Farmers in developing countries are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change. When drought or other climate shocks hit, it can set off a domino effect of tragedy for farmers and their communities. But a new program gives them insurance, protection against disasters.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Oxfam America started the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative. Richard Choularton, Chief of the Climate Resilience for Food Security Unit at WFP, explains,
Our aim is to take insurance where it is most needed and help communities be stronger in the face of disasters, be able to invest in new seeds and fertilizers and guarantee food is on the table all year long. Protected by insurance, families facing a drought or other shock, will no longer find themselves forced into desperate measures, such as selling their farm animals or taking their children out of school.
The program is in effect in Senegal and Ethiopia, and soon will be coming to Malawi and Zambia. The results so far indicate that farmers are performing much better, knowing they have that safety net in place. They are investing more in assets like seeds and fertilizers. They know they can because a “backup plan” is in place should things go bad. The initiative also includes natural resource management.
WFP and Oxfam hope that at least 100,000 farmers will take part by 2017. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation recently donated to expand the plan. Juliane Ineichen, Deputy Director of the SDC Regional Programme for Southern Africa says,
“Rural areas of Southern African are already severely affected by the impact of climate change. Providing vulnerable smallholder farmers, including women, with an integrated risk-management package is the best way to sustainably build their resilience. This package combines tools that enable them to cope better such as insurance and saving, and strategies that will help them adapt their livelihoods to a changing climate, such as soil and water conservation and other farming practices.”
Catholic Relief Services director Carolyn Woo suggested recently that supporting insurance for farmers would make a good “impact investing” tool. This would mean that investors all over the world could support these plans in developing countries as a way to do social good with their retirement or other funds.
The farmer is seen as the key to ending the scourge of world hunger. Programs that help their productivity, like R4 Rural Resilience, need to be expanded throughout the globe.