Adopting climate-smart agricultural innovations in Southern Africa: Knowledge alone is not enough

Adopting climate-smart agricultural innovations in Southern Africa: Knowledge alone is not enough

Some say that knowledge is power. In the knowledge age, information and ideas are touted as raw materials that are as important as other tangible resources such as land, labour and money. In the agriculture sector, this is also true, with information playing key roles in farmer adaptation and resilience building. But recent experiences from a field project to upscale climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Southern Africa show that by itself, knowledge of proven climate smart agricultural innovation is not enough to ensure farmer uptake.

Field surveys commissioned under the Scaling-Up Climate Smart Agriculture Solutions for Smallholder Cereal and Livestock Farmers in Southern Africa project at the beginning of the 2017/2018 cropping season show that farmers’ knowledge of weather-based index (WBI) insurance does not automatically translate into uptake. Nearly 4,000 farmers were sampled from different project areas in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean and Zambian farmers have relatively high levels of knowledge of the existence, benefits and concept of WBI. In Zimbabwe for example, nearly 60% of all sampled farmers were aware of WBI, with nearly 16% of sampled farmers reporting having taken up the innovation. In Zambia, knowledge of WBI among sampled farmers stands at 43%, but only 4% of the sampled farmers have taken up WBI. Why this disparity?

‘’The uptake of WBI is confounded by many factors, including farmers’ negative perceptions of insurance,’’ says Prince Kuipa, Chief Economist with the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU). Knowing this, ZFU has been working with Econet Wireless to develop an insurance product that bundles WBI together with other services, such as life/funeral insurance cover and agronomic tips.

Raising awareness among farmers
In addition to making the product available on the market, ZFU and Econet have also invested heavily in marketing, in order to increase awareness as well as change negative perceptions of insurance. ‘’We tell the farmers that the life insurance will cover you when you are dead, but WBI will cover you while you are alive (in the face of crop failure),’’ says Kuipa. “We simplified the messaging about WBI, so that farmers are able to understand it without being bogged down with the technical details’’.