Oxfam America would like to acknowledge and express its deep gratitude to the Relief Society of Tigray (REST).
As a founding nonprofit partner of Oxfam America’s Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation (HARITA) micro-insurance program, REST was instrumental in the 2009 launch of the original pilot program in the village of Adi Ha, located in the northernmost state of Tigray in Ethiopia. HARITA pioneered an approach to climate change resiliency and micro-insurance by addressing the needs of smallholder producers through an innovative mix of risk reduction, drought insurance, and credit. The project was launched with additional support from partners including the Nyala Insurance Share Company, Dedebit Credit and Savings Institution (DECSI), Mekelle University, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Swiss Reinsurance Company, local government agencies, a local agriculture research organization, global legal experts, and six other organizations including a farmers’ cooperative.
Since that time, the HARITA partnership has been shown to effectively use micro-insurance to complement disaster risk reduction and long-term, sustainable investments in agriculture. Nyala Insurance partnered with DECSI, one of the biggest microfinance institutions in Ethiopia, to sell the weather index based crop insurance to the poorest farmers. However, convincing farmers to purchase agricultural insurance was a difficult task, as insurance was not an accepted concept within the community. REST displayed extraordinary leadership in this regard, by using its credibility and years of grassroots development experience to successfully educate farmers about agricultural insurance and how weather index insurance works. REST’s use of innovative training methods was critical in this regard, employing drama and economic experimental games before embarking on the actual transaction.
The farmers in Adi Ha responded positively to these efforts, and within the first year of the project 34 percent of those attending project enrollment activities purchased the crop insurance –representing one of the highest take-up rates reported to date. With additional support from the Rockefeller Foundation, HARITA was then scaled up to include five Ethiopian villages in 2010. Africa Insurance Company joined the partnership in 2011 to help expand the project to forty-three villages. In its two years of delivery in Ethiopia, HARITA attracted more than 1,300 households participants in 2010, up from 200 in its first year. In 2011, HARITA is slated to serve between 10,000 and 13,000 households.
The HARITA model is now recognized as a viable and innovative approach to risk management in rural areas, due in large part to REST’s contributions toward coordinating the activities of local communities and the local microfinance institutions. The project found ways to overcome technical product design barriers, engage clients meaningfully in product development, and create a scalable in-kind premium payment model whereby farmers obtain insurance through their labor. The success of this pilot program would not have been possible without REST’s shared vision and support.
Oxfam America and the United Nations World Food Programme are currently expanding the HARITA model to other rural areas around the world through the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4), representing four strategic components of this program: risk reduction through resource management, microcredit and “prudent” risk taking, risk transfer through micro-insurance, and risk reserves through household and community savings. Oxfam America will continue to work with REST to support ongoing efforts in Ethiopia, and is proud to continue its commitments to REST while honoring the years of fruitful partnership with this esteemed organization.