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The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative In Senegal: A Joint WFP-Oxfam Initiative

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. As climate change drives an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural hazards, the challenges faced by food-insecure communities will also increase. The question of how to build rural resilience against climate-related risk is critical for addressing global poverty.

Dakar - The UN World Food Programme and Oxfam have formed a strategic partnership which leverages the respective strengths of both organizations, to create the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, known as "R4". The Initiative seeks to enable poor farmers to strengthen their food and income security through a combination of four risk management strategies: improved natural resource management; agricultural insurance; microcredit; and savings.

R4 is a multi-country, five year initiative. It started out in Ethiopia in 2010, building on the initial success of HARITA (Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation), an integrated risk management framework developed by Oxfam America and its partners. HARITA broke new ground in the field of rural risk management by enabling Ethiopia’s poorest farmers to pay for crop insurance with their own labour, through an innovative “insurance for work” mechanism.

This insurance mechanism was successfully put to the test during the 2012 drought, with over 12,200 small-scale farmers receiving payouts, which marked the first-ever large-scale weather index-insurance payout in Ethiopia.  R4 Ethiopia has shown promising results, growing from the 200 participants initially enrolled in HARITA in 2009, to over 18,000 R4 participants in 76 villages in 2012 – directly affecting over 85,000 people.

What is R4?

What is the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative and how does it work?

R4 was launched in Senegal in November 2012. A national and sub-national assessment was carried out, leading to the selection of the Koussanar rural community (located in the Tambacounda region, in eastern Senegal) was selected as the first R4 implementation site. In 2013, the Koussanar pilot aims to enroll 500 participants in 12 villages. Over the following three years, the Initiative will be rapidly scaled-up in other areas, with a target of 6,000 participants in 2014, and 18,000 in 2015 and 2016.

WFP and Oxfam recently held an event in Dakar to share practical experience on R4’s approach to resilience building, which was attended by about forty representatives from the donor community, UN agencies and the Senegalese government. Guests were invited to participate in an interactive simulation in which they each played the role of a subsistence farmer, organized into “villages” of five or six farmers.

The simulation was designed to convey the challenges, crises and rewards that shape the risk-taking and risk reduction decisions of food insecure farmers. The participants weathered catastrophic regional droughts, pest invasions and delayed emergency aid appeals. Finally, winning farmers and villages (those that had managed to accumulate the highest food surplus individually and collectively, respectively) were declared.

The event culminated in a panel discussion, featuring Dr. Moussa Bakhayokho, Agricultural Technical Advisor to the Senegalese Prime Minister; Inge Breuer, WFP Senegal Country Director; Ebrima Sonko, Country Director of Oxfam in Senegal; and Niels Balzer, WFP Policy Officer in charge of R4’s Risk Transfer component. The panel was moderated by Richard Choularton, WFP Senior Policy Officer and R4 Global Manager. 

A recurrent theme in the discussion was the idea that, in addition to directly improving the livelihoods of rural communities, R4 aims to catalyze structural changes extending beyond the Initiative itself. In Senegal, the Initiative will contribute to the development of a comprehensive planning approach for food security, adaptation, and resilience by the government and its partners. R4 represents a new kind of partnership, bringing public and private-sector actors together in a strategic, large-scale initiative to innovate and develop better tools to help the most vulnerable people build resilient livelihoods.