World Food Programme (WFP) insures indigenous women in Guatemala against drought and heavy rains
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, millions of people are vulnerable to frequent and extreme climate-related disasters. Access to finance is essential in helping them to offset the worst effects of these. In Guatemala, the most notable recent examples were the hurricanes Eta and Iota, which struck in November 2020, causing landslides and floods that claimed lives, destroyed property, food crops, and displaced thousands of people. With poverty at 83 percent and extreme poverty at 53 percent, the mainly indigenous department of Alta Verapaz is the country’s poorest department.1
Guatemala has one of the largest indigenous populations in Latin America, comprising of 23 groups. Gender inequality, especially for indigenous women, is worsened by unequal access to land, lack of economic and social resources, and low representation in government decision-making forums. Access to formal means of financial resources, health services and education are still restricted. Exclusion and racism have produced structural, legal and institutionalized forms of violence and discrimination that deepen in the case of indigenous women, particularly in those who live in rural areas such in the Verapaz.
To address these challenges, the World Food Programme (WFP) implements resilience-building programmes with the objective to improve food security and nutrition of the most vulnerable populations in several departments of the Guatemalan Dry Corridor. Financial inclusion is a key component of WFP’s resilience-building programmes, including a combination of savings, credit and insurance accessible to smallholder producers. This aims to minimize economic impact of extreme weather events and help vulnerable families avoid behaviours that will expose them to even bigger challenges to their livelihoods and food security in the future. An innovative insurance programme, run by WFP in partnership with the private sector (local insurance company), Aseguradora Rural, enables farmers and entrepreneurs to become more resilient in the face of the climate crisis and the risk of food insecurity.
In 2021, WFP Guatemala insured a total of 1,292 smallholder producers vulnerable to climate-related shocks, of which 69 percent are women. Additionally, all beneficiaries received comprehensive training in financial risk management, including insurance and other financial instruments. Empowering women in the management of financial tools for climate risk management not only protects them and their families from the impacts of climate-related shocks, but also transforms traditional gender roles by enabling women to become agents of positive change in their own communities.
This is the first year of the pilot project, during which WFP covers the insurance premium for participating cooperatives. From next year onwards, the premiums will be partially paid by cooperative members according to a smart subsidy strategy. The insurance scheme mitigates against interruptions to their business, with an annual fee equivalent to US$23 guaranteeing payouts of up to around US$309 in case of drought or rains.
Ultimately, for vulnerable people who do not have access to traditional financial services and financial risk-management tools like this, climate-related shocks directly impact their sources of income and this in turn impacts their ability to put food on the table.
“This insurance is a great benefit,” says Herlinda Caal. “This way we can move forward and have something for our children to eat.” Herlinda is one of 12 women insured by WFP. She is member of the cooperative, which is known as “Corazón de Maíz”, or “Corn Heart”, producing maize as well as raising poultry and pigs. All the women are indigenous.
The World Food Programme is a member of the InsuResilience Gender Working Group and a key contributor to the Centre of Excellence on Gender-smart Solutions.
 National Statistics Institute 2014