China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper analyzes two videos produced by the World Bank about the implementation of index-based livestock insurance in the Darkhad Depression of Mongolia, where the presenter conducted ethnographic fieldwork in summer 2016. The videos include not only voice-over narration representing the perspective of the World Bank, but also statements from Mongolian insurance professionals implementing the program and footage of these professionals presenting the program to Mongolian herders. While the World Bank narration foregrounds the need for index-based livestock insurance as due to extreme weather, Mongolian insurers emphasize how the program allows them to avoid travelling to assess individual claims in the Mongolian countryside, nearly bereft of transport infrastructure, and deters herders from insuring animals enable what the professional insurers see as technically deficient and “lazy” herding practices.
Thus the herders themselves are treated as an undifferentiated social group, subject to the same climatic risks, lack of physical and administrative infrastructure, using/with access to the same herding resources and methods, and with needs that can be addressed by the index-based program, which compensates herders in a given district equally based on the average loss of animals to a given weather event, no matter how many animals of what kind were lost by individual households using what herding practices. However much of the footage of herders in fact show differences between individual herders and their animals and points to local social structures that are in fact crucial to determining the effects of weather on herders.