Swiss Re and Oxfam America launch joint risk management initiative for farmers in Tigray, Ethiopia

By Oxfam

NEW YORK - Swiss Re and Oxfam America have announced a joint Commitment to Action at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2008 meeting in New York on 23 - 26 September. The collaboration is aimed at helping communities most vulnerable to climate variability and change. The project focuses on an innovative pilot project to introduce weather insurance for a staple cereal crop in the village of Adi Ha, Tigray Regional State, Ethiopia.

Drought-related risks are a primary concern throughout Ethiopia where 85% of the population is dependent on smallholder, rain-fed agriculture. Adi Ha is a drought-prone community that has expressed strong interest in incorporating insurance into its risk management strategy.

The pilot will adopt a holistic approach to risk management, examining the suitability of weather insurance and risk reduction measures such as seasonal forecasting and improved agricultural practices. All efforts will be undertaken in close collaboration with the local farming community with the overall objective of alleviating poverty.

The efforts will be funded by Swiss Re and Oxfam America, with primary technical support being provided by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University. Ivo Menzinger, Head of Sustainability & Emerging Risk Management, commented, "Swiss Re is delighted to support Oxfam in implementing this fundamental and important work in the Tigray Province. In particular, we can combine our commitment to corporate citizenship with providing consulting support to the project on risk transfer issues."

Swiss Re has pioneered weather risk transfer instruments in developing countries, starting in India in 2004 with a program reaching over 350,000 smallholder farmers. In 2007, Swiss Re introduced the Climate Adaptation Development Programme (CADP). The goal of the CADP partnership is to develop and implement weather risk transfer solutions in non-OECD countries.

Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser said: "This pilot offers a chance for smallholder farmers to become more resilient to changing weather patterns. It's an opportunity to increase the impact of Oxfam's risk reduction programs and explore exciting innovations in weather-based microinsurance..."

Over the last 35+ years, Oxfam America has worked to bolster the capacity of poor communities around the world to reduce vulnerability. Nevertheless, climate change is dramatically increasing the level of risk faced by the poor across the planet. For this reason, Oxfam America is interested in developing new mechanisms to address risk for poor farmers.

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