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Oxfam America expands Rural Resilience Initiative to West Africa with support from the Rockefeller Foundation

By Oxfam

Boston, MA – In the wake of a growing food crisis in West Africa, Oxfam America announces renewed support from the Rockefeller Foundation for its current rural resilience initiative in Ethiopia and its expansion into Senegal.

Rockefeller’s $450,000 commitment for this calendar year will help start the initiative in Senegal to enable poor farmers to strengthen their food and income security by managing risks through a four-part approach—improving natural resource management (community risk reduction), accessing microcredit ("prudent" risk taking), gaining insurance coverage (risk transfer), and increasing savings (risk reserves).

Since the first warnings of drought and poor harvests in Africa’s Sahel region emerged in late 2011, vulnerable communities in many areas of the region have been threatened by a looming food crisis. That crisis is now real, and 15 million people across seven countries are vulnerable to its impact.

“Breaking the cycle of hunger and malnutrition and building resilience of the most vulnerable through long-term investments in agriculture is critical,” said David Satterthwaite, Manager, R4 Rural Resilience Initiative at Oxfam America.

“The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support Oxfam America in helping smallholder farmers build resilience, one of the core pillars of the Rockefeller Foundation’s work,” said Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Associate Director, The Rockefeller Foundation.  “Poor farmers are often the most vulnerable, especially in a time of crisis, and it is critical to help them manage the risks they disproportionately face to both their food and income security.”

This particular grant is intended to improve rural resilience for farmers by implementing a holistic risk management package of improved natural resource management, microcredit, microinsurance and savings in farming households in Ethiopia and Senegal. This grant specifically relates to investments that the Foundation is making to build New Partnerships and Financing Approaches for Implementation.

For the 1.3 billion people living on less than a dollar a day who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, vulnerability to climate-related shocks is a constant threat to food security and well-being.  In response to this challenge, the United Nations World Food Programme and Oxfam America have launched the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, known as R4, referring to the four risk management strategies that the initiative integrates. R4 builds on the initial success of a holistic risk management framework developed by Oxfam America to enable poor farmers to strengthen their food and income security through a combination of improved resource management (risk reduction), microcredit (prudent risk taking), insurance (risk transfer), and savings (risk reserves).

The original framework, called Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation (HARITA) project, involved a network of global and local partners including Oxfam America, Swiss Re, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Relief Society of Tigray, Dedebit Credit and Savings Institution, Nyala Insurance Company, Africa Insurance Company and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University. In its three of years of delivery this pilot has scaled up from 200 enrolled households in one village in 2009 to over 13,000 enrolled households in 43 villages in 2011.

Through R4, farmers will be able to pay for their insurance premiums through labor in food-and-cash-for work programs. Their labor will contribute to community projects such as irrigation or forestry to reduce the impacts of climate change on their villages. More prosperous farmers will pay their insurance premiums in cash. Over time, as the poorest farmers become more prosperous, they can graduate from the need to pay through labor, and begin paying in cash, helping to ensure the project's commercial viability and long-term success.

Over a period of five years, Oxfam America and WFP plan to scale up and evaluate the R4 approach in 4 countries. In addition to continuing efforts in Ethiopia and the new work in Senegal, this will include two additional countries as the initiative progresses.

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