Farming provides a living for two out of three people in Sub Saharan Africa. But when hail, floods, drought or wildfires strike, farmers are left with nothing, making it impossible to continue their business. In the US, Europe and many other parts of the world, it's very different - insurance payouts help farmers to pay back their loans and invest in the new season. Bringing this "normal" to farmers in Africa is a key goal for Swiss Re and for me in my job.
It's easy to say: "ok, let's build up an insurance market", but how do we actually go about it?
The reasons why many African countries don't have any agro-insurance solutions are manifold. Farmers are difficult to reach as many live in remote areas. They often have very little understanding about the mechanisms of insurance and insurance products. There are no agriculture production records available and insuring a large number of very small farmers is an operational challenge - and an expensive one at that.
By trying to support the agriculture insurance markets we end up not only sitting at our desk and signing contracts, but are engaging in an ongoing exchange with our clients, the insurers, in their offices or in the field, discussing how products could be structured, how to implement them, how to assess losses and much more.
We also do field trips to look at the crops, chicken or cattle. And by doing so we might also get stuck in the mud for some hours and have to start thinking about where we will spend the night. Or we might find yourself going from minus 5 to 40 degrees within the space of 12 hours and spending the day on a banana plantation in the heat of the African sun.
Agriculture (re)insurance in Africa is much more than just calculating a risk and signing a contract, it's about building up know-how and partnerships and working together to develop a market segment from scratch. If we succeed, farmers can continue farming even if disaster strikes.
Category: Food security: Farming