As Floods Rise Government Insurance Shores up Bangladesh Farmers
As floods rise government insurance shores up Bangladesh farmers
Farmer Ayub Ali sits on a riverbank that has been eroded by massive flooding in Raniganj village, within the Kurigram district of Bangladesh, February 18, 2021. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Mosabber Hossain
Last year, Hafizur Rahman’s entire rice crop drowned in floodwaters that followed heavy rain in northern Bangladesh.
The loss forced the 30-year-old farmer from Kurigram district to seem for daily labouring work, hoping to scrape together enough money for seed to plant a replacement 8-acre (3-hectare) rice crop this year.
“I invested all my money during this crop,” he said. “If I can manage some money, I’ll again farm rice on my land. If i do not , I’ll migrate to the capital and begin work as a rickshaw puller,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As global climate change fuels extreme weather, including worsening floods and droughts, more farmers like Rahman are seeing their crops devastated, driving growing migration to already overcrowded cities like Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.
But Bangladesh’s first state-backed farm insurance scheme, launched last year and with 20,000 farmers now onboard, could help stem that flow, by giving farmers the resources they have to restart production after big losses.
When farmers check in to the subsidised programme, they pay 25% of the value of seasonal insurance and obtain up to 10,000 taka ($120) if crops are damaged by a climate event, said Abdul Karim, manager at the finance ministry’s Sadharan Bima Corporation (SBC), which provides the policies.
Implemented with funding and support from aid charity Oxfam Bangladesh and therefore the Asian Development Bank, the primary phase of the programme – which focuses on the flood-prone northeastern region – will cost the govt 210 million taka, he added.
With insurance to assist them recover from floods and drought, fewer farmers are going to be forced to seek out new ways to form a living, said Ainun Nishat, climate expert and professor at BRAC University in Dhaka.
Keeping more people in farming will help Bangladesh feed its citizens, he said, during a country where a few quarter of individuals struggle to urge enough food, consistent with the planet Food Programme.
That will also ease pressure on urban areas, whose population has boomed from 48 million to just about 65 million over the past decade, in large part thanks to rural inhabitants moving to Dhaka and other cities after leaving farming, Nishat said.
“The agricultural sector suffered the foremost last year thanks to abnormal weather ,” he added, noting that nearly half Bangladeshis add farming.
“Now, farmers are often protected through agricultural insurance. it’ll help (them) to be more self-sufficient.”
The Bangladesh government’s enter agricultural insurance comes at a time when a growing number of farmers are seeking financial protection against severe weather.
When Cyclone Amphan hit the country in May 2020, battering farms in Sunamganj, a wetland ecosystem within the northeast, quite 300 farmers within the area had already signed up for personal insurance through Oxfam.
The charity had covered the premiums fully , and by July that year the farmers had received their payments.
“After Amphan, my crop was totally damaged,” said rice farmer Rokon Uddin, who suffered losses worth 4,000 taka.
“But due to the policy , I received 6,000 taka and began to crop my land again. The insurance was really helpful.”
Uddin’s farm is insured by Green Delta Insurance, a number one private firm that has offered climate coverage to farmers since 2015, consistent with its executive vice chairman Shubasish Barua.
It provides seasonal climate insurance for 60,000 farmers, most of them in northern regions, he added.
Food ministry figures show Sunamganj district has suffered the most important crop losses in recent years, with flash flooding in March and April 2017 causing 30 billion taka of injury .
PREMIUMS NOT AID
For Bangladeshi farmers who struggle to afford insurance, policies with the government-backed programme are up to 5 times cheaper than private premiums and typically disburse 100% of the replanting cost, noted climate expert Khalilullah Jibon.
Even so, encouraging farmers to check in has been a challenge, said Syed Shahriyar Ahsan, director at SBC.
He and his team explain the advantages of the insurance at village meetings and workshops, but it’s a slow process.
“This awareness won’t be possible for us to boost alone. The support of other departments of the govt is additionally needed,” he added.
Climate experts also question how the programme can stay funded into the longer term .
“The Bangladeshi government has got to provide subsidies per annum , which isn’t sustainable,” said Atiq Rahman, executive of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, a non-governmental organisation performing on sustainable development.
He recommended a number of the cash spent on aid in response to climate disasters be redirected into insurance, which might hamper the amount of farmers who need assistance.
“The government and NGOs spend huge amounts of cash on relief distribution, flood damage and rehabilitation. they will invest a number of that into climate insurance premiums,” he said.
Climate change minister Shahab Uddin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the govt has plans to fund the farm insurance programme with climate finance from developed nations, promised under the Paris climate accord.
For Dipti Rani, 33, climate insurance gave her whole family an opportunity to restart their lives after a serious flood.
When she bought ducks, chickens and a goat last year, she hoped they might supplement her husband’s income as a fisherman and help buy their daughter’s education.
But when flooding hit their home on the banks of the Brahmaputra in July 2020, the animals died – and without the additional money, Rani’s daughter had to prevent getting to school.
Earlier this year, Rani received a 2,700 taka pay-out from her private policy , which allowed her to shop for medicines and birthing aids to resell to local pregnant women.
Now she will again contribute to her family’s finances.
“I’m happy and my daughter started getting to school,” Rani said. “Climate insurance is sweet