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CYCLONES THREAT: CROPS INSURANCE UPTAKE LOW

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MBABANE – A serious cause for concern.

While there are threats of cyclones, reports suggest the figures for farmers with crops insurance cover still do make for riveting reading.  This past Thursday, this publication reported that a prediction had been made that four to eight cyclones were likely to mature to tropical cyclone level. These had a probability to make a landfall and impact Eswatini. This was according to a warning issued by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and Eswatini Meteorological Services Department during a joint press briefing in the past week. The tropical cyclones, according to the report, are expected to mature and impact some Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including Eswatini, which lies in the South Western Indian Ocean tropical cyclone basin.

These reports expectedly send shivers down the spines of farmers who are likely to lose their produce to the cyclones. The threat further comes at a time when figures for insured crops are feared to be low.  This further brings anxiety about food security. Lwazi Mamba, who is Eswatini National Agricultural Union (esnau) Executive Director, said the uptake for crop insurance was very low . ESNAU is the apex body of farmer organisations in the Kingdom of Eswatini. It safeguards the interests of farmers through advocacy and capacity building, among other things. “Most farmers complain that it is expensive for them, especially because they are small-scale farmers,” said Mamba. Insurers were randomly sent questionnaires last Thursday but only Lidwala had responded at the time of compiling this report two days later. Vuyokazi Nxumalo, who is Lidwala Insurance Marketing Officer, said their crop insurance offered cover against various risks including natural disasters.

Damage

“These natural disaster events include any damage that may be caused by storms, hailstorm, wind, frost, fire and lightening and an earthquake,” she said. Nxumalo said as an insurer that provides tailor-made solutions based on the scope of cover for each client, Lidwala considers the production inputs of each farmer when applying for crop insurance. This ensures that they will be able to re-plant their crops should they suffer a loss. “Therefore, the minimum premium for crop insurance is an affordable E1 500 per annum,” she said. Nxumalo said they had always had agriculture insurance since 2009, however, having realised the importance of the agricultural sector in Eswatini;Lidwala saw the need to improve the scope of cover and deliver an innovative product that speaks to the needs of emaSwati. “As with every product, the uptake of the product is gradually growing. And as we aggressively educate the public about the product, together with the prevailing weather patterns, we anticipate a growing uptake of the product,” she said.

Meanwhile, in developing countries like Eswatini, the agriculture sector bears much of the economic impact. Agriculture contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is about 10 per cent. Droughts, floods, storms and other disasters triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades, increasing the damage caused to the agricultural sectors of many developing countries and putting them at risk of growing food insecurity, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations warned in a 2015 report.

In many of the countries, most vulnerable to natural hazard-induced disasters, agriculture is the main source of livelihoods and food security and a key driver of economic growth.
Disasters can cause considerable damage to physical agricultural assets such as standing crops, irrigation systems, livestock shelters and veterinary services, aquaculture equipment or hatcheries; post-production infrastructure such as facilities for storage, processing, marketing and transport, buildings and equipment of farm schools and co-operatives; as well as sector ministries and their departments.

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