Unlocking Adoption of Drought Index Insurance and Supplemental Irrigation

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Drought risk presents a major risk for agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa, owing to the predominance of rain-fed agricultural practices. In Ghana, vast majority of smallholder farmers depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods, and they are more often afflicted by the vagaries of drought risk in the form of erratic rain patterns.

Over the past two decades, studies have shown that development and expansion of drought index insurance could help famers manage drought. However, uptake of agricultural insurance products has been low in low-income countries. The fundamental problem of basis risk confronting smallholder farmers remain unresolved. Supplemental irrigation, the application of additional water to otherwise rain-fed crops, is another potential tool for farmers to adapt to frequent drought. The real value of supplemental irrigation lies in its capacity to bridge dry spells when rainfall fails to provide essential moisture for crops. However, supplemental irrigation has not reached significant scale in most countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Feed the Future ALL-IN is supporting a research team from the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Ghana to test an innovative bundle of supplemental irrigation and a complementary index insurance product to expands farmers’ overall drought protection.  

Recently, the research team led by Professor John Kuwornu, the Principal Investigator, trained 722 farmers (drawn from parts of Tamale, Bolgatanga and Navrongo in Ghana) in a three-day workshop designed to inform farmers about research activities in their community; educate them about water and irrigation management on their farms; and insurance product available to them as a result of the study.  

The workshop involved a series of sessions delivered by various experts in areas like irrigation and field water management, soil and water engineering and technology. Topics covered under drought insurance included: Understanding Drought Index Insurance (DII); How DII work; Target Group; Types of Crops; Coverage Period; Taking of Coordinates and Premium Rate. On the other hand, topics on irrigation water management training session included: Overview of irrigation; Supplementary and total irrigation; Types of irrigation; Surface irrigation systems; Irrigation efficiencies; Soil water relationship; Crop water requirement; Irrigation scheduling and Good water management practices in rice fields.

An end-of-workshop assessment established that the majority of participants found the training beneficial. “The farmers indicated their understanding of the content delivered, 83% admitted that the information they received was either easy or too easy to understand, 14.5 % said the content was just right and the remaining 2.4 % said the content was difficult,” says John “This means that majority of the farmers understood what they have been taught.”