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Oxfam-WFP partnership expands “weather insurance” for farmers

Oxfam and the World Food Programme have just announced a new global partnership aiming to help the poorest rural farmers adapt to threats posed by climate change. The initiative will build on an innovative “weather insurance” project run by Oxfam and partners in Ethiopia, known as HARITA (the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation) which enables poor farmers to get insurance against drought and bad harvests. The new Oxfam-WFP partnership will build on the project in Ethiopia and also expand into other countries.

Oxfam and the World Food Programme announce R4 partnershipfor resilient livelihoods in a changing climate

Cancun, Mexico –  Oxfam and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced they are seeking $28 million from public and private investors for their ground-breaking five-year partnership to help poor rural people protect their crops and livelihoods from the impact of climate change.

The innovative new R4 partnership is based around the idea of managing 4 risks – community risk reduction, productive risk taking, risk transfer and risk reserves. R4 will address the communities most vulnerable to climate variability in Ethiopia and three other countries, starting in 2011.  The aim is to give farmers and rural communities in developing countries the resources they need to manage their own risk in the face of a changing climate.

Through R4, farmers will be able to take out weather-indexed insurance and pay for their premiums through labor in WFP’s food-and-cash-for work programs. Community members will work on irrigation and forestry projects that will reduce the impact of climate change for their villages.

Having insurance will in turn make it easier for poor people to access credit on better terms, so that farmers can buy the tools and the drought-resistant seeds needed to grow bigger and better crops and poor families can protect their savings in tough times.

“We continue to bring the non-profit and private sectors together to focus on helping communities most vulnerable to climate change,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International.  “It’s clear that substantial new public funds are desperately needed to help poor communities build resilience to a changing climate, but working together to create sustainable, market-based solutions can also play a vital role in helping poor people reduce their risks of falling deeper into poverty because of weather-related disasters.”

The R4 partnership builds on the success of the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation (HARITA) program, supported by global reinsurer Swiss Re, Oxfam and a dozen other partners. Piloted in Ethiopia in 2008, HARITA broke new ground with its holistic approach and in supporting cash-poor farmers to pay for their insurance with their own labor. The number of poor households taking out insurance policies grew from 200 in the first year to 1,300 in 2010.

R4 integrates the HARITA model with WFP’s global food-and-cash-for-work programs in an “insurance-for-work (IFW)” innovation which makes risk reduction insurance products available to the poorest of poor.

“Our food-for-work programs around the world are already making vulnerable communities stronger and more food-secure. This innovative new partnership will enable poor people to act now to manage the new risks that come with a changing climate,” said Sheila Sisulu, WFP Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions.

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