This is a post by Emily Markert. See her bio at the bottom of this post.
For pastoralists in East Africa, weather is key. The threat of drought is recurrent on the African rangelands, and has the potential to kill vast numbers of livestock, throttling herders and their families into poverty. This uncertainty has been a long-term concern in the region, and has led researchers Andrew Mude, Chris Barrett, and Michael Carter to develop a technology-based insurance program to protect these herders. This Index-Based Livestock Insurance uses satellite data to monitor weather conditions in pastoral regions, and estimates livestock deaths. Herders receive payouts based on these predictions.
A team led by Carla Gomes, Director of the Institute for Computational Sustainability, has also developed mobile applications that allow herders to report conditions, introducing an element of citizen science. The program has been implemented in multiple countries, and this innovative combination of technology and finance has proven to be a success. The researchers behind this insurance have received numerous awards for their efforts, and countless pastoralists have seen their livelihoods stabilized. More information on this program can be found in this article from the Cornell Chronicle, in a press release on Dr. Andrew Mude’s receipt of the 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, or in this blog post.
Emily Markert is a Computer Science undergraduate at Vanderbilt University. The opinions expressed herein are Emily’s and not necessarily those of Cornell University. You can reach Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.