CTA’s efforts to promote the adoption of a bundle of climate-smart agricultural solutions by 60,000 smallholder farmers in Zambia received a significant boost in 2019 after the government contracted one of the project partners to develop a weather-based insurance product that could reach 1.5 million farmers at the national scale.
Zambian agriculture has been increasingly affected by the occurrence of severe weather conditions including seasonal droughts and dry spells, floods and changes in temperature. This has adversely affected many Zambian farmers who are smallholders and hence have limited access to affordable and reliable technologies and approaches to cope with drought and other extreme weather events linked to climate change. As part of the “Scaling up climate-smart agricultural solutions for cereals and livestock farmers in Southern Africa” project, CTA facilitates a multi-lateral partnership to provide small-scale farmers with greater access to information and strengthened capacity to effectively adopt climate-smart agricultural (CSA) solutions.
Specifically, the project promotes ICT-enabled climate information services as well as innovative weather-based insurance schemes and the diversification of options for livestock farmers, such as the use of climate-smart feed that requires less water to grow but provides the same nutritional value to livestock. Through initiatives such as seed fairs, which have been attended by more than 7,000 farmers from the end of 2017 to October 2018, the project is promoting farmer access to drought-tolerant germplasm, with specific focus on maize seeds that can fully mature in shorter rainy seasons.
Alongside CTA, the partnership is made up of the Zambia Open University (ZAOU), Musika Development Initiatives (Musika) and the Professional Insurance Company of Zambia (PICZ) in collaboration with officers and field workers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).
When the project was launched in 2017, two types of weather-based insurance were under consideration: germination and yield-based index insurance.
Webster Twaambo, Executive Head-Branch Operations at PICZ, continues: “With the prevalence of climate change, there can now be multiple dry spells over a three-month season, so germination failure is becoming increasingly likely. If farmers only receive one pay-out, the risk is great that they will face a food shortage come harvest time. So, we proposed yield-based index insurance instead. With this type of insurance, a pay-out is only triggered at the end of the season if farmers’ yields are insufficient to meet their food security requirements. This achieves two things: farmers have cash available to buy food to make up the crop shortfall as well as to buy inputs for the next season, because the seasons are only a few months apart.”
Influencing national policy
The project aimed to reach 60,000 farmers in 12 districts within three years with yield-based index insurance. However, a major policy shift in 2018 affected the project’s objectives in unforeseen ways. The Zambian government announced it was making the purchase of weather-based insurance compulsory for all farmers benefiting from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), a government initiative that distributes subsidised agricultural inputs to small-scale maize producers. More than a million farmers, including many of the 60,000 targeted by the CTA project, subscribed to weather-based insurance as a result of this shift.
“We felt that developing our own CTA-ZAOU project insurance would be redundant and we moved our focus and funds towards other things, such as training over 1,000 government frontline extension officers, agro-dealers and lead farmers in CSA and running awareness campaigns to stimulate demand for crop insurance”, says Professor Lovejoy Malambo, Dean of the School of Agricultural Sciences at the ZAOU and project leader. “However, through a number of channels, notably the government advisory committees of which we were part, we lobbied intensively to have yield-based index insurance offered under FISP, which was using another type of weather-based insurance provided by a private sector partner. Following a drought in Southern Africa in the 2018/2019 season and widespread germination failure, the government approached PICZ and asked them to develop a yield-based insurance product for the 2019/2020 season.”
This product will now be implemented as a pilot covering 150,000 smallholders. If successful, it could be scaled up to the national level and cover the 1.5 million beneficiaries of FISP. Moreover, the project’s training materials on CSA and weather-based insurance have been adopted by front-line government extension staff and farmers across the country.
Alongside the insurance, PICZ is creating an ICT platform to improve communication with FISP farmers that will incorporate information about pay-outs as well as e-extension services. This draws on project experience using a digital platform to profile and register farmers for access to ICT and mobile-enabled weather information services. To date, some 72,000 farmers targeted by the project have been digitally profiled and received advisory and weather-related SMS on a weekly basis since the 2017/2018 cropping season. Importantly, the technical agronomic data disseminated in this way is provided by the public sector National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS), ensuring that farmers are not sent conflicting extension service messages by different service providers.
Immense scaling potential
Professor Lovejoy Malambo attributes part of the project’s success to the close links that were established early on with both farmers and government. “Data collected by the project from smallholder farmers enabled the project partners to develop specific products and services required by the farmers”, he says. “In addition, the government’s involvement from the outset through MAL meant they were already aware of and supportive of our approach.”
That involvement is now bearing considerable fruit. “In effect, public resources are being invested in CSA interventions”, Mariam Kadzamira, Climate Change Officer at CTA, concludes. “What we set out to achieve through the project is being done, and with the government now backing our recommended crop insurance, the potential for scaling is immense.”