Satellite Imaging System Used to Insure Dying Kenyan Cattle


Photo via the East African

How do you provide herders in rural, drought-stricken Kenya insurance for their perishing cattle--that are often too numerous to count? You employ satellite technology to analyze pastures where thousands of animals die every year, of course. That's what the International Livestock Research Institute is doing--it hopes by monitoring pastures with state-of-the-art technology, it will be able to provide insurance to struggling herders.The BBC explains the plight herders face in northern Africa, and why such an advanced insurance system is necessary: "Arid northern Kenya suffered a severe drought last year and hundreds of thousands of animals died. Until now insuring herds of livestock in rural Africa has been all but impossible."

This is largely because it's impossible to count so many dead animals. It's estimated that out of 2 million livestock, 300,000 died in a single district, the Turkana, just during the most recent drought. The worsening droughts are a result of the warming climate in Africa, which has seen a steady increase in temperatures.

Insurance Plan for Cattle in Kenya
So how will the plan work? The BBC explains that "satellite imagery will be used to monitor the landscape - if the images show a lack of pasture then it will be assumed the animals are likely to die and the owners can receive a pay-out." The initiative will be spearheaded by a local Kenyan bank, in tandem with an insurance company--and ILRI wants the venture to be entirely commercially sustainable.

Again, here's the BBC:

The initial aim is to get 1,000 families in northern Kenya to insure their cows, goats, sheep and camels. To insure a herd of 10 cows for example a family would pay the equivalent of around $50 (£31). It sounds a lot but paying out less than a third of the value of a single cow to insure the herd of 10 might be tempting given the potential losses due to drought. The animals are for many people the equivalent of their bank account, so insuring their herds may be a way of avoiding future economic crises. If successful the initiative would be rolled out across the region and other arid parts of Africa.
An intriguing plan to be sure--we'll have to see how effective the novel idea is in stabilizing the livelihood of a group that's never had insurance before.

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