Index Insurance Arms Farmers Against a Changing Climate


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Study finds index insurance spurs greater agricultural productivity and protects against catastrophic losses due to weather and climate risk

In developing countries, crop and livestock insurance in harsh climates is usually unavailable to small-scale farmers and herders. But it is complicated and expensive for insurance companies to examine loss claims among many small, widely dispersed and remote farms and herding communities. As a result, farmers and pastoralists are left without insurance, vulnerable to the whims of the weather.

But innovations in science and technology are changing this. Index-based insurance is a science-based product that can provide access to insurance to smallholder farmers in these remote areas, spurring greater agricultural productivity and protecting against catastrophic losses due to weather and climate risk.

A new study, carried out by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)and the International Center for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University showcases projects that have overcome many of the challenges that have previously hindered the uptake of index-based insurance, such as poor infrastructure and lack of financing, and have gone on to scale to reach millions of smallholder farmers in some of the poorest areas of the world, many of which were previously considered uninsurable.

Index insurance differs from traditional indemnity insurance, where payouts are explicitly based on measured loss. Instead, in index insurance, farmers can purchase coverage based on an index that is correlated with those losses, such as wind speed, the amount of rain during a certain window of time (weather based indices) or average yield losses over a larger region (area yield indices).  Payouts are then triggered when this index falls above or below a pre-specified threshold.  This means that index insurance is not designed to protect farmers against every peril, but is instead designed for situations where there is a well-defined climate risk that significantly influences a farmer’s livelihood.

Index insurance has the potential to build the resilience of smallholder farmers, not only by providing a payout in bad years to help farmers survive and protect their assets; but also by helping to unlock opportunities that increase productivity in the non-payout years, which might allow them to escape from poverty traps or from the threat of them.  For example, insurance might allow a farmer to access credit, which they can then use to invest in new agricultural technologies or inputs.  This could allow the farmer to use their increased profits to pay for the insurance premium, knowing that the insurance would allow them to repay their loan in the event of a climate shock.

Read more about index-based insurance:

Index insurance blog stories

Research In Action: Index Insurance: A tool for managing climate risk

U.S. Graduate Research Grant in Global Food Security


Application Package

Spring 2015 Round – Applications accepted beginning January 12, 2015
Application deadline: Monday, April 13, 2015 11:59 p.m. Eastern time

A complete application will consist of the two components (PART A and PART B) described in detail below.

A complete application will consist of the two components (PART A and PART B) described in detail below.

PART AThe following documents must be submitted as a single PDF document with the file name: “LastName FirstName Spring 2015 Borlaug Graduate Research Grant.”  Submit via email to  with an identically named subject heading.

The following documents must be submitted as a single PDF document with the file name: “LastName FirstName Spring 2015 Borlaug Graduate Research Grant.”  Submit via email to with an identically named subject heading.

  1. A completed Application Form Download Application Form (.docx)
  2. A Project Narrative on given topics Instructions for writing Project Narrative
  3. Completed Budget Form, Budget Justification Form, and Project Timeline Form Download Budget Form (.xlsx)
  4. Proof of US citizenship
  5. Institutional letters of support from the submitting university and from the participating IARC/NARS. The letter from the submitting university should come from a Department Head, Dean, or other appropriate official and should state support for the student’s research and a willingness to take responsibility for the financial management of the grant. The letter of institutional support from the IARC/NARS should come from the mentor’s unit head or center director and should convey the center’s commitment to the project.
  6. A letter of approval from the submitting university’s sponsored programs office. The proposal must be approved by the sponsored programs office (or similar office), and the approval letter must accompany the applicant’s submission.


The two referees named in the Application Form should email their letters of support directly The subject heading of the email should read: “ApplicantLastName ApplicantFirstName Recommendation Spring 2015 Borlaug Graduate Research Grant.”

  • The letter of recommendation from your advisor must include:
    • An assessment of the applicant’s character, motivation, leadership potential, communication skills, and ability to work in groups.
    • An assessment of the student’s academic and professional performance and potential.
    • An assessment of the student’s commitment to global development.
    • A description of the advisor’s role in the student’s research work and the role of the selected IARC/NARC scientist, with respect to both the research linkages between the two institutions and the mentorship of the student applicant.
  • The letter of recommendation from your IARC mentor must include:
    • An assessment of the relevance of the student’s research to the research priorities of the center or to the development priorities of the country.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that letters of support are submitted by the application deadline.

