Strengthening the resilience of poor rural people is a vital part of IFAD’s work and has never been a more urgent task. As highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, building the capacity of smallholders, entrepreneurs, organizations and governments to manage risks and recover from shocks is key to the eradication of rural poverty.
Agricultural and climate risk insurance can help break the vicious cycle of shocks and poverty traps that prevent rural people from building up their businesses and improving their lives. The unique advantage of insurance as a tool is that it can transfer otherwise unmanageable risks away from farmers, businesses and countries.
When used with other tools and techniques as part of a holistic approach to agricultural risk management, insurance can set in motion a virtuous cycle that enables farming families to produce, earn and invest more, building their assets and resilience.
In developed countries, agricultural insurance against climate shocks is widespread. But in the rural areas of the developing world where smallholder farmers are highly vulnerable, only a tiny proportion have any cover at all. Globally, less than 20 per cent of smallholder farmers currently have agricultural insurance, and that number is less than 3 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to strengthening resilience, the integration of insurance schemes in IFAD‐supported programmes has been shown to create better value for clients by combining insurance with other financial and non‐financial products, such as agricultural inputs. Integration also fosters public‐private partnerships between governments, the financial sector, small and medium agribusinesses, and farmers’ organizations. This helps to improve access to insurance for the underserved and at the same time to develop sustainable markets for insurance companies.
However, IFAD’s experience shows that insurance is not always the right tool and there are many challenges to making insurance accessible to the Fund’s target groups. Importantly, there is also a need to provide education and technical assistance to all stakeholders in developing countries in the area of insurance.
Promoting responsible use of insurance
IFAD is working to promote responsible use of insurance through the INSURED programme (Insurance for Rural Resilience and Economic Development), which is implemented by the multi-donor Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM).
INSURED is a US$6 million programme funded by Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). Its goal is threefold: to build the resilience of poor rural households, increase their capacity to manage risk, and strengthen their livelihoods. INSURED provides technical assistance to the IFAD-financed portfolio, with the aim of protecting incomes and promoting investment in smallholder agriculture. The programme is operational from 2018 to 2022.
INSURED works at different levels to drive the development of agricultural insurance and climate risk insurance that benefits poor rural people:
- It supports the design of insurance strategies and policies in partnership with governments in selected countries.
- It provides technical assistance to incorporate or strengthen insurance in IFAD country programmes and strategies.
- It assesses the feasibility of insurance options in specific contexts, and gives technical assistance to designing, setting up and implementing insurance schemes within rural development initiatives funded by IFAD and other actors.
- Together with partners, it creates and shares knowledge on insurance, including lessons learned, and builds the capacity of local public and private institutions, government partners and donors to use agricultural and climate risk insurance as cross-cutting tools.
INSURED is mainly focused on Asia and the Pacific, and East and Southern Africa, with current or pipeline core activities in: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Uganda, Viet Nam and Zambia. The programme also provides technical assistance on request to activities in IFAD’s three other regions – Latin America and the Caribbean, the Near East, North Africa and Europe, and West and Central Africa.
In addition to INSURED, PARM also oversees the Managing Risk for Rural Development: Promoting Microinsurance Innovations project (MRRD), a technical assistance initiative financed by an IFAD grant and implemented by the Microinsurance Centre at Milliman (MIC@M).