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 The “insurance herd” programme concept was borne out of discussions that LionAid held with several Maasai Elders in Kenya over a couple of years.  

Rural African communities live uncomfortably with predators.  Pastoralists often invest considerable resources in livestock herding, guarding and predator control, adding significantly to cycles of poverty among rural communities. In many African pastoralist societies, livestock also has a cultural value exceeding economic worth as cattle are valued for social, political, cultural and religious reasons. Livestock assets are the primary form of wealth acquisition and storage in these communities, and such assets are particularly vulnerable to coexistence with predators.

Chris and Pieter from LionAid were privileged to spend time among the Maasai communities in Kenya, in Kitengela and Olepolos, two of the conflict hotspots that have seen lions and other predators killed in retaliation for raids on livestock. The following year, they visited a community in Muereshi next to Amboseli where again they discussed this concept with the village Maasai Elders, where livestock predation is 60% lions and 40% hyena and leopard.

The Elders in these communities welcomed us warmly and were very pleased to be consulted as to their ideas for new ways forward. In all visits, the Elders told us that they had never been asked to put forward their solutions to reduce human/wildlife conflict. As a result, we deepened our understanding of these conflict issues and we were guided by them as to fresh approaches to resolve the difficulties they face.

Based on these meetings we jointly decided that a pilot programme was needed to determine best methodologies before wider application across Africa.

This scheme is unique in that there is unlikely to be further need for expensive programmes to support compensation, the programme will quickly be self-sustaining, will provide additional revenue directly linked to predators, and will significantly reduce cycles of poverty caused by wildlife conflict. The compensation schemes would need to be directly linked to deterrent measures, including the need to construct predator resistant bomas (night time cattle enclosures) equipped with proper fencing, night lights, motion sensors, solar panels etc (The boma upgrade kit). Briefly, these innovative measures can be summed up as follows:


It works on the model that a partial cost of establishing deterrent measures at the bomas would be offset by the community member paying for “the boma upgrade kit” with one or more calves as their cost per protected boma. These calves would be raised among the community herd but differentiated by branding as part of the insurance herd. Calves born to insurance herd mothers would also be branded to become part of the insurance herd. Predation on community livestock would then be compensated by direct substitution, i.e. one replacement cow for one lost to predation. The "insurance" herd could at some time be subjected to commercial take-off to ensure maintenance of deterrent systems and/or joint profits to the communities, to pay for the costs of dipping, needed veterinary care, etc.

Past payment schemes have attempted to remedy the problem, but many rarely directly compensate for livestock predation. These past schemes also rely on the constant supply of new funding to maintain the programmes.


This innovative programme potentially has many positive outcomes:


• Substituting a community-derived compensation scheme to effectively counter the continuing frustration with existing compensation programmes


• Effective equipping of livestock bomas to deter and prevent livestock losses caused by predators


• Provide local people with additional revenue opportunities directly linked to carnivores by establishing community wildlife conservancies


• Prevention of retaliatory killings of endangered predators


• Have a positive impact on human poverty



 The approximate cost of running one community insurance herd programme with 12 participating households would be in the region of between £60,000 and £65,000 for one year.


This would include all the equipment costs for a twelve-month trial among twelve participating households, with a breakdown as follows:


Local staff costs in the region of £15,500

Basic boma upgrade from £750 each, depending on boma size, 12 x £750 = £9,000

Local office rental costs and office equipment costs (e.g. Computer, printer, digital video camera, stationery) in the region of £2,500

Second hand Vehicle e.g. Toyota Rav4 £10,000

Fuel and vehicle running costs in the region of £ 2,000

Project management costs in the region of £26,000


  •          Initiation
  •          Set Up
  •          Agreed goals
  •          Budget setting
  •          Implementation,
  •          Monthly budget v Actual costs
  •          Monthly meetings
  •          Database set up and regular monitoring e.g. Which and how many predators are circulating, which predators are attacking, fatalities, insurance herd substitutions etc
  •          Communications
  •          Publishing Results
  •          Researching further investment opportunities and sponsorship



The costs exclude airfares to Kenya, and accommodation costs for LionAid and participating overseas volunteers.

Posted by Chris Macsween at 13:22

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