Drought insurance policy under scrutiny
As government struggles to mitigate effects of the drought the country is facing, a right to food organisation has questioned the relevance of the Drought Insurance Policy Malawi procured last year.
In December last year, Vice- President Saulos Chilima told journalists during a press briefing that government, in the wake of the looming El Nino, had procured a K2.9 billion Drought Insurance Policy from African Risk Capacity Company Limited for the 2015/2016 farming season, with a possibility of renewing it.
The policy was meant to ensure resilience to the effects of natural disasters as it would give momentum to disaster response which has for years been affected by ad hoc access to relief funding.
But when asked when will the country start benefiting from the policy’s relief payout, Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) Communications Officer Jeremiah Mphande told The Daily Times yesterday the design of the policy is that Lilongwe cannot trigger the payout right now to mitigate the impact of the ongoing hunger facing majority of Malawians.
“These funds will bridge the gap between the end of a failed season and the time when emergency support starts coming in from donors. This will ensure that affected households are provided with humanitarian relief assistance quickly before they engage in destructive coping mechanisms which include sale of productive assets,” Mphande said.
He added that the payouts are virtually automatic, as the insurers use a model called Africa Risk View, which uses satellite rainfall data to monitor the situation.
However, Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) National Coordinator, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, while commending government for securing the fall-back plan, described the strategy as short-term, adding it cannot directly enhance household food security.
“Government needs to seek long-term solutions to unpredictable weather challenges crippling the country’s agriculture sector. The assumption was that once we are insured, we will access the payout immediately we need the assistance. But as it is, we cannot trigger the release of the payout until probably end of this month or early May when the rains are over and assessment is done.
“We are not even sure whether the parameter set in the policy index will be accepted and eventually the country qualifies for the relief payout. And by the time we get the outcome, it would be late for us,” Nkhono-Mvula said in an interview yesterday.
He said that instead of relying on relief payouts, which can at times not be enough, government and the private sector could do better by collaborating and engaging in long-term programmes that would enhance agricultural productivity such as small-scale irrigation.
For the past three decades, Malawi has been experiencing localised dry spells almost every two years, with an average of 500,000 people getting affected by each dry spell.
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