A group of experts have joined forces to observe and forecast rice growth in developing countries through satellite technology. Called RIICE for Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging economies, the project makes use of remote sensing technology to make available an independent and transparent tool to ascertain rice information in developing countries. Linked to micro-insurance solutions, it aims at improving food security for more than five million smallholder farmers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Globally, 20 million hectares of rice fields are vulnerable to flooding, including the major rice producing areas in Asia. Consequently, countries require accurate information on rice production to better forecast supply and match with the demand. Also, new adaptation mechanisms will stabilize the incomes of smallholder farmers and increase their resilience to climate-related crop losses.
Transferring the risks to the private insurance sector
Working together with national governments, RIICE establishes a new model of public-private development partnership. Its purpose: to transfer the risks due to natural disasters from farmers and governments to the private insurance sector. “Through timely and transparent information on crop losses due to natural disasters, insurers can act quickly and pay out claims immediately”, explains Michael Anthony, the Project Coordinator of RIICE from Allianz Re. He then adds “By transferring the financial risk of farmers to the private insurance sector, governments can mitigate the financial shocks of natural disasters to both their and their farmers’ budgets.”
Map and monitor rice production for yield forecasting
The model used to estimate the expected production is based on ground proofing of information. This information is gathered by rice researchers at IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) and experts on remote sensing at sarmap, two partner organisations. “Thanks to the data we obtain from the European Space Agency, we can use free imagery of the Earth in very high resolution. From 2013 on, this will be possible on a weekly basis”, explains Francesco Holecz, CEO and co-founder of sarmap. His colleague at IRRI, Andy Nelson, stresses the value of that information for better transparency on rice production and crop damages: “Working with partners in each country, we can deliver detailed and accurate data on the area, production and yield of the most important crops in the region”.
Insurance solutions for smallholder farmers
These new technologies offer an effective way to generate key information on crops, on acreage planted, on growth and yield development, and to assess crop damages and losses caused by droughts and floods. Natural disasters and shocks such as the Pakistan flooding in 2010 can trigger expensive humanitarian operations, which often reach beneficiaries only months later. Allianz Reinsurance will be instrumental in arranging reinsurance cover for crop losses, which is expected to benefit farmers more rapidly.
A holistic approach to complex problems
SDC is engaged in this new and innovative partnership because the project bears the potential to benefit millions of smallholders in Asia with the prospect of a worldwide scale-up. The project is also a good example of a holistic approach to a complex problem. The project not only mitigates the risks for drought and flooding for improved food security, it also tackles the adverse impacts of climate change on smallholder farmers. Besides its financial contribution, SDC’s role is to institutionally and politically support the national implementation of the project with its contacts torelevant ministriesin targeted rice growing countries in Asia.SDC also ensures that this project keeps the focus on poor people and on smallholder farmers.