World Food Day 2017 – Unlocking investments in rural resilience

The motto for this year's World Food Day is "Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development." We ask why we aren't seeing sufficient levels of investment in food security. What needs to change?

The hurricane season – a call for change
The latest hurricane season puts a spotlight on where the problems are. The winds and storm surges caused extensive damage, not just to properties but to farms, fishery and aquaculture as well. Harvests were swept away, plantations were wiped out, fishing boats damaged and aquaculture was impacted by floods.

It's not just hurricanes that wreak havoc. Drought, floods, hail, frost or pests can also have a devastating effect. Looking back over the past few years, there have been many such events around the globe. Luckily these did not happen in parallel, so food could be shipped to those in need from unaffected areas. But which bank will lend to farmers, when one event can wipe out their ability to pay back the loan?

How farmers in developed markets can secure access to investments
The answer to this question can be found in many developed parts of the world. Severe frost in Europe, for example, decimated harvests by up to 80% when it hit fruit trees and vineyards in bloom. This level of destruction did not lead to waves of farmers abandoning their business, however. Most farmers are insured against these types of losses. Insurance provides farmers with payouts after disasters strike and banks can be sure farmers are able to pay back their loans. So how can we bring this "normality" to farmers who don't have access to insurance, especially if many of them are smallholders who can't afford insurance premiums?

Index insurance via mobile phones
A tried and tested approach can be found in Africa. It's called index insurance. By measuring how much rain normally falls, we can say: if rainfall is 30% below average, for example, farmers receive an insurance payout as a large part of their harvest will be lost. How do we know? From satellite data, which in today's world covers all important agricultural areas around the globe.

This form of insurance is fast and easy, and in Africa it is done via mobile phones. Administration costs are therefore low, making insurance accessible and affordable to smallholders. Insurance also helps smallholders be credit-worthy, which opens up opportunities to grow their business. This is important because in the future they will have to feed growing city populations as well as themselves.

Spreading the concept
So there are ways to increase investment in agriculture. We are spreading the concept of index insurance, among other types of insurances, around the globe by providing our know-how and data to other stakeholders involved – governments, banks, the private sector and NGOs. In addition to Africa, we have just launched information packages specific to Central America and the Caribbean and also provided new coverages – for example to whole provinces in China.

With these activities, more and more farmers have access to insurance cover. The vast majority, however, is still without protection against the forces of nature. So let's work together to change that. By enabling investments in food security and rural development, we can make societies more resilient.

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