Losing your dairy animal can be very traumatising. It could not only impact on your daily milk production, but also on your whole livelihood. The cow might have been your only source of income, providing the much-needed milk to your family.

 Then one day you wake up and it is gone. A pretty sad affair, indeed!

To many dairy farmers, the loss of a cow is a grave threat to a lucrative investment that impacts on their very bottom line. Good quality cows are so expensive to purchase and costly to rear that when a farmer loses even one, it is quiet disheartening. Some give up on their investments.

When Mr Ally Chepkwony decided to invest in commercial dairy farming in 2009, he was optimistic that his venture would start giving good returns within a short period. Like many other farmers, he could not even entertain any thought of a calamity derailing his project.

The farmer from Kaptagat Village, Uasin Gishu County, started by selling his indigenous breeds with a view to purchasing grade cows. He visited reputable dairy farms in the North Rift region and purchased his first herd of grade cows. Within only three years, his herd of traditional cows had been replaced with healthy looking Friesian and Ayrshire breeds.

However, as his stock grew to a robust herd of 60, he was alive to the potential huge risks. Sometimes he would lose an animal due to an accident on his slopping land, or during calving.

At one point his cows were struck by tick-borne disease and he lost a number of them. The accidents and diseases often led to a total loss, as he could not sell the dead animals or slaughter them for food. This left him feeling helpless and dispirited.

Despite all the efforts he made to keep them safe and free from disease, there was nothing he could do to prevent loss from deaths and injuries. It was not until he heard about livestock insurance that he realised he could finally see a solution to his losses.

And by that time, he had already lost 13 animals. It was during the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show in Eldoret that he heard about livestock insurance and finally realised he needed something like that.

“At Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise (Acre Africa) farmers were being taught about animal and crop insurance. It dawned on me then that in any undertaking, risks are expected and that there is a need for precautionary measures,” he told Smart Farmer during an interview.

 From there he decided to join an insurance scheme designed by Acre Africa and run by UAP insurance company to have his dairy animals covered. This turned out be a very wise move, as one of his valued cows died while giving birth. He was compensated promptly.

 “I considered myself very lucky. Through no act of negligence, I have lost three cows and Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise (Acre) has continued to be my supportive partner as I work towards fulfilling my dream,” he says.

 “One animal is covered at 80 per cent of its value in case of accidental death, while non-accidental death fetches 50 per cent.” “The two cows that I lost were worth Sh120,000 each. They died accidentally during delivery after rupturing major veins, leading to internal bleeding,” said Mr Chepkwony.

Today, his herd consists of 47 dairy cattle, which produce about 1,000 litres of milk daily. He gets on average 25 litres per cow but his target is to improve the breed to attain 40 litres.

 “My target is to have at least 60 dairy cows made up of superior breeds. Eventually, I intend to have pedigree cows, where each of them will produce 40 litres of milk daily,” he said.

The farmer, who is also a pastor, has also diversified into dairy goats, sheep and poultry keeping. An acre of his fiveacre farm is reserved for livestock, while on the rest he has planted trees.

He currently has 40 dairy goats; having lost 10 of them to what he suspects was pneumonia. The support from Acre Africa gives me confidence and my next agenda is to have the goats insured as well to minimise the unexpected losses,” he reveals.

 Acre Africa is a service provider that links farmers to insurance providers. It does not directly offer insurance but works with insurers and other stakeholders like dairy hubs, dairy Saccos, individual dairy farmers, financial institutions, input companies, government institutions, county governments, non -governmental organizations and processors.

 Through this network, it has managed to bring all kinds of farmers on board. It now insures livestock (dairy and beef cattle), and acts as an intermediary within the entire agriculture value chain to ensure that farmers who have taken insurance through Acre Africa are compensated within the agreed time lines.

“Acre Africa is not an insurance company, but a service provider working with insurers and other stakeholders in the agricultural insurance value chain,” explains principal officer Rahab Kariuki.

To have animal insured, a farmer must follow the recommended animal husbandry practices such as keeping proper records and giving vaccinations.

Acre Africa ensures that a farmer’s progress is continually monitored by contracted veterinary doctors. A farmer is free to insure a single animal or as many as he desires only that before the cover is issued, the value of the cow and its health status must first be evaluated.

 “We cover almost everything that does not arise from a farmer’s negligence. Farmers are compensated for deaths resulting from natural calamities and epidemic diseases such as anthrax, foot and mouth,” says Rahab Karanja.

Most African countries are moving towards agricultural sustainability and one of the key objectives of Acre Africa is to see to it that farmers benefit as they venture into this.

“Farmers will only invest in quality seeds and good livestock breeds when they are assured they will not suffer losses when catastrophes strike. The risks are associated with unpredictable circumstances such as drought, flooding, uncontrollable diseases or pests and death,” she adds.

By cushioning farmers and minimizing unexpected losses, Acre Africa is of great benefit to over 800,000 farmers across Africa.

This goal has been achieved in about five years. What is drawing farmers to Acre Africa?

According to the principal officer, providing innovative and affordable insurance solutions mainly to smallholders has continued to build confidence.

In recent years, the agricultural sector has recorded a high margin of growth. This scenario is attributed to the large number of people, including youth in formal employment opting to venture into agribusiness.

“Construction and agriculture are growing fast in Kenya. Young entrepreneurs are considering farming as a worthy investment unlike a few years ago when people only thought of either putting their savings into the transport industry or in real estate. Any investor wants an assurance of good returns with minimal risks,” the principal officer explains.

Innovative products have been the driving force behind the fast growth of Acre Africa. One of its newest products is an insurance cover to take care of the loss of income between when a farmer loses his livestock and the time of compensation.

A dairy farmer whose animal dies, for instance, continues to get his milk earnings as he awaits compensation.

Read more in Smart farmer Issue 28

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