By Brian Okinda,
Farmers lobby and advocacy organization, Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) has embarked on an ambitious drive to enhance, not just crop and livestock insurance, but also and most especially, the uptake of health insurance among farmers in the country.
KENAFF disclosed that a study it conducted among its 1.6million members in 2021 revealed that more than 90 per cent of these farmers do not have any form of health insurance covers, which is a dire situation given the prevalent unfolding eventualities and other unforeseeable health emergencies.
KENAFF Chief Executive Officer, Dr Daniel Mwenda M’Mailutha consequently announced that the federation will, in the subsequent three months after the General Elections, purpose to sensitize farmers on the importance of health insurance, and hence boost its adoption across the country.
“The country at the moment goes through a number of challenges that affect its agriculture sector. And while we all suffer some of these challenges, it is farmers -for the most part depending on selling their farm produce for their livelihoods- who suffer more, especially when they cannot sell. When looking at issues that address farmers’ welfare, then what is better to look at other than their health insurance,” Dr Mwenda posed during an address at KENAFF’s offices.
The farmers’ lobby group has, accordingly, started devising ways through which it would facilitate access to health insurance by its members. It has, thus far, been engaging different insurance companies in the country including Madison Insurance, Britam, and Jubilee among others, as well as the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Dr Mwenda indicated that by Novemeber, the organization would have identified and settled on the insurance company to work with and by December during their Annual General Meeting, the farmers’ lobby group would have identified a package of how they intend their health insurance to be like.
“The health insurance will work this way: As members pay their KENAFF membership fee, part of this amount will go to the remuneration of their health insurance cover. Our target is to have at least 500,000 of our members enrolled in the scheme and paying their health insurance by 2025. By 2027, we intend to have about a million members enrolled and paying health insurance. By doing this, we will be contributing to the Government’s Universal Health Care,” Dr Mwenda said.
He lamented their dispossession of farmers’ representation seat at the NHIF Board after the new NHIF Act was signed into law earlier this year, noting that as a federation, they intend to push for reacquisition of that seat so that farmers are well represented.
“In fact farmers ought to have more than one seat in the NHIF Board because they constitute the majority of the population,” he added.
Digging deeper into the issues affecting farmers’ welfare, Dr Mwenda expressed his disappointment that most farmers continue to languish in poverty despite contributing greatly to the growth of the country’s economy, and nutritional sustenance.
Farmers -especially the smallholders-, he noted, are hardly perceived as living a good life. Many are always depicted in worn out attires, riding old bicycles and sometimes even begging for loans for inputs.
“They are always perceived as lacking, which is ironic given that it is these same farmers who produce the food we consume across the country. Farmers ought to look at themselves as entrepreneurs and never as beggars. What they need is a conducive environment to access funding, inputs, storage facilities and insurance covers among other necessities, to help them grow,” he stated.
The country’s farmers, he intimated, need to come together through umbrella bodies like KENAFF, which will help them in collectively pushing for more investment into changing their lives for the better.