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Managing climate risks by farming smart

Climate change is already affecting agriculture and food security, and if no swift, decisive actions are taken, it will put millions of people at risk of hunger and poverty. Higher temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, water shortages and rising sea levels – all could seriously compromise the ability of agriculture to feed the most vulnerable, impeding progress towards the eradication of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Moreover, agriculture itself is a major contributor to climate change.

By reducing supply and increasing prices, declines in food productivity would directly hurt millions of low-income smallholder farmers, especially subsistence farmers in developing countries. Smallholders bear more of the risks of climate change than other agricultural producers because they have fewer resources to mitigate the stresses it creates. They also lack the resources that would be required to mitigate their own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or to increase carbon storage on their land.

The Swiss Re Foundation is committed to promoting Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) – the planning and development of sustainable agricultural systems – as an approach to transforming and reorienting smallholder farming to support food security and address climate change. By the end of 2021, we aim to reach 2.5 million people (500 000 farming households) with projects that improve the incomes and risk management capacities of smallholder farmers and their households in two areas:

1. Agricultural monitoring based on Earth observation data. As there are still huge uncertainties when it comes to where and when food is grown, how much will be produced, early warning of shortfalls and yield gaps, we support initiatives that are developing new scalable, transferable methodologies and approaches that leverage Earth observation data for governments.

2. Providing climate-smart advisory services. To improve their livelihoods, farmers need knowledge, tools and market linkages. Together with ISF Advisors[1], we have completed an initial analysis to better understand the role that climate-smart advisory services could play in this context. Based on the report's insights and findings, we will favour projects that build on:

  • Commercially sustainable advisory service models that need philanthropic support until they can attract growth funding independently
  • Models that incorporate climate-smart agriculture components, ideally implementing a commercially sustainable CSA business model and including GHG emissions reduction and/or carbon storage/removal
  • Models that incorporate innovative technological or digital components to help increase the reach, customisation, effficiency and/or sophistication of services
  • Where possible, platform models that allow multiple service providers and offtakers to provide complementary knowledge-based services through a shared infrastructure
  • Where possible, models that link to Swiss Re’s business activities and skills in a way that can enhance the impact of our support, for example, in being related to insurance or risk management or in requiring management of climate-related risks and impacts

Our next avenues of engagement are to:

  • Continue giving direct support to social entrepreneurs through our Entrepreneurs for Resilience Award

  • Join or support others in creating strong public goods for climate smart agriculture such as learning hubs, tools for ecosystem-building or for improving risk management


[1] Hosted by the Global Development Incubator, ISF is an advisory group committed to transforming rural economies by delivering business models, partnerships and investment structures that promote financial inclusion for rural enterprises and smallholder farmers. Combining industry-leading research with hands-on technical expertise in over 40 countries, ISF develops practical, profitable and sustainable solutions for rural households and social enterprises.

Natural Hazard and Climate Risk Management

We support people in preparing for, preventing and bouncing back from catastrophes and coping with climate risk.

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Natural Hazard and Climate Risk Management

We support people in preparing for, preventing and bouncing back from catastrophes and coping with climate risk.

Learn more
Total commitments by focus area in 2019
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