Womens’ businesses started as part of BOMA’s poverty graduation program benefit women and their households. Unfortunately, when droughts strike the region, the entire economy is affected, and those businesses are often liquidated. Insurance is a possible solution to this problem, and we are conducting a randomized controlled trial in Samburu County, Kenya to test whether Index-Based Livestock Insurance increases resilience.

SimPastoralist from Andrew Hobbs on Vimeo.

However, livestock are viewed as a man’s asset in Samburu, so livestock insurance might not be optimally suited to women’s priorities and responsibilities. Would women receive more benefits from an insurance product framed around supporting household consumption in the event of a drought?

To answer that question, I designed a tablet based game called SimPastoralist (download here from the Google Play Store) to simulate pastoralist life. In the game, players get to choose their level of investment and insurance coverage. We played the game with 387 couples in 34 sessions. In half of those sessions we offered ‘livestock insurance’, and in half of sessions we emphasized that insurance could also be used for household consumption or school fees. As theory predicted, women bought more insurance under the more flexible framing, while men bought more under the traditional ‘livestock’ framing.

Our next step is to test this concept in the real world. We are currently seeking funding to work with Takaful Insurance, the company behind Index Based Livestock Insurance, to develop an insurance product focused on covering core household expenses during droughts. Pending that support, we will be able to test the ability of this new insurance product to better support women and their businesses.