In the last few years, the first microinsurance schemes for low-income peasants were introduced in Bolivia. Parts of the rural population have been able to insure crops like maize, potatoes or grapes. In Bolivia, as in other countries, a large range of actors participates in the promotion of microinsurance, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), insurance and reinsurance firms, bilateral and multilateral public donors, and private donors. These actors see agricultural microinsurance and insurance as a mechanism that helps to deal with the implications of climate change and improves the social protection of the rural population, among other objectives. This paper explores the politics that are part of the creation and implementation of two agricultural microinsurance schemes in Tarija, a department in the south of Bolivia. It looks at the unfolding negotiations and contestations among public and private actors that participate in the creation and implementation process. These actors have diverging interests, norms and resources, and their relationships are marked by asymmetric power relations.
This exploration aims to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of microinsurance, as the politics that relate to this mechanism are under-researched. Such an understanding is relevant to evaluating agricultural microinsurance’s potential with regard to its proposed objectives. First of all, a look at the politics that play a role in the implementation of microinsurance helps to understand the development and impact of specific schemes. The negotiation processes among different actors result in specific project setups with far-reaching implications. This paper looks specifically at hybrid institutional setups, where public and private institutions share financial or implementation responsibilities. Many agricultural microinsurance schemes around the world rely on collaborations between public and private institutions. In Tarija, where departmental and municipal governments have few resources and where political processes are volatile, both public private-partnerships as well as public subsidies have been largely unsustainable. Furthermore, in the cases under consideration, the legitimacy of public support for agricultural microinsurance emerges as a specific concern. On the whole, current microinsurance practices produce contradictions that partly limit the feasibility of the mechanism with regard to social protection and climate change adaptation.
Tabea Goldbloom is a doctoral researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, working on microinsurance as social protection. She is also a member of the research network, desigualdades.net at the Freie Universität Berlin.