Climate risk insurance that works for women farmers in Zambia

Not enough insurance products – designed to protect farmers from climate change – meet the needs of women in Zambia. But if private sector providers bundle climate insurance with other services, demand from women could soar. AICCRA Zambia explored the issues for International Women’s Day 2022.

Women farmers in Zambia are extremely vulnerable to climate risks.

A third of the country’s smallholder farmers are women who depend on rainfed agriculture. 

Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events in Zambia, like droughts and floods which make rainfed agriculture and livelihoods more difficult. For example, in 2015 and 2018 there were long dry spells (El Nino) which resulted in crop failure. In 2021/22 season, Zambia experienced floods displacing hundreds of people and destroying crops in an area already experiencing shortage of food.

Women farmers face greater risks to their livelihoods as such weather events become more frequent and extreme.

Women farmers need insurance that protects them from climate risk, tailored for the needs and means of smallholder women farmers.

Insurance that factors in climate risk helps stabilize income in the event of extreme weather and damaged crops or failed harvests. This means women can keep on investing in their farms and other services they need. In the longer run, this helps women farmers build a more resilient smallholder farming system, precisely because risks to farming output from climate change have been mitigated.

Research in Zambia has shown that women and men experience differential disaster vulnerabilities and different impacts based on their gender, with implications for their coping strategies and overall well-being.

Many women and girls lack appropriate access to disaster information and financial services and are excluded from community decision making and resource allocation because they lack rights that govern property and mobility. These implications inadvertently result in more inequalities for women, thereby increasing their vulnerability to climate shocks.

Through their role in the community, women and girls contribute to building climate resilience within their families and communities, and they can be further empowered as major actors who are knowledgeable on various climate associated risks and encouraged to take up Climate CRI.

The event brought together key stakeholders in the sector and was a platform to allow players in this sector learn from each other and provide insights to the topic from a global and more diverse perspective.

The event was a means to also hear from the female farmers themselves about why women generally struggle to have similar access as men when it comes to inclusive insurance, identify and build the challenges around CRI access for women. The event also contributed to the discussion and development of ideas on how gender-sensitive awareness in climate risk insurance (CRI) can be raised in a manner that encourages more inclusion.

For International Women’s Day 2022, the Climate Risk Insurance and Information in Zambia (CRIIZ) project implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) team in Zambia organized workshop on gender sensitive climate risk insurance.

This was held in collaboration with an array of critical partners in Zambia:

·       Zambia Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA)

·       Access to Inclusive Insurance Initiative (a2ii)

·       Zambian Financial Sector Deepening (FSD Zambia)

·       InsuResilience Centre of Excellence on Gender-smart Solutions

·       Microinsurance Technical Advisory Group (TAG)

·       VIAMO Inc.

·       Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Both policy experts and farmers who attended the workshop shared their experiences in using climate risk insurance, and if and how they meet the needs of women farmers.

Such insurance has been available to Zambian smallholder farmers since 2014, made available by the Zambian government through Mayfair Insurance Company Zambia Limited, and subsidized by the International Finance Corporation. 

The stories and perspectives shared highlight how women in Zambia are traditionally in charge of risk management. They tend to join cooperatives, savings groups and social networks which can scale the insurance products to reach more people.

Uptake of climate risk insurance products is low because the ones on offer are not responsive to their needs, so argued women farmers.

The needs of both women and men must be considered—they must benefit equitably—if such policies are to benefit the whole household, they said.

Insurers, on the other hand, argued that several agriculture or climate risk insurance products for small-scale farmers are available on the market now or will be soon.   

What became apparent in the debate was that without financial support from government and other international donors, developing viable premiums and creating awareness of the products for small-scale farmers are key challenges for the insurers.

Bundling innovations together seems to the answer, the workshop attendees seemed to agree.

For example, take weather base index insurance. This is an innovative approach to managing climate related risks using pre-defined index such as rainfall, to determine pay-outs.

This insurance is then ‘bundled’ up with other types of insurance (health, in this instance) along with financial credit schemes, climate smart technologies such as drought tolerant crop varieties and climate information services such as seasonal forecast of rainfall distribution and the amount of rain expected in the season.

This bundling increases the demand for the climate insurance, which ultimately makes policies more sustainable.

The CRIIZ project used the event to raise awareness about a gender game being developed on their behalf by Viamo Inc. It would be a means or platform for female farmers to be actively empowered to make informed decisions about the uptake of climate risk insurance.

CRIIZ aims to aims to support the access of agricultural actors to private-sector climate risk insurance and information on climate risk. They actively collaborate with the government, institutions such PIA and, insurance companies such as Mayfair Insurance and Hollard Insurance.

CRIIZ is helping the private sector to grow a market in climate risk insurance that works for women.

Progress depends on active collaboration between government, public authorities like PIA, insurance companies such as Mayfair Insurance and Hollard Insurance.

They must follow the evidence of what works and listen to the voices of women farmers.

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