economy and nutritional sustenance.
He said farmers, especially the smallholders are hardly perceived as leading and many are always depicted in worn out attires, riding old bicycles and sometimes even begging for loans to buy inputs.