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Improving Agricultural Productivity and Resilience with Satellite and Cellphone Imagery to Scale Climate-Smart Crop Insurance (Cultiaf-2)

The livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers across the developing world are under threat from extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and heatwaves. Risks are projected to increase significantly in future years due to climate change and the anticipation of possible losses discourages farmers from making productivity-enhancing investments, thereby trapping them in low-risk, low-return agriculture.

Agricultural insurance, complemented with other risk-reducing practices, can be a sustainable approach to unlock investments in agriculture for smallholders that improve their resilience and productivity. Crop insurance protects farmers against financial risks posed by extreme weather events and has been widely advocated as a tool to help farmer households escape poverty traps and invest in climate-smart high-productivity agriculture.

The number of successful insurance schemes targeting smallholders is limited due to high monitoring and verification costs of traditional insurance; low demand for index-based insurance (designed to eliminate the need to verify losses) mainly due to poor trust and basis risks (i.e. the imperfect correlation between farmers’ actual losses and insurance payouts); and the fact that insurance products often neglect complementary risk-management options such as irrigation and drought-tolerant cultivars.

This project aims to overcome these problems through climate-smart picture-based insurance, which uses satellite and cellphone imagery to verify losses, observe management practices, and promote the adoption of productivity-enhancing and resilient technologies through advisories and bundling. Ground pictures taken by farmers will help reduce monitoring costs, minimize basis risks, and create synergies with climate-smart resilience technologies. By taking pictures of insured crops, farmers engage directly in the insurance process and improve trust and tangibility. The project will compare the picture and satellite-based insurance with the current area and yield-based insurance and it will assess the effectiveness of increasing the productivity, resilience, and food security of women, men, and youth smallholder farmers in Kenya.

This project is funded through the second phase of the Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF-2), a joint program of IDRC and the Australian International Food Security Research Centre of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. CultiAF supports research to achieve long-term food security in eastern and southern Africa.

Project ID
Project Status
42 months
IDRC Officer
Edidah Lubega Ampaire
Total Funding
CA$ 1,695,600.00
Climate-Resilient Food Systems
Institution Country
Project Leader
Benjamin Kivuva
Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization
Institution Country
Project Leader
Lilian Waithaka
Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Limited