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USAID, Swiss Re Partnership Targets Hunger, Natural Disasters
October 24, 2011

A woman and child plow a field in Goz Beida, Chad

21 October 2011

USAID and Swiss Re have announced a three-year partnership to help vulnerable communities in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

The new partnership will help fight hunger, build resilience to climate change, and reduce the costs of natural disasters, USAID said in an October 20 press release. The partnership combines the expertise of Swiss Re, a global reinsurance provider, with two initiatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

One USAID element is the Global Climate Change Initiative, which works to make communities more resilient to extreme climate events and accelerate the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy around the world. The other USAID element is the Feed the Future initiative, which tackles the root causes of hunger and malnutrition by helping countries develop more productive agricultural sectors.

The USAID–Swiss Re partnership will provide access to customized, market-based insurance for poor farmers. With better insurance, these farmers and their families will be more able to cope with the effects of droughts, floods and other severe weather events that may become increasingly common as the climate changes, according to USAID.

When farmers have better instruments to manage their risk, they can more easily get loans to buy new technologies that increase their yields and productivity, and they will have greater incentive to make such investments, knowing that they are buffered from extreme weather events.

“Private-sector involvement is crucial to USAID’s efforts to reduce poverty and foster long-term economic development in the countries where we work,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

“Swiss Re has been an industry leader in the development of innovative new products to address weather-related risks,” Shah added. “We welcome this opportunity to join forces to develop affordable, market-based tools to reduce climate vulnerability in poor communities.”

This partnership follows USAID and Swiss Re’s recent announcement about joining Oxfam America and the World Food Programme to expand the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative from Ethiopia to Senegal.

It also builds on the two organizations’ previous collaborations under USAID’s Index Insurance Innovation Initiative, which invests in research and tests innovations that are improving USAID’s understanding of how the poor and vulnerable can best use insurance to manage risk.

“Building insurance capacity in developing countries is a critical step to limiting the vulnerability to extreme weather events that impact so many livelihoods,” said Walter Bell, chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation.

“Swiss Re’s innovative solutions, combined with USAID’s technical expertise and extensive development experience, will bring advanced risk management solutions to the communities who need them most,” Bell said.