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More than 2.3 billion people live on less than US$ 1.25 a day and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Vulnerability to climate-related shocks – made more frequent and intense by climate change –  is a constant threat to their ability to secure enough nutritious food throughout the year. In the face of these challenges, the World Food Programme (WFP) is deploys innovative tools and strategies to reduce and mitigate risks in order to overcome hunger, achieve food security and enhance resilience.

WFP and Oxfam America launched the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4) in 2011 to enable vulnerable rural families to increase their food and income security by managing climate-related risks.

As of 2021, R4 benefitted nearly 395,000 vulnerable households in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe through a combination of four risk management strategies: improved resource management through nature-based solutions or improved agricultural practices (risk reduction); access to insurance (risk transfer); increased investment, livelihoods diversification and microcredit (prudent risk taking); and savings (risk retention).

Through its innovative integrated climate risk management approach, R4 enables the poorest farmers to access crop insurance by participating in risk reduction activities. Assets built through such activities – including WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets programmes – promote the resilience of farmers and their families by steadily decreasing vulnerability to disaster risks over time.

When a shock hits, compensation for weather-related losses prevents farmers from having to take desperate measures such as selling productive assets and stimulates faster recovery. By protecting farmers’ investments in case of a bad season, R4 enables them to invest in riskier but more remunerative enterprises, as well as in seeds, fertilizers and new technologies.

Findings from Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) show how R4 is helping improve farmers’ resilience. For example, in Ethiopia insured farmers save more than twice as much as those without any insurance, and they invest more in seeds, fertilizers and productive assets, such as plough oxen.

The initiative also has positive effects on gender equality. In Senegal, women claimed that they felt empowered as  in addition to having increased access to land, seeds and water for irrigation and drinking – they could benefit from training in numeracy, literacy and business. Furthermore, women generally play an integral role in determining how the insurance payout is allocated. In Kenya, 87 percent of insured households were headed by women and 43 percent of households surveyed after the payout distribution were female headed. 

To ensure long-term sustainability, R4 contributes to the creation of rural financial markets, by building the capacity of households, local insurance companies and micro-finance institutions and gradually supporting farmers to start paying for insurance in cash.

To support the scale-up of insurance, the products that are developed through R4 can be distributed to clients through additional channels such as government social protection systems, other donor-funded programmes or commercial schemes. In parallel, R4 strengthens the capacity of stakeholders to progressively take over the insurance processes.

Building climate change resilience through comprehensive risk management