Swiss partners help more Bangladesh farmers benefit from insurance

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Bangladesh’s agriculture faces huge weather risks. A Swiss partnership aims to extend insurance to many more smallholders. This should greatly increase their resilience.

(Bangladesh/Switzerland, June 22nd). Syngenta Foundation today announced the Surokkha partnership to make weather insurance available to large numbers of smallholders in Bangladesh. The Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC) has committed CHF 3.86m to the three-year initiative. The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is contributing CHF 850’000 in cash and kind. Swisscontact manages the broader Bangladesh Microinsurance Market Development Project (BMMDP), of which the Surokkha initiative forms part, and aims to benefit at least 233,000 smallholders by 2022.

Surokkha builds on joint insurance work in northern Bangladesh since 2017. Paying close attention to smallholders’ needs, SDC and SFSA have enabled the creation of insurance products for three crucial crops: rice, potato, and maize (corn). Considerable efforts have also gone into establishing distribution channels and educating farmers about risk mitigation. “This multi-stakeholder, multi-year program will foster resilience to climate risks and associated financial shocks for smallholders”, says Olga Speckhardt, SFSA’s Head of Global Insurance Solutions. “The initiatives catalyze market-building that should benefit the country’s entire agricultural sector and millions of smallholders in the long term.”

So far, smallholders have bought almost over 9000 insurance policies. “The additional resources for Surokkha will enable SFSA to reach farmers in at least ten districts, and to offer cover for additional crops”, predicts Farhad Zamil, Country Director at SFSA Bangladesh. BMMDP Team Leader Arafat Hossain from Swisscontact adds: “We have already identified several gaps in the smallholder insurance market. The additional Swiss funding will be useful in addressing these gaps through investment in infrastructure, capacity-building, and improvement of farmers’ financial literacy and insurance awareness.”

“Close to half of Bangladesh’s population is primarily employed in agriculture”, comments Derek George, Deputy Director of Cooperation at SDC. “The country’s farming sector has suffered heavily from the COVID-19 pandemic; Cyclone Amphan was a recent grim reminder of the ‘invisible pandemic’ of climate change. The Surokkha partners believe that accelerating adoption of climate risk insurance solutions will help smallholders become sustainably more resilient to weather extremes.”

Swisscontact, founded in 1959, works exclusively in international cooperation and development. Headquartered in Zurich, this private foundation promotes inclusive economic, social, and ecological development to make an effective contribution towards sustainable and widespread prosperity in developing and emerging economies.  

SDC is the Agency for international cooperation of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. SDC is responsible for the overall coordination of development and cooperation with other federal authorities, as well as for Switzerland’s humanitarian aid. It aims to contribute to a world without poverty and in peace, for sustainable development.

SFSA, based in Basel, is a non-profit organization with core funding from Syngenta. It runs a wide range of initiatives with private and public sector partners across Asia and Africa. Their aim is to help smallholders to improve their livelihoods.  

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