Mbabane: Chief Executive Officer for the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) Dr Chris Muyunda has challenged participants of the regional conference on weather index insurance to come up with a policy declaration that would spell out joint commitment towards implementation of the insurance sector.
Speaking through Director of Trade and Market Bridget Chilala during the official opening of the conference in Harare, Dr Munyunda told delegates that he hoped that by the end of the conference today they would be able to convince those still with doubts on whether the new Innovation of Weather Index Insurance could be adopted and scaled up in their respective countries.
The conference had been organised to provide an interactive platform between the policy makers, researchers and all active players in the agriculture sector in the region. This should provide an opportunity to share practical experiences that will have direct and significant impacts on livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
Dr Muyunda urged the delegates to be mindful, as the deliberate, of the fact that there were others out there who might question the wisdom and benefit of the Conference. The CEO said such question may arise out of the simple fact that several workshops and meetings have been held across the region with perhaps little demonstrable outcomes so far at the grass root level. "I personally would consider such concerns as wake up call for all of us to not only come up with concrete, evidence based resolutions but to also ensure their implementation in our respective countries. In fact, it’s my humble and sincere hope that by the end of this conference, having listened to our distinguished researchers, and having shared our own experiences on linking smallholder farmers to markets, we shall come up with a Harare Policy declaration that would spell out our joint commitment to this noble cause,' he said.
Weather index insurance to benefit farmers
Weather Index Insurance is a new way that farmers can lessen the financial impact of bad weather and thus maintaining a good relationship with their financiers. Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Ngoni Masoka noted that weather is unreliable and affects farming in many ways. He said poor harvests and crop damage due to bad weather could lead to less money in farmers’ pockets, which makes it difficult for them to meet household expenses.
Weather indexed insurance plays a very important role in protecting smallholder farmers against the harsh climatic conditions such as drought and floods. Furthermore, he said insurance was increasingly becoming a cheaper form of loan security in comparison to traditional forms such as ‘title deeds’.
'Loan processing for indexed insurance is simple and the processing of compensation or repayment upon default is much simpler and cheaper because cumbersome legal procedures are not involved,' he said.
The PS said there was a need for new innovations to address challenges brought about by climate change. In this regard weather index insurance is considered as one of the solutions. 'With the new innovation of weather index insurance coupled with other Agricultural risk management tools, I see the agriculture sector in the COMESA Region and also in Africa as a whole, increasing and assuming its status once again of being the backbone for our countries economies,' said the PS.
Weather index insurance is a new type of insurance that can pay out when there are crop losses caused by bad weather. Bad weather can be too little rain, too much rain, very cold days, very hot days, high humidity, strong winds or other weather related issues that may cause losses to crops. It is not based on the actual damages on a farmer’s field, but rather pays out when specific weather events, such as too much rain, are recorded at the nearest weather station. Measuring weather in this way allows the insurance to be affordable, but still cover crop losses the farmer may experience. However, it does not cover losses related to pests.
Masoka also lauded COMESA for setting up the specialized Agency - the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), which is on the ground to implement agricultural policies agreed on by member states. 'As government, we see ACTESA as an answer to some of our challenges on food security in the region,' he concluded.
Call for more women representation
AT least 40% of the COMESA Regional Agro Input Programme (COMRAP) beneficiaries should be women. This was stated by Zimbabwean Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Ngoni Masoka during the official opening of a Regional Conference on Weather Index Insurance held in Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday.
The conference is attended by representatives from the agriculture and insurance sectors from COMESA member states including Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA).
COMRAP is a programme supported by the European Union under the European Commission (EC) Food Facility, designed to respond to the rising food prices phenomenon by increasing agricultural productivity through enhanced access to financial resources and inputs. The program is implemented by ACTESA which is a Specialised Agency of COMESA.
While the COMRAP is being implemented in all COMESA countries, most activities are designated for eight COMESA land locked countries which are, Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Masoka explained that the Programme will benefit smallholder farmers in the form of Agro Dealer and Agro Dealer agents strengthening, Support for Seed Bulking and Multiplication, establishment of systems for smallholder financing and weather indexed insurances. 'COMRAP will help in increasing agricultural productivity through enhanced access to three intertwined factors namely, finance, fertiliser and seeds', he said.
The PS said he was pleased to note that women had taken keen interest in the program. He pointed out that Zimbabwe has benefited through the establishment ACTESA. He said ACTESA has seen COMESA programs reaching to the small scale farmers in the rural areas. He explained that the government of Zimbabwe was doing all it could to maximize its benefits from participating in COMRAP.
'I can only add that in all the components of COMRAP the country has made some great strides. For instance, in the agro-dealer component several workshops have been conducted so far, resulting in 650 agro dealers being trained, of which 337 are women and 313 men. In the seed multiplication component, some seed development stakeholders have been supported with resources to multiply both breeders and certified seed. This will ensure adequate supply of seed during the coming seasons,' he said.