In Kenya, Low-Cost Crop Insurance for Small Farmers

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This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Weather does not discriminate between large and small farms. If it rains too much or too little, crop insurance can pay for losses. Yet insurance usually costs too much for a farmer with as little as a hectare or two of land.

But now a program called Kilimo Salama, or safe farming, offers low-cost insurance in parts of Kenya. The program is offered by the Syngenta Foundation, established by the Swiss agricultural-chemical maker Syngenta. Farmers register at businesses taking part in the program and receive a policy number through their mobile phone.

Every time the farmers buy seeds, fertilizer or other inputs, they pay an extra five percent in addition to the price. This extra cost is the insurance premium. The farmers are paid back for the inputs if their crops fail because of drought or flood.

The program is designed for maize and wheat farmers like Josephat Langat. He owns a two-hectare farm near Eldoret in western Kenya.

JOSEPHAT LANGAT: "In a case where we do not have a lot of rainfall, it means we are going to lose all the crops. But this insurance policy is going to cover the farm inputs that we use in the farms, so that is going to give us the certainty of going back to the farms again if the rains do not come."

He buys his agricultural inputs at Maraba Investments in Eldoret. About two hundred farmers signed up for the insurance within the first two weeks that it was being offered there. Beatrice Kemboi is a director of the business.

BEATRICE KEMBOI: "When a farmer elects to join the insurance, we sell the product on wholesale so that the premium is reduced, so that he doesn'tt feel it, so that it cushions him and I've also sold the product."

Beatrice Kemboi says every day she and her workers register from five to ten farmers in the program. When farmers buy their inputs, the store worker uses a mobile phone camera to scan barcode symbols that match the product. A text message confirming the policy number and sale is then sent automatically.

The program also uses solar-powered weather stations to record local rainfall amounts. The data is sent to the UAP Insurance Company. When there is crop failure because of a drought or flood, farmers receive a text message. It tells them to receive payment from the business where they purchased their inputs.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, with reporting by Cathy Majtenyi in Eldoret, Kenya. You can read and listen to our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. We're also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iTunes at VOA Learning English. I'm Jim Tedder.

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