Drought is nothing new in Niger. In fact, the country has experienced repeated large-scale droughts regularly over the past two decades, leading to national food-security crises.
“Drought also has long-term negative consequences on household welfare and human capital,” the World Bank reports, elaborating that between 2016 and 2018, 60% of vulnerable households resorted to “negative coping methods” such as taking their children out of school, reducing their number of daily meals and selling productive assets. Fortunately, joint efforts from the Niger government and the international community have typically stepped in to provide food aid, particularly between June and September when food insecurity and high prices tend to reach their pinnacle.
One solution that has been employed here and in other drought-stricken regions of the continent, is the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI), a crop water-balance model developed under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). This technology-driven approach builds on the Niger government’s previous satellite early-warning system and uses precipitation and evapotranspiration data to generate an index that correlates with the yield levels of millet. The index stands to increase the resilience of more than 100,000 people.
“There is a growing body of evidence showing that responding to drought earlier would offer major benefits… The earlier drought-affected households are assisted, the less they will have to turn to negative coping strategies,” the World Bank report continued, This, of course, means availing predictable monthly stipends for vulnerable households so that they can “increase their assets and savings, or invest in income-generating activities during the off season”.
The African Risk Capacity (ARC), a specialised agency of the African Union, offers parametric insurance to governments to help with response activities in the event of a drought. The organisation is mandated to provide support to African countries to improve their preparedness to manage climate-induced disasters such as drought and enjoy some protection against related financial losses.
To date, more than 30 African countries have taken policies, and 3.2 million people have been assisted. To participate in the ARC programme, countries must undergo capacity building work, and have valid Certificates of Good Standing, confirmation that a country has undergone the necessary technical work needed to participate in ARC risk pools.
Lesley Ndlovu, CEO of ARC, said: “ARC Limited’s insurance mechanism supports the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Management Policy and Strategy, particularly the promotion of financial resilience to climatic hazards.
“Our purpose in working with member states to provide disaster risk insurance is targeted at promoting resilience and providing financial protection to the vulnerable population when perils occur.”
Unlike other risk pools, the ARC mechanism links financial disaster risk coverage closely to an early warning system and anticipatory contingency plans to be adopted by participating countries, significantly improving their resilience to the natural disaster threat. As the climate crisis intensifies, this is necessary to manage the growing threat of natural disasters in Africa. ARC is in the process of developing new products to cover against other risks – floods and disease outbreaks – to complement the existing crop drought, rangeland drought and tropical cyclone products that are already on the market.