Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

If insurance companies pay out too often, farmers will be threatened with ruin in the long term

20.09.2011
- first study on the ecological consequences of rain-index insurance

Insurance can help farmers to survive dry periods. However, it can also result in the long term in overgrazing and therefore threaten their existence if insurance companies pay out in periods of moderate drought and farmers change their management strategies as a result. This is the conclusion of the world’s first study on the ecological effects of rain-index insurance.

As the international community decided at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun to set up a fund with which industrial nations intend to support developing countries with 100 billion dollars per year from 2020 for climate adaptation, rain-index insurance might experience a boom in the next few years. Politicians should therefore be particularly cautious if they support such insurance with subsidies for example. Negative effects on the ecosystem can only be prevented if ecology and economics are taken into account, therefore securing the existence of farmers for the long term, according to the scientists in the journal Ecological Economics.

Rain-index insurance protects farmers against weather catastrophes. They do not have to provide specific proof of their losses as is otherwise the case, but the payout is linked to a predefined rain index. If less rain falls than the agreed threshold level, the farmers receive the contractually agreed compensation which should secure their survival. The insurance is therefore viewed by development aid organisations as a concept to prevent famines brought on by drought like the current famine in eastern Africa for example. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in 2009 around a million people were insured in this way with a total of around one billion US dollars. Around one billion people worldwide, in particular in dry regions, are dependent on livestock farming; a lack of rainfall therefore threatens their existence.

In 2006 a French reinsurance company, with support from the United Nations, insured Ethiopian farmers for the first time on a large scale. Further projects are being supported in various countries by the World Bank. From November 2011 a Swiss reinsurance company intends to insure poor farmers in Ethiopia and three other countries against climate risks with up to 28 million US dollars. With over 2 million policies, India currently has the most rain-insurance policies.

The income of livestock farmers in semi-arid regions is mostly dependent on the annual rainfall; such insurance policies can therefore offer effective protection against such risks. The advantages of this kind of insurance policy are obvious, but they are not always easy to introduce: it is often difficult to convince farmers with no experience of insurance that they might benefit from it. The majority of potential customers are among the poorest of the poor who struggle every day for their survival. On top of this, rain-index insurance requires a comprehensive measuring network of weather stations, which in most cases does not exist in developing countries.

In addition to the social and technical hurdles, there are also ecological consequences, as scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (Kiel University) and the Leuphana University of Lüneburg have now shown in a study. Using a simple grazing management model based on an analysis of commercial livestock farmers in southern Africa, they simulated how such insurance influences the working practice of farmers. The result was conclusive: the higher the rain-index threshold at which the insurance is paid out, the less incentive there is to choose a sustainable form of grazing. Traditionally these livestock farmers divide their pastures and rest part of the area in years of sufficient rainfall so that the grass there can regenerate better and be available later as a reserve for dry years. The scientists fear that they might not make this provision in future if insurance companies pay out too often for losses in income.

The study also suggests how the insurance should be structured in order to prevent ecological damage. If payouts are only made in periods of extreme drought, the farmers will rely on using their natural risk management strategy in periods of moderate drought, which helps to maintain the quality of the pasture in the long term. "A natural risk management strategy has two effects: it is an investment in the future and at the same time helps to manage short-term risks. Insurance can only minimise the risk in the short term though and therefore does not have this long-term effect," explains Dr. Birgit Müller from the UFZ. If more livestock is now kept in the same area, the departure from a sustainable management strategy might trigger an avalanche: if the pressure on the pasture increases, the regeneration time and as a result productivity will fall, at the same time more soil will be eroded and more area will be turned into desert in these dry regions. This proves that rain-index insurance, just like other forms of insurance, motivates the farmers to take more risks; these may become noticeable in ecological consequences such as increased use of nitrogen and pesticides, a rise in water consumption, less biodiversity and more soil erosion. The erosion and desertification of fields and pastures in dry regions is already a major problem, which according to UN estimates results in an annual loss in income of around 42 billion US dollars.

Tilo Arnhold

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=22127

Publication:
Birgit Müller, Martin F. Quaas, Karin Frank and Stefan Baumgärtner (2011): Pitfalls and potential of institutional change: Rain-index insurance and the sustainability of rangeland management. Ecological Economics. 70(11), 2137-2144.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.06.011
The study was sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG Special Research Division "Interaction between nomads and sedentary people in civilizations of the Ancient World").
Other technical information:
Dr. Birgit Müller/ Prof. Dr. Karin Frank
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Telephone: 0341-235-1708
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=15522
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=5457
and
Prof. Dr. Martin F. Quaas
Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel
Tel. 0431-880-3616
http://www.bwl.uni-kiel.de/eree/Quaas_de.html
and
Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner
Leuphana University of Lüneburg
Tel. 04131-677-2600
http://www.leuphana.de/stefan-baumgaertner.html
on the subject of "the economics of climate change":
Prof. Dr. Reimund Schwarze
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) / Climate Service Center (CSC)
Tel. 0341-235-1607 or 040-226338-405
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=15992
http://www.hzg.de/science_and_industrie/klimaberatung/csc_web/009918/index_0009918.html.de
on the subject of "vulnerability and extreme events":
Dr. Christian Kuhlicke
(Speaker of the Working Group Natural Hazard and Natural Risk, German Association of Geography)
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Tel. 0341-235-1021
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=14283
or via
Tilo Arnhold (UFZ Press Office)
Telephone: 0341-235-1635
E-mail: presse@ufz.de
Other links:
Sustainability of (post-)nomadic resource utilization under global change
http://www.nomadsed.de/projekte/projekte-2008-2012/teilprojekt-e10/
SFB 586 (Interaction between nomads and sedentary people in civilizations of the Ancient World) , Universities of Leipzig and Halle-Wittenberg
http://www.nomadsed.de/en/home/
Between case study and concept grazing strategies in southern Africa
http://www.helmholtz.de/aktuelles/presseinformationen/artikel/artikeldetail/zwischen_fallbeispiel_und_konzept_beweidungsstrategien_im_suedlichen_afrika/
The Potential for Scale and Sustainability in Weather Index Insurance for Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods (International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme. 2010):
http://www.ifad.org/ruralfinance/pub/weather.pdf
Reinsurer has joined World Food Programme and Oxfam America in a strategic collaboration to insure poor rural communities against climate risks
http://www.wfp.org/stories/swiss-re-joins-wfp-and-oxfam-america-r4-initiative
"Entwicklungshilfe: Geschäft mit dem Wetter" (Development aid: business with the weather) (Der SPIEGEL, 17/2006):

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46707695.html

In the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) scientists are researching the causes and consequences of far-reaching changes to the environment. They are concerned with water resources, biological diversity, the consequences of climate change and adaptability, environmental and biotechnologies, bioenergy, the behaviour of chemicals in the environment, their effect on health, modelling and social science issues. Their guiding theme: Our research contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and helps to secure this basis for life for the long term under the effects of global change. The UFZ employs 1,000 people in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is financed by the federal government, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

http://www.ufz.de/

The Helmholtz Association contributes towards solving major and pressing social, scientific and economic issues with scientific excellence in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter and Aeronautics, Space and Transport. The Helmholtz Association is Germany's largest scientific organisation with over 30,000 employees in 17 research centres and an annual budget of approximately 3 billion euros. Its work stands in the tradition of the naturalist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).

Tilo Arnhold | Helmholz Centre
Further information:
http://www.helmholtz.de

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht How much drought can a forest take?
20.01.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>