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Managing Risks in Smallholder Agriculture: The Impacts of R4 on Livelihoods in Tigray, Ethiopia

An impact evaluation focusing on food and livelihood security among smallholder farmers in Tigray, Ethiopia as a result of the Rural Resilience Initiative (R4).

This independent impact evaluation, carried out by researchers from Columbia University, investigates how an innovative, integrated risk management program, the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4), is impacting food and livelihood security among smallholder farmers in the northern state of Tigray in Ethiopia. Oxfam America (OA) and the World Food Program (WFP) launched R4 in 2011, building on the accomplishments of the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation (HARITA) initiative, which OA, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and Swiss-Re implemented in Tigray in 2009. R4 has expanded to reach over 28,000 smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and Senegal. The program integrates four risk management strategies: improved management of natural resources and diversification of livelihoods (risk reduction), weather index insurance (risk transfer), microcredit (prudent risk taking), and savings (risk reserves).

The critical innovation that HARITA pioneered, and R4 consolidated, is an alliance with weather index insurance companies and national safety nets. In the case of Ethiopia the partnership is with the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which allows farmers to pay for the insurance premium with labor on village-level projects that are part of the risk reduction component of R4. 

The results of this evaluation fall into three themes. First, R4 is helping smallholder households, especially female-headed ones, to reduce the impact of drought on food security while maintaining their productive assets. Second, R4 is supporting food security through (1) increased access to saving and borrowing, and (2) Smallholders farmers are relying more in diversification of income sources away from cereal crops than in agricultural production. Therefore, the evidence that R4 is improving agricultural production is limited (3). Another reason for this, besides the increased investments in diversification of income, may be that R4 villages in two of the three study districts suffered shocks to agricultural production, which did not affect the control villages, during the year after the historic drought that occurred in 2015. 

 

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