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Satellite data-based crop insurance offers hope for Bihar's flood-stricken farmers

By Imran Khan

Posted on: October 8, 2017

Muzaffarpur, Oct 8 (IANS) In a first-of-its-kind initiative in flood-prone Bihar, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is helping flood-affected farmers with Index-Based Flood Insurance (IBFI). It uses an advanced modelling technique with satellite data to enable quick insurance pay-outs to those affected.

"We are trying to help flood-affected farmers in some villages in Muzaffarpur with IBFI -- for the first time not only in Bihar but in the country. Never before has satellite data been used for providing insurance to flood-affected farmers" Alok K. Sikka, India representative of the Colombo-based IWMI, said.

Sikka said that more than 200 farming households in villages under Gaighat block had signed up for a pilot IBFI scheme in July. These farmers, mostly marginals, are likely to get the insurance money either by October-end or early November for the damage caused to their crops.

"We are experimenting with IBFI to show that it is a more reliable and credible way to safeguard rural livelihoods," Sikka added.

A team from IWMI, a non-profit, scientific research organisation focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in developing countries, visited the farmers on Friday to collect more information from ground zero after the floods receded -- and to assure farmers that they would get their insurance money.

Nathan Russell, Senior Manager, Communication and Knowledge Management at IWMI, said: "We selected Bihar for this pilot project as it is the country's most flood-prone state that suffers heavy agriculture losses every year. IBFI is going to be a unique model for farmers in flood-affected areas across India."

Griraj Amarnath, research group leader of water risks and disaster with IWMI, told IANS that farmers were provided index-based flood insurance free of cost this year as it was the first such initiative to build confidence among them. "We have not asked them to pay any premium. IBFI is free of cost. These farmers have insured crops worth around Rs 5 million."

Amarnath said registered farmers will receive pay-outs from insurance company directly into their bank accounts, circumventing agents and other middlemen.

He said it is expected that index-based insurance will help insurers to rapidly and accurately predict a farmer's yield loss after a flood, unlike traditional insurance that involves assessment of losses on a case-by-case basis, which is time-consuming and unsustainable.

Sikka said that after this year's pay-outs, IWMI will evaluate the index-based insurance product to identify issues and challenges for any improvement in coming seasons.

Experts have time and again stated that crop insurance can help farmers deal with the risks and losses associated with disasters like floods or droughts.

According to a Bihar Disaster Management Department official, the state this year faced one of its worst floods in the last two decades as 17.16 million people in 2,371 panchayats under 187 blocks in 19 districts had been affected. The floods claimed 514 lives.

In view of the heavy damage caused by the floods, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has demanded Rs 7,637 crore as compensation from the Centre for restoration and reconstruction. Prime Minister Narender Modi, after conducting an aerial survey of the worst-affected districts in August, announced Rs 500 crore as compensation.

An eight-member central team is currently visiting the flood-affected districts to assess the damage caused. It will submit its report to the Centre for final compensation to the state.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

--- Indo-Asian News Service
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