Protecting African Herders from Harsh Weather

Work with the International Livestock Research Institute

The Challenge

In the pastoral societies of East Africa, life for millions of people revolves around livestock. And when harsh weather arrives and animals perish, lives are ruined. Yet providing insurance against livestock loss in the region faces multiple challenges.

Pastoralists graze their animals over vast distances in remote regions where verifying claims on site would be almost impossible. Also, among Islamic communities, there are cultural prohibitions against the profit-making aspect of conventional insurance providers.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has developed a novel solution called Index-Based Livestock Insurance or IBLI. Payouts are triggered when satellite imagery shows grazing conditions have deteriorated to the point where animals might be dying. ILRI also worked with Takaful Insurance of Africa to develop a version of the IBLI policy that is funded by a community of Muslim herders, thus preventing anyone from making a profit.

An historic moment occurred in March of 2014 when officials traveled to Wajir County in remote northern Kenya to make the first payouts of the Islamic-compliant version of the IBLI policies.


Our Approach

In the weeks before the event, Burness collaborated with ILRI to provide reporters with comprehensive background briefings on the project, carefully explaining why livestock insurance policies could become viable even for poor pastoralists living far off the grid. Burness also arranged for media to make the trip to Wajir County, chartering a plane for high-level journalists based in Nairobi to witness the payouts and interview farmers and other members of the community. And it sent a photographer and videographer along to provide photos and videos of the event that could be used in future materials.

Results and Impact

Coverage appeared in top-tier international media outlets, including the Guardian (UK), the Economist (which added a video), Thomson Reuters Foundation, Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera. Kenya’s leading newspapers, including Daily Nation and Business Daily, also covered the story. In addition, radio reports on BBC Africa and Deutsche Welle in English, Swahili and Somali ensured the story reached local audiences in their native languages.

The press materials, combined with interviews given by spokespeople and local pastoralists, resulted in media coverage that captured the importance of protecting livestock as a key source of income and livelihood—and in a way that is both affordable and consistent with local values and traditions.