Frequent droughts, unpredictable rainfall, pest, diseases and conflicts are increasing the livelihood challenges faced by livestock keepers in the Horn of Africa. In 2022 alone, over 8.9 million livestock have been lost across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, and over 18 million people experienced severe hunger caused by drought and related factors.

Aside from the urgent humanitarian responses that these emergencies trigger, proactive de-risking measures, such as cash transfers, insurance and other formal and informal financial instruments help improve resilience to climate and human-induced shocks.

Social safety nets (SSNs) aim to ensure that individuals maintain a minimum standard even (or especially) during shocks and have been around for many years. In the Horn of Africa SSNs have typically been in the form of cash transfers funded by both donors and governments.

While there are good examples of SSNs meeting their objectives, they are also expensive and require constant funding, which is vulnerable to political (dis)interests and shifting priorities of donors. Further, while effective for protecting a target population from specific outcomes, they often cannot provide the sustained levels of support needed to build long-term resilience to shocks much less create the institutional changes that can help vulnerable community members move out of poverty and increase resilience.

Using public funds to support livestock insurance markets is another approach that could complement more conventional cash-based safety nets.

Insurance itself faces many challenges, such as community trust, accessibility and affordability, but, more importantly, it currently only works to address a single peril, of which there are many, and does little to address other structural challenges that pastoralists face.

This mini-dialogue aimed to identify critical challenges faced by communities in the Horn of Africa, highlighting where additional research, learning, and action on ‘de-risking’ could contribute to greater community resilience and food security.

In 2022, the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action and partners convened several virtual mini dialogues on priority topics related to the Observatory vision. The aim was to identify priority research, learning and other actions that the Observatory and a wider community of collaborators can tackle.

This dialogue on 7 December 2022 was championed by Rupsha Banerjee (ILRI) and finalized by Nathan Jensen of the University of Edinburgh. 

Download a brief summarizing the mini-dialogue