Farmers test insurance to ward off climate-driven hunger

Man weeding groundnuts at a farm in Turkana. [File, Standard]

When drought-ravaged her sorghum and bean crops five years ago, Kenyan farmer Ngina Kyalo did not need to stand in line for food handouts, as in previous years when rains failed.

Instead, she received a payout of Sh12,000 ($105.50) after enrolling in a crop insurance scheme for farmers grappling with recurring droughts linked to a warming climate.

“I used the payout to buy food, pay school fees and buy some seeds,” said the mother-of-four, who lives in Muselele village in Kitui county.

“When there were droughts before, we would get a little food aid and the children would just sit at home for months until we could get the money to send them to school,” said the 38-year-old, who cultivates three acres (1.2 hectares).

Run by the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations’ food aid agency, the insurance scheme is one of a growing number of initiatives across the globe aimed at helping vulnerable communities cope with the worsening impacts of global warming.

On Monday, a key science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of growing pressure on food production and people’s ability to get enough to eat on a hotter planet, which it said would fuel malnutrition, especially in vulnerable regions like sub-Saharan Africa.

However, it also pointed to various ways farmers can protect their business even as weather and climate extremes worsen.

For small-scale farmers in drought-prone areas, for example, climate adaptation projects range from growing different crops, planting drought-tolerant varieties and capturing rainwater to phone-based weather alerts and micro-insurance.

But climate experts say such initiatives in isolation are not enough to solve the problems facing farmers - especially in regions such as the Horn of Africa - due to erratic weather.