Taking a broad approach to protecting farm livelihoods

Zambia resilience program
Zambian resilience program continues to grow


Insurance can play a key role in farmers’ resilience. Its value greatly increases when combined with the right agricultural inputs. Our program in Zambia helps smallholders become progressively more professional. 

Smallholders in Zambia face many weather-related threats to their livelihoods. In this respect, they are like their counterparts worldwide. However, they are now also among the still fairly few African farmers able to benefit from insurance. Our Macro-Resilience Program (MRP) provides cover against drought and excess rainfall in maize and soybeans. 

The program began in 2021 in three provinces. Partners in the pilot included Syngenta, ACRE AfricaMayfair InsuranceMusika Development InitiativeSynergy Seeds Zambiaand ZEP-RE. Our Foundation was the main project coordinator. The pilot reached almost 900 smallholders, one-third of them women.  Funding for scale-up from 2022-4 comes from the Swiss Capacity Building Facility (SCBF) and the Swiss Re Foundation.

“The farm input companies play an important role here”, explains our Market Development & Financial Inclusion Associate, Michelle Oluoch. “MRP takes a broad approach to resilience, combining insurance with good seed, crop protection products, and fertilizer.” The program ensures that designated reliable stores sell the inputs. These products help smallholders raise their yields, but they require investment up-front, long before any income from the harvest. “Insurance takes the risk out of that important investment”, Michelle emphasizes.  

To get the program rolling, the input suppliers cover the premium costs. “Moving forward, we envisage a reduction in this subsidy”, says Evans Ochieng, our Foundation’s Actuarial and Digital Innovation Associate involved in MRP. The aim is for farmers to gradually take responsibility for protecting themselves. Evans continues: “This staged approach gives smallholders time to get familiar with insurance and then steadily increase ownership of their risk mitigation strategies.” 

In 2022/23, almost 7700 farmers from nine Zambian provinces joined the program. “With the weather going the way it did, a lot of them got payouts”, Michelle reports. “So, they were very glad they had participated!” Payouts came as vouchers to invest in inputs for the coming season. “By aligning the payouts with farmers' planting needs, we achieve two things”, adds Evans. “The program both fulfills its risk-mitigation objective and helps smallholders professionally plan their activities for the next season.”

Through to the 2024 harvest, the MRP partners aim to build further on this good base. “On the one hand, we want to roughly triple the number of farmers involved”, says our Actuarial & Project Associate Lillian Ayoo. “At the same time, we’d like to expand the product offering and the distribution channels.” The program team will also look for any lessons from the previous season that will help optimize the existing resilience model.