Oxfam and the United Nations World Food Programme have launched the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative to give farmers and rural families a new way to manage some of the risks they face from increasingly erratic weather. The initiative offers households access to drought insurance and credit; it facilitates their work on environmental projects that strengthen their communities; and it encourages families to save. Empowered with these risk-management tools, families can develop resilience to climate change and the challenges it presents to their food security and long-term well-being.
In 2007, Oxfam, the Relief Society of Tigray, Swiss Re and a host of partners developed a framework to help poor farmers in Ethiopia’s drought-prone northern state of Tigray improve their income and strengthen their food security. Called HARITA, or the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer Adaptation, it combined opportunities for improved resource management, insurance, and microcredit. In 2010, the success of the program led Oxfam and the United Nations World Food Programme to agree to expand the HARITA model on a multi-national scale. Together, as equal partners, they launched the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative.
R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, known as R4, is an innovative approach to helping communities better manage risk, one that involves a set of integrated tools: insurance, credit, savings, and disaster risk reduction. R4 is a strategic partnership between Oxfam and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) designed to enable vulnerable rural households to strengthen their food and income security in the context of increasing climate risks.
R4 builds on the initial success of an integrated risk management framework developed in Ethiopia by Oxfam, the Relief Society of Tigray, Ethiopian farmers, and several other national and global partners. The framework was designed to enable poor farmers to strengthen their food and income security through a combination of improved resource management (risk reduction), insurance (risk transfer), microcredit (prudent risk taking), and savings (risk reserves).
Goals and priorities
R4's goal is to achieve food security and build the resilience of the most vulnerable rural communities against climate and weather shocks, through a risk management-focused and market-based approach.
In addition to directly improving the lives and livelihoods of rural communities, R4 aims to catalyze long-term, structural changes extending well beyond the Initiative itself. R4 will contribute to the development of a comprehensive planning approach for food security, adaptation, and resilience by country governments and its partners. R4 links labor-based safety nets that provide cash or food in exchange for work on community projects with community risk reduction activities that protect assets against disasters and improve productivity. Farmers participating in R4 will have access to tools to build physical resilience to weather-related shocks, and they will exchange work for enrollment in the insurance program.
The Initiative will also help build a sustainable commercial market for risk management products in the countries where it is implemented ensuring the sustainability of the Initiative. The strategy underlying the insurance component is to gradually transition from premiums paid with labor to premiums paid in cash for those who are able to afford it.
Farmers, having reduced their risks through natural resource management activities and having transferred the residual risks to insurance companies, do not have to resort to negative coping strategies such as selling their productive assets, reducing food consumption or removing children from school during periods of stress. With insurance, farmers can protect the investment they make in their crops, and feel confident in taking out loans for productive inputs.
R4 will leverage Oxfam's Saving for Change (SfC) program to help households create stronger financial bases. Members of savings groups will have access to reliable savings mechanisms, which can be used as collateral for loans and insurance. Thus, if successful, the comprehensive approach employed by R4 will enable many participants to graduate from Safety Net Programs.
Accomplishments so far
Many past approaches to risk management have not been holistic in nature; instead they focused only on one or two areas of risk. The R4 program has broken new ground in the field of rural risk management by developing an integrated risk management framework to enable poor farmers to strengthen their food and income security.
R4 focuses on mechanisms that can be integrated into social protection systems, including productive safety nets, so the results can be applied at a much larger scale by governments and international organizations, if successful. By combining the participatory design and capacity building model with WFP’s global capacity and Swiss Re’s innovative risk transfer solutions, R4 will help accelerate the scale-up and testing of this innovative approach, while expanding grassroots capacity to new communities across Ethiopia, Senegal and two additional countries by 2016.
R4 constitutes a first step toward developing a sustainable insurance market for poor people, an essential factor in ensuring farmers’ livelihoods and food security over the long term. This initiative will enable thousands more poor farmers and other food-insecure households to manage weather vulnerability through an affordable, comprehensive risk management program that builds long-term resilience.
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