Livelihoods Insurance from Elephants (LIFE) in Kenya and Sri Lanka

IIED is working to facilitate private markets to insure small-scale women and men farmers for damage caused by human-wildlife conflict, primarily from elephants. This will provide support for insurance in two countries, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

April 2018 - September 2022
Paul Steele

Chief economist, Shaping Sustainable Markets

Sustainable Markets research group
Inclusive green economy
A programme of work on increasing equity, access and agency in the green economy
Elephants roam the plain in Kenya

A Kenyan woman’s maize crop (Photo: Bread for the World, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) imposes major economic and human costs on poor women and men farmers in many parts of the world, particularly around protected areas.

Elephants are a major source of HWC in both Africa and Asia. They trample or eat crops, damage property, and sometime cause human injury or even death. In many cases this leads to killing of wildlife by local people, either directly in defence or from revenge, or through their support for illegal killing by external poachers.

Globally, many different interventions have been tried to reduce HWC, including physical and financial measures, but these have had limited success.

This project is intended to help the governments of Kenya and Sri Lanka to pilot new insurance schemes, learn from one other, and develop an effective national approach to tackle HWC.  

What is IIED doing?

The project will work to reduce HWC, which has been a direct outcome of expansion of human activities into wildlife habitats through encroachments into elephant habitat space and migration routes.

It is expected that the project will reduce losses and damage due to human elephant conflict in Kenya and Sri Lanka for insured male and female farmers covered by insurance by the end of the project from an established baseline. And it is estimated that by the end of the project, government data will demonstrate that the introduction of private insurance will have reduced elephant fatalities by human elephant conflict in Kenya and in Sri Lanka.

IIED will provide overall technical oversight and coordinate the project, manage partner contracts and provide donor reporting to the Uk government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The institute will lead on the global review of existing insurance schemes at the start of the project and lessons learned from the two countries at the end of the project – linking national level institutions in Kenya and Sri Lanka with global experts and practitioners.

Our partner, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), will lead the fieldwork in Sri Lanka, while AB Consultants will lead on the design of the insurance scheme in Kenya. Overall, these organisations will provide more detailed support to national implementation led by government and private insurance companies in Kenya and Sri Lanka.

In May 2019, more than 150 practitioners drawn from government, private insurance and non-governmental organisations attended a consultative forum on Innovative Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) compensation schemes in Nairobi, Kenya. In the video below and also on IIED's YouTube channel, five key participants give their views on insurance for human wildlife conflict.

For World Elephant Day in August 2021, IIED chief economist Paul Steele made a presentation for the Sabah Biodiversity Conservation Association (Seratu Aatai) which is conducting a LIFE project in Sabah Malaysia funded by the Global Environment Facility for US$42,800. 

The project in Malaysia is a partnership between Seretu Aatai with a Malaysia insurance broker Actuarial Partners Consulting with technical support provided by IIED. The Malaysian LIFE project is learning and building on experience from Kenya and Sri Lanka through this project.

Additional resources

Video interviews: five participants at a consultative forum on Innovative Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) compensation schemes in Nairobi, Kenya give their views on insurance for human wildlife conflict (2019)

Video interview: Chandana Sooriyabandara, director general of Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife Conservation, and IIED's chief economist Paul Steele discuss how livelihood insurance can provide a solution to human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka (2018)

Video interview: Dr Sumith Pilapitiya, former Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, and IIED's chief economist Paul Steele discuss the gravity of human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, and possible solutions (2018)