Kenyan scientist Dr. Andrew Mude wins the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research

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Dr. Andrew Mude (right) during a press conference

In most parts of the Horn of Africa, drought, crop and livestock disease threaten food production; and the fact that livestock provides an essential source of protein and is an irreplaceable income to almost 1 billion poor people, more needs to be done to protect this precious resource.

Unlike other resources and commodities that are primarily insured, livestock is not. It has been identified that it is impractical and quite costly to provide insurance for pastoralists and herders especially due to the fact that they travel most of their lives to search for fresh pasture and water thus making it difficult for insurance claimers. This however has to change considering that the value of exports of livestock and livestock products contributes to almost US$ 1 billion and about 90% of the meat consumed and 40% of the entire livestock economy in Kenya & Ethiopia are generated by pastoral communities.

Andrew Mude, an agricultural economist at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) saw the problem that pastoralists incur with catastrophic droughts that occur leaving pastoral communities destitute and came up with the program ‘Index-based Livestock Insurance’ or ‘IBLI’ that seeks to achieve more efficient, profitable and sustainable livestock production by providing insurance for never-before-insured communities herding livestock in the remote, arid and drought-prone lowlands in the Horn of Africa.

Dr. Andrew Mude (right) during a press conference
Dr. Andrew Mude (right) during a press conference

The program, IBLI, uses an index – such as a measure of rainfall – to trigger an insurance payout instead of requiring hard evidence of individual damage from the almost 75% of livestock deaths in the drought-prone lowlands. IBLI also eliminated the need for visual confirmation of livestock losses over large areas of land by using satellite data to monitor grazing conditions; when these conditions are seen to fall below a certain threshold, this data collected serves as a proxy for dead animals thus insurance payouts are made.

This greatly reduces the vulnerability of East Africa’s livestock herding families to the recurring droughts. Since launching IBLI in 2008, Dr. Andrew Mud end his team have been able to engage local herders in delivering extension education programs – employing videos, cartoons and radio broadcasts – to increase the understanding of the principles and coverage of insurance plans to the pastoralists.

With this fete, Dr. Andrew Mude was yesterday announced as the winner of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, for his work with IBLI and the work it has achieved so far. By early 2016, 11,800 contracts had been sold (representing an insured livestock value of 5.35 million US$) and 149,007$ indemnity payments made to insured pastoralists.

The Norman Borlaug Award is awarded to an impressive group of candidates who are evaluated based on the attributes and accomplishments that reflect those demonstrated by Dr. Norman Borlaug during his work at the Rockefeller Foundation in developing high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat in Mexico and introducing adaptable wheat varieties into India and Pakistan during the 1950’s and 60’s, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The event was hosted by Director General Jimmy Smith of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi and also saw the attendance of Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Ambassador Robert. F. Godec, United States ambassador to Kenya, Managing Director to the Rockefeller Foundation Mamadou Biteye and Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities.

Mude will be formally presented with US$10,000 and the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, on October 12, 2016, in a ceremony, in which Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin will participate, in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, as part of the 2016 World Food Prize international symposium.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Robert Godec applauded Dr. Mude’s work with IBLI saying that he believes the program is a remarkable example of the innovative, market-driven solutions that develop when countries invest in quality education for young people. Honorable Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries also echoed the Ambassador’s words saying that DR. Mude represents the type of citizen-servant we as a government are proud to partner with; a citizen dedicated to helping grow the productivity and welfare of the Kenyan people. He also said that DR. Andrew’s passion, commitment, and technical competence is what the government is now planning to replicate this novel insurance scheme across all of northern Kenya, where some 4 million pastoralists depend primarily on livestock.

Mamadou Biteye, who has been spearheading tremendous programs to increase the rate of development in Africa through the Rockefeller Foundation said that by utilizing the most current technology like Dr. Mude’s innovation, will help to not just empower pastoralist livestock herders but will improve food security as well, especially in the face of today’s changing climate.

The man of the hour, Dr. Mude who addressed the audience, encouraged them to draw inspiration from Borlaug’s lifelong commitment to make his research make a difference. A lot can be done together, just like how he came together with his partners and the herders themselves to find new ways to help millions of people to practice the oldest form of sustainable food production.

As reported this week from Mude’s IBLI team, the government’s KLIP has already provided 5,012 households with IBLI coverage and just last week (August 24, 2016) it made indemnity payments to a few hundred herders in Kenya’s huge and arid northern county of Wajir, which has suffered prolonged drought. And in Ethiopia, Kenya’s neighbor to the north, a government pilot project spearheaded by Mude’s team is working to scale out this insurance program while the World Food Program is making IBLI-type insurance a key pillar of its food security strategy in Ethiopia’s pastoralist lowlands. Other governments and development agencies are seeking help in testing IBLI-type policies across West Africa’s Sahel and the drylands of southern Africa.

’Take it to the farmer’ are reported to be the last words uttered by Norman Borlaug before he died; and this is exactly what Andrew Mude and his team, working with the Kenya and Ethiopian governments and others, are trying to achieve with the work of IBLI.

This year, the government will launch the Kenya Livestock Insurance program (KLIP) that will offer the livestock insurance product developed by Dr. Mude and colleagues free of charge to targeted herders in the drought-vulnerable arid North. The program intends to cover 80,000-100,000 households by 2019, building on this critical mass to leverage commercial demand for more capable pastoralist households.

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