Instructions for Writing Project Narrative

The Project Narrative is a critical component of the application packet and it is your opportunity to demonstrate the quality of your research proposal, how the proposed project relates to the Feed the Future initiative, and your leadership potential. The Project Narrative consists of a three-part essay that addresses each of the following topics:

Scientific Background and Graduate Research Plans (1500 word limit). Provide the scientific background for your research that will lead to your graduate degree and describe how your Borlaug supported project will help you obtain your degree.

Vision & Leadership Statement (1000 word limit). Describe your vision for a food security intervention as a means to catalyze agriculture-led economic growth, the role of science and technology in achieving this vision, and how you will apply the knowledge and experience gained from the research experience to achieve that vision. Describe what leadership means to you and what experiences have informed your perspective; include your thoughts on the role of the U.S. in enhancing global development. Provide examples of leadership experiences, how you believe you will be a future leader, and how you expect to develop your leadership skills.

Plan of Activity (750 word limit). Describe a clear plan of activity at the IARC or NARS, including project goals and milestones during the research period.  Include a description of and rationale for the linkages between your graduate program of study and the participating IARC/NARS, including the role of the mentorship in optimizing the research plan of activity. A timeline of activities must be included in the Budget, Justification and Timeline Form.

Internship Opportunity: CTA is looking to recruit an intern to support in its impact assessment of coffee certification in Latin America research

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The International Center for Tropical Agriculture is looking to recruit an intern to support in its impact assessment of coffee certification in Latin America research

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) works to reduce hunger and poverty, and improve human nutrition in the tropics through research aimed at increasing the eco-efficiency of agriculture.

We are initiating a search for an Internship in Agricultural Economics for the Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) research area. The principal role of the internship will be to support an impact assessment of a new coffee certification in Latin America. The DAPA group is a growing research area of CIAT that works towards CIAT’s mission of eco-efficient agriculture for the tropics by ensuring improved decision making by a range of stakeholders on the themes of climate change, linking farmers to markets and ecosystem services. See the DAPA website and the links below for more details on the project description

This position is a 6-month internship beginning in March and will be based at CIAT headquarters in Palmira, Colombia.

Transport, lunch meals and medical insurance will be covered for the duration of assignment and the selected applicant will be paid a monthly stipend to cover living expenses.

  • Support data processing (cleaning and analysis).
  • Support the development of technical reports, policy briefs and papers as part of the evaluation group
  • Masters of economics or related areas (student or graduate)
  • Econometric skills and proven abilities with common econometrics software such as Stata.
  • Excellent command of the English language.

Applicants are invited to send their CV and a motivation letter to Carolina González ( All applications are to be submitted by February 20, 2015.

Post Doctoral Fellows for projects in Latin America


Biodiversity International is looking for two Post Doctoral Fellows to conduct research projects in Latin America

Deadline: 27 February 2015. These positions will contribute to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS addresses the increasing challenge of global warming on agriculture and food security through a strategic collaboration between the CGIAR and Future Earth. CCAFS seeks to promote a food-secure world through the provision of science-based efforts that support sustainable agriculture and enhance livelihoods while adapting to climate change and conserving natural resources and environmental services. Latin America is one of five CCAFS implementing regions.

Project “Tailored agroclimatic services and food security information for better decision making in Latin America”

Under the supervision of the Climate Adaptation Theme Leader at Bioversity International, the incumbent will conduct research contributing to the creation of information systems that periodically inform government decision-making on agriculture, climate variability and food security in Central American countries. The candidate will characterize decision-making processes, identify information needs, and lead the creation and improvement of climate and food security information systems and products. The incumbent will be responsible for ensuring open communication between the different CGIAR centres and partners involved in the different projects. The position will be based in Turrialba, Costa Rica, with active field sites in Guatemala and other Central American countries.

For more information about this position, click here.

