For coffee-farming families, timing is everything. Their incomes are seasonal, which means that an illness or injury when money is tight can have tragic effects. This leaves many families with a difficult choice—rely on predatory lending schemes during an emergency or opt out of medical care and accept the consequences. In our Early Childhood Development Challenge, Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) and Heal Africa proposed a solution to help families survive that gap: integrating a new micro-insurance scheme into the region’s farming cooperatives.
ECI and Heal Africa attended a human-centered design bootcamp, held by IDEO.org in San Francisco, where they learned the tools and mindsets of human-centered design and used them to plan some initial prototypes to test with families in Eastern Congo.
During the first three months of implementation, Heal Africa and ECI focused on understanding farmers’ motivations and constraints. Despite the fact that some families reported spending over $200 USD on health costs each year, the organizations learned that people still preferred the idea of emergency loans rather than insurance, largely because they are a familiar option. As ECI and Heal Africa roll out a pilot insurance program, getting people to understand the value of insurance will be one of the most important barriers to overcome.