Africa|Building|Resources|Risk Management|Surface|Sustainable|Water
Africa|Building|Resources|Risk Management|Surface|Sustainable|Water

African Risk Capacity to pay out insurance to drought-affected Southern African farmers

Drought in corn field

Photo by Bloomberg

17th April 2024

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online


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Farmers in Mozambique and Zambia are being impacted by one of the worst droughts in decades, United Nations (UN) assistant secretary-general Reena Ghelani has said as she met with stakeholders to organise food and cash assistance in countries affected by the drastic El Niño-induced weather.

She explained the Southern Africa region was experiencing extreme food insecurity and water shortages amid a growing climate crisis fuelled by the El Niño phenomenon.

“The drought is yet more evidence of the impact of climate change but is exacerbated by weather patterns of unusually warm water on the surface of the Pacific Ocean that is leading to higher temperatures and lower rainfall across the region.

“This episode, recorded as one of the five strongest in history, has also led to devastating floods in other parts of the continent,” Ghelani stated, adding that at least 20-million people were facing crisis levels of acute hunger owing to the El Niño-induced drought.

Ghelani, as a climate crisis coordinator for the El Niño/La Niña response of the UN, met with World Food Programme (WFP) and African Risk Capacity (ARC) representatives to discuss a response to the drought emergency to minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

Many farmers would have nothing to harvest, which highlighted the burden of climate change on these countries and the need for a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to what would be recurring crises, Ghelani said.

More than 70% of the Southern African population sustain their livelihoods through farming activities, which are increasingly being impacted.

Before the start of the 2023/24 agricultural season, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe made the critical decision to participate in ARC risk pools for drought.

Based on early projections from ARC’s season monitoring tools, all these countries are likely to receive insurance payouts, which will be confirmed at the end of the season.

ARC director-general Ibrahima Diong confirmed that the risk pools were being run by the insurance affiliate of ARC group and availed funds to facilitate responses to disaster events.

WFP regional director Menghestab Haile said the droughts had hit at a time of significant protracted unmet needs, with alarming food insecurity and malnutrition levels as a result, while funding shortages had stalled humanitarian activities.

He added that the El Niño weather phenomenon served as a poignant reminder of the climate crisis and how urgent it was to scale up investment in activities that build resilience.

“Communities must be empowered with climate adaptation skills that will enable them to mitigate, reduce and absorb the effects of climate shocks,” Haile noted.


As part of the ARC Replica programme, which allows humanitarian actors to take out insurance on behalf of a country, Replica partners for the four countries aforementioned, including the WFP, StartNetwork and UN Refugee Academy, are likely to receive a payout.

Not only does this programme complement other response activities from the countries, but it goes a long way towards increasing the resources to reach vulnerable populations.

In preparation for the end of the agricultural season, ARC, together with the in-country technical working groups of the four countries, are in the process of finalising the Final Implementation Plans, a document that clearly outlines the use of an ARC payout ahead of the end of season.

This is part of the ARC contingency planning process initiated before the start of a season.

“[Southern Africa] is a region we have assisted with significant drought payouts in the past. In 2022, we paid out $14.2-million to Malawi’s Replica partner, the WFP; $5.3-million to Zambia and $1.4-million to Zimbabwe,” ARC CEO Lesley Ndlovu pointed out.

Ndlovu added that the impact of disaster events went beyond the immediate socioeconomic costs and, in the absence of instruments such as ARC, disaster such as drought could easily trap vulnerable populations into perpetual cycles of poverty.

“It is our honour to work closely with the four countries’ Disaster Risk Management structures and contribute to their resilience-building efforts. It is moments like these when we can demonstrate the true impact of our work,” Ndlovu stated.

This drought crisis underscores the importance of instruments such as the ARC solution in building resilience and facilitating recovery efforts. It also emphasises the value of collaborations between partners to support Africa’s resilience-building efforts.  

ARC, as a specialised agency of the African Union, works with member States to strengthen their preparedness to respond to such threats.

The ARC mechanism combines four critical elements of disaster preparedness: early warning, contingency planning, risk pooling and risk transfer to create a powerful value proposition that has proven effective in strengthening a government’s ability to manage disaster events.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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