Project “Establishing a robust participatory climate-smart practice and technology evaluation platform for Latin America”

Under the supervision of the Climate Adaptation Theme Leader, at Bioversity International the incumbent will conduct participatory research on the implementation of a social learning platform to test practices that contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation in agriculture and food security. The candidate will also use applied information economics or similar approaches to ex-ante assess the potential of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices. The incumbent will be responsible for ensuring open communication between the different CGIAR centres and partners involved in developing the platform. The position will be based in Turrialba, Costa Rica with active field sites in one or more of the following locations: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia and Peru.

For more information about this position, click here.

Terms and conditions

The Post Doctoral Fellows will be offered two-year contracts, renewable for a maximum of four years, subject to performance and funding agreements. Bioversity offers an attractive stipend and contribution to the costs of living, inclusion in Bioversity insurance schemes, contribution to retirement fund, and leave provisions. Additional benefits apply for Post Doctoral Fellows recruited from outside Costa Rica.


Please apply online through Bioversity Job Opportunities web page by clicking the “Apply” button, completing the online application and attaching the required information, no later than 27 February, 2015. Please note that in the application you are required to provide the contact details (address, telephone number and e-mail address) of at least three referees, which Bioversity will contact for short listed applicants.

CGIAR opens agricultural data to the world using Amazon Web Services


Lima, Peru (10 December 2014) — CGIAR, a consortium of international agricultural research centers, will make its wealth of data more accessible and available for addressing critical food security and development challenges using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.

By making this data open for worldwide public access, it will help researchers to solve critical issues such as reducing rural poverty, improving human health and nutrition, and sustainably managing the Earth’s natural resources.

The first datasets to move into the cloud are Global Circulation Models (GCM), presently the most important tool for representing future climate conditions. This data is available to any researcher interested in understanding how the climate will change in the next 100 years. Moving to the cloud will enable CGIAR to develop applications which let non-experts access information about current and future climates, by browsing and processing data on user-friendly maps. The vision is for farmers to eventually access information directly.

“Farmers need to plan for the short and long term, and climate change throws a major wrench in the works,” said Andy Jarvis, a senior scientist with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which contributed the “CCAFS-Climate” dataset.

“Ten years ago we struggled to find the data to understand climate change and its implications for agriculture,” said Jarvis. “Today, we have so much data that we struggle to make sense of it and more importantly harness its power to give farmers real advice on how to manage climate more effectively.” Putting this data in the AWS Cloud could be the key to unlocking innovation.

The datasets were initially opened to participants at a Hackathon event held over 24 hours on the sidelines of the United Nations climate change conference in Lima, Peru. Hosted by CCAFS, it attracted some of the best and brightest software developers and computer programmers from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Hackathon challenged these developers to synthesize available datasets and turn them into useful insights and information for farmers to better manage climate variability.

The winning innovation tackled a crucial problem: helping farmers more accurately predict when to plant their crops each season. Farmers traditionally depend on almanacs for predicting seasonal planting dates, but climate change has made these predictions unreliable. The prototype, created by Colombian team Geomelodicos, combines data on historical production and climate trends, historical planting dates with current climate trends and short-term weather forecasts, to generate more accurate information about optimal planting dates for different crops and locations. This information could one day be disseminated via SMS messaging, effectively replacing the traditional almanac.

Another winning innovation, from the Peruvian team Viasoluciones, tackles with water scarcity, a challenge for farmers around the world. Called Illapa, after the Quechua goddess of water, the solution could help farmers make better decisions about how much water to use for irrigating different crops. The prototype application combines climate data and information from a tool that directly senses a plant’s water use, to calculate water needs in real-time. This could be a life-saver for farmers in times of drought.

“In 24 hours the Hackathon demonstrated the kind of innovation that is possible when this data is made available to developers and researchers,” said Jamie Kinney, Senior Manager for Scientific Computing at Amazon Web Services, Inc. “AWS is committed to helping the scientific research community access the data needed to solve global climate issues.”

The UN climate change conference highlighted that practical solutions are urgently needed. “While negotiators have spent the last two weeks trying to hammer out a new political deal on climate change, we have demonstrated how science can also play an important role in addressing the climate challenge,” said Ana Maria Loboguerrero Rodriguez, who leads the CCAFS Latin America research program, based out of the CGIAR’s International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia.

“The data revolution is upon us, and it has the ability to transform the agricultural sector,” said Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. “CGIAR centers have decades of data, which we are moving quickly to open up. Whereas in the past you may have needed stand-alone software and powerful computers to work with our data, the cloud removes these barriers. The data is open, and the platform is quick and powerful. In short, the potential is huge,” he said.

