Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Satellite Data and Traditional Knowledge at Work for Kenya’s Pastoralists

For the 5.8 million Kenyans who make their living as pastoralists, the search for pasture and water for their livestock is getting increasingly difficult. In the past, traditional knowledge on where to find these resources was sufficient for pastoralists in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands. Today, climate change has altered the weather patterns on which they rely. Extended droughts are more common, traditional grazing lands no longer support their herds, and water sources dry up more quickly or fail to materialize at all.

As a result of these factors and the lack of reliable information, some pastoralists are overgrazing the same areas every year and others are moving their herds farther from traditional grazing areas, which puts them in direct conflict with other pastoralists, exposes them and their animals to more predators, and bumps them up against private lands and international borders. With support from Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, Takaful Insurance of Africa (Takaful) and its partner Project Concern International (PCI) are leveraging Earth Observations (EO) data to address these problems and provide resources for these pastoralists who are at risk.

Takaful commercialized Kenya’s first index-based livestock insurance, which uses the International Livestock Research Institute’s (ILRI) index to trigger mobile money payouts to pastoralist policyholders, helping them to keep their livestock alive during periods of drought-induced forage scarcity. IRLI’s index uses EO data from the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) that compares forage cover in pastoralist regions to historical averages in that area. If satellite data shows that drought-induced forage cover falls at or below the 20th percentile of the historic average, the policyholder receives an automatic payout to help keep livestock alive. EO data makes it possible for Takaful to provide payouts without verifying forage cover in-person, helping to reduce the burden and cost for both Takaful and pastoralists, since they do not need to submit evidence of forage scarcity to Takaful.

However, livestock insurance alone is not enough to solve pastoralists’ burden of finding pasture and water. To help pastoralists sustainably manage grazing lands, preserve their way of life, and make more informed decisions, PCI developed the AfriScout mobile app. This app was modeled after their initial paper grazing maps that were created in collaboration with pastoral communities. The mobile app acts as an “Eye in the Sky” by combining community-defined grazing areas with EO satellite imagery to show current vegetation and water conditions down to 10 m2. App users can also notify other pastoralists in their community of grazing hazards like animal diseases or conflicts by using the app to post geolocated alerts on the map. The app functions offline requiring only a small amount of mobile data once every 10 days to update the maps. Updates are possible even on the unreliable 2G networks prevalent in pastoral areas and the app is accessible to any Android smartphone (which at least one member of most pastoralist households own).

Through their partnership with Partnering for Innovation, Takaful and PCI joined forces to bundle index-based livestock insurance with the AfriScout app. This bundle is using two types of EO: the NDVI-based ILRI index that triggers payouts to pastoralists, and AfriScout’s custom-tailored grazing maps to help pastoralists more precisely and cost-effectively plan migration. This innovative bundling of two types of EO directly responds to Feed the Future’s results framework, as it strengthens the pastoral system, proactively addresses risks, and increases resilience to shocks and stresses. Pastoralists can readily access both products in pastoral communities from trained sales agents who sell the product via smartphone. Kenyan pastoralists require more than a single solution as they increasingly experience shocks and stresses, and by combining EO technology and insurance with traditional knowledge, pastoralists can improve and protect their assets sustainably.

After two years of selling a full range of Sharia-compliant insurance in Kenya, Takaful Insurance of Africa (Takaful) partnered with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to pilot Kenya’s first index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) product in 2010. With support from USAID and Google, Project Concern International (PCI) developed AfriScout to provide pastoralists with actionable grazing data to improve climate-smart management of Africa’s drylands, and the livestock that rely on them. The AfriScout app is available in parts of Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya, with more land added every season.