Kenyan Scientist awarded for innovating livestock insurance program

A Kenyan Researcher, Dr. Andrew Mude, 39, Wednesday evening received the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application at the World Food Prize Event in Iowa, United States of America.

Dr. Mude an Economist and Principal Scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya was being honored for his work of developing an innovative livestock insurance program that employs satellite data to help protect livestock herding communities in the Horn of Africa from the devastating effects of drought.

The accolade, named to honour the legendary crop scientist and Nobel Prize winner was presented to Dr. Mude by Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin during the 2016 World Food Prize Symposium in Iowa. The Foundation provides an endowment for the award which includes US $ 10,000 for the winner.

The satellite data is gathered every 10 days by the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and then processed by NASA to create a vegetation index that allows Mude and his colleagues to track the density of vegetation available to pastoralists in Africa.

When the index shows decline of vegetation below an agreed threshold, it is a sign that drought will follow leading to the death of livestock which leads herders to be given payouts to purchase feeds, medicine and other inputs that will help their animals survive the drought.

In a press release sent to newsrooms Thursday, ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith said before the innovation payments were previously made to replace dead livestock during drought period but now the payment is providing as a safety net for pastoralists.

Dr. Mude has also been feted with a USAID Award for Scientific Excellence for innovative use of satellite technology and community outreach to help vulnerable herding communities in Africa.

The Rockefeller Foundation Africa Managing Director Mamadou Biteye said Dr. Mude’s innovation has helped livestock farmers protect their livelihoods and food security from the impacts of climate change.

Biteye added, “With today’s changing climate, and the increasing frequency of droughts, weather- based insurance has become a critical tool in building the resilience of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations”.

Before the launch of the innovation dubbed Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project led by Dr. Mude to reduce the vulnerability of East Africa’s livestock herding families recurring droughts, pastoralists had no insurance.

Dr. Mude said his team would continue to partner with other researchers’ and the herders to find out new ways that could help millions of people continue to practice the oldest form of sustainable food production the world has ever seen

He said since IBLI project started providing insurance contracts in the country, it has expanded across North Eastern in areas of Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera Counties of which Kenya has received US $159,000 in payouts.

Currently the government is providing IBLI coverage to 9,000 households through the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) and expects to cover 80,000 to 100,000 households by 2019. Recently KLIP paid a few herders in Wajir in late August 2016 when they suffered prolonged drought.

Source: Kenya News Agency