Fatal and non-fatal damages to the farmers also affect their dependents: Says Anilkumar SG, CEO, and founder at Samunnati

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04 October 2021, New Delhi: Agriculture employs a huge margin of the Indian population. Though we do not often acknowledge it, agriculture has always been a dangerous occupation. It is estimated that on an average 2,080 agricultural accidents occur daily that results in around 120 fatalities. Disheartening as is it, this data indicates the dire need to protect the farmers against such risks they encounter every day.

To free Indian farmers from the vulnerabilities of farming risks, and to promote the culture of insurance across rural India and especially among smallholder farmers, Samunnati is launching the Annadata Suraksha Abhiyaan. In line with Daan Utsav, this is a dedicated crowdsourcing campaign driven via Samunnati’s CSR outreach, to deliver a tailor-made insurance scheme, free of cost to India’s smallholder farmers.

Anilkumar SG, CEO, and founder at Samunnati talked to Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR on various contemporary issues and recent initiatives. Excerpts of an interview:

Can you give a brief description of the current Agri insurance landscape of our country? Please highlight the gaps in the ecosystem.

Agriculture employs about 58% of the working population in India.1 As this was one of the most harshly impacted sectors during the pandemic, the government and industry have been actively lending support to smallholder farmers in our country. However, what still gets overlooked by most, are the risks associated with agriculture, it ranges from physical labour in unsafe field conditions to hazards associated with working around heavy machinery and vector-borne diseases to temporary or permanent disablement owing to on-field accidents. Some of the other risks that directly impact farmers include loss of yield and quality due to unfavorable environmental conditions and low-price realization due to market gluts. While there are many insurance schemes rolled out by the Government (PMFBY) and other Agri players covering some of these events, to a large extent the risks due to farming accidents persist.

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It is estimated that on average 2,080 agricultural accidents occur daily that results in around 120 fatalities2. Fatal and non-fatal damages to the farmers also affect their dependents. With low price realization from their core business, farming, it becomes even more difficult for the farmers to take care of the hospital expenses and financially secure their dependents in the times of these events. Hence, farmers must have access to tailor-made insurance coverage. It is disheartening to know that for most rural Indians, access to clean drinking water, children’s education and marriage are more important than insurance. Unsurprisingly, most remain unconvinced about insurance benefits and are unwilling to pay for them. This explains why the insurance penetration rates in India, especially among the rural agricultural population, remain low.

What is Annadata Suraksha Abhiyaan? How will this benefit farmers?

Annadata Suraksha Abhiyaan is a tailor-made insurance scheme to financially secure annadatas (farmers-the food producer) from day-to-day farming risks. The campaign’s vision is to crowdsource funding and insure Indian farmers for personal bodily risks arising out of agriculture. We believe this initiative will also create more awareness and adoption of insurance solutions among agrarian communities. This customised insurance scheme shall cover risks such as death, permanent or partial disablement, accident and hospitalization, fractures, burns, vector-borne diseases and emergency ambulance charges. Child education and marriage expenses have also been included in the insurance. Most importantly, the cover will be given free to farmers who are members of farmer producer organisations (FPOs) who have been enrolled in Samunnati’s FPOnEXT program. The initial premium for 50,000 farmers will be borne by Samunnati, even as a campaign to raise funds for expanding the coverage will be launched.

What is Samunnati’s mission in this campaign, and the company’s role in implementing the same?

Samunnati, a specialized Agri value chain enabler will act as the facilitator and the promoter of the ‘Annadata Suraksha Abhiyaan’ with NAFPO as supporting partner and Sattva as implementation partner. The initiative will be launched on 2nd October, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, as a small tribute from Samunnati to the Father of the Nation, who set an example by addressing the neediest and vulnerable. Choosing to lead by example, Samunnati with the support of its employees has initiated funding the premium of 10,000 farmers through payroll giving for the initial cover. Over the next few months, the plan is to expand this insurance coverage to at least 2 Lakh farmers. With this campaign, Samunnati’s vision is to create a national movement that can help free Indian farmers from the risks that hinder them in their day-to-day life.

How will the crowdsourcing scheme work?

Samunnati with the support of its implementation partner will be onboarding ecosystem partners to support this initiative and will onboard corporate CSR partners to be part of this campaign. For individuals to support this Abhiyaan for Annadatas, an online campaign is initiated through the current partner for crowdsourcing – Milaap.

Why will crowdsourcing and CSR shape the future of Agri insurance?

As already mentioned, the penetration rates for insurance among rural agricultural communities are extremely low. This is not only because of a lack of awareness and access to such schemes but also because of their unwillingness to pay the premium. For them, there is a list of other things that they prioritize over insurance. Unsurprisingly, insurance penetration remains negligible with only 0.94% of Indian farmers having access to accident-related insurance. For example, to safeguard about 2,00,000 farmers, it would cost approximately INR 2 crores. This would be a large sum for any single corporate entity to contribute. While the industry’s efforts will continue to bring about behavioral change among farmers towards insurance, crowdsourcing and CSR will help bridge the gap that currently exists and safeguard these communities.

The Annadata Suraksha Abhiyaan scheme shall kickstart by offering personal accident insurance coverage and hospital expenses coverage during the first year and expand into other areas in years to come. Our larger goal is to cover at least 5 million smallholder farmers and their families from farming-related risks by 2025.

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