“We’re ‘shifting to the cloud’ in CGIAR,” said Michael Marus, ICT Manager of the CGIAR Consortium. “The cloud is flexible, cost-effective and powerful, offering all of the data-crunching capacity and storage that researchers may need to turn raw data into actionable knowledge for farmers. Imagine the possibilities when users will no longer be limited by their own Internet connection speed, processing power, or storage capabilities.”

“This is just the first step towards making scientific information about agriculture more relevant in the fight against climate change, especially for those most in need,” said Rijsberman. “There are over 800 million undernourished people in the world today – and this tool helps us to ensure that the full breadth of existing knowledge can be deployed to help those most at risk.”

For more information on AWS Public Data Sets  visit the Public Data Set Catalog and to access the GCM dataset, visit

Read more on the AWS blog: Earth Science on AWS with new CGIAR and Landsat Public Data Sets

CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food-secure future. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. It is carried out by the 15 centers that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and earth system science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security.

Livestock Scientist

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to recruit a Livestock scientist to contribute to development of scalable technological and social innovations for climate-smart agriculture in West Africa. The position holder will be responsible for conducting research, mainly in West Africa within the CCAFS Programme.

ILRI works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals’ alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.

ILRI is a not-for-profit institution with a staff of about 700 and in 2014, an operating budget of about USD83 million. A member of the CGIAR Consortium working for a food-secure future, ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and offices in other countries in East, West and Southern Africa and in South, Southeast and East Asia.

The position

ILRI seeks to recruit a scientist with expertise on livestock production in agro-sylvo-pastoral systems in the developing world. The successful candidate should have a solid background in livestock production, an understanding of smallholder livestock systems and experience in applying action research methods.

  • Multi-stakeholders engagement to inventory promising climate-smart crop-livestock-agroforestry practices in West Africa;
  • Participatory design, testing and monitoring of on-farm livestock related interventions within the context of climate-smart agriculture;
  • Assessment of the socio-economic and institutional conditions of adoption of incremental climate smart crop-livestock-tree technological options;
  • Developing tools, approaches and guidelines for climate smart agriculture and local adaptation and investment planning;
  • Publishing the results of research in high quality peer-reviewed international journals and in other media;
  • Working with research and development partners in West Africa and supervision of students.


  • Applicants are required to have PhD in livestock production or related discipline with at least 3 years of relevant post-doctoral experience
  • Experience in conducting animal production research in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Sound understanding of livestock production issues and livestock-related adaptation strategies in response to climate change in developing countries;
  • Good understanding of innovation systems approach to engage multi-stakeholders and experience in using participatory research methods in smallholder farming systems;
  • A systems perspective especially related to intensification of mixed crop-livestock systems in Africa;
  • Demonstrated capability of conducting field-based animal experimentation in agro-sylvo-pastoral systems;
  • Strong quantitative and analytical skills;
  • Strong track record of publishing in peer reviewed publications;
  • Willingness to travel internationally and to rural areas of Africa;
  • Proven skills to work in multidisciplinary teams and to obtain positive results from working in diverse partnerships;
  • Proficiency in English and French will be an advantage.

Post location: The position is based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso .

Position level: Scientist/Research level 4C, dependent on qualifications and experience.

Duration: 3 years with possibility of renewal, contingent upon individual performance and continued funding.

Salary and Benefits: ILRI offers a competitive international and salary and benefits package which includes 15% Pension, Medical insurance, Life insurance and allowances for: Education, Housing, Relocation, Home leave, Annual holiday entitlement of 30 days + public holidays.

*Benefits are tax free subject to compliance with tax regulations of country of citizenship.

How to apply: Applicants should send a cover letter and CV explaining their interest in the position, what they can bring to the job and the names and addresses (including telephone and email) of three referees who are knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional qualifications and work experience to the Director, People and Organizational Development. The position title and reference number should be clearly marked on the subject line of the cover letter. Reference number: REF: LSE/ 01/15

All applications to be submitted online on our recruitment portal: by 14 February 2015.

To find out more about working at ILRI visit our website at

ILRI is an equal opportunity employer

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