Rural Resilience in Southern Africa / R4 Initiative

The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative for Southern Africa enables smallholder farmers’ adaptation to climate risk through improved resource management, insurance, livelihoods diversification, microcredit and savings. Through R4, Switzerland has become a credible and trusted partner in resilience building and its learnings have fed into policy dialogue. The emphasis of this final phase is on strengthening government and private sector, as well as the gender approach.  

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Climate change and environment
Humanitarian Assistance & DRR
Agriculture & food security
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Emergency food assistance
Agricultural services & market
Household food security
Meteorological services
01.07.2021 - 30.06.2025
CHF  8’890’000

Climate-related shocks are a constant threat to the food security and sustainable development of the majority of people living in Southern Africa. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of shocks, the number of people living in extreme poverty in the region is expected to rise over the coming years. While the region was long known for its relative stability, recent deteriorations in the political realm, as well as decline in economic fundamentals – all factors exacerbated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic – have increased communities’ vulnerability to climate-related shocks.  

Across Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, smallholder farmers – where women are over-represented – practice rain-fed agriculture, making the economy and the livelihoods of rural communities highly vulnerable to climate-related shocks. In addition, challenges facing rural smallholders arise from degraded ecosystems, agricultural practices poorly suited to a changing environment, insufficient access to markets, as well as to agricultural, climate and financial services, weak management of diminished community resources and limited opportunities to spread risk over on- and off-farm livelihood opportunities. Women’s overall lower access to assets, services and voice makes them more vulnerable than men to the effects of climaterelated shocks. Although governments have developed policies related to climate change and risk management, capacities and financial resources are insufficient to address all needs. 

Objectives Vulnerable women and men smallholders have improved resilience to climate impact in Southern Africa.
Target groups

The Swiss contribution will directly impact 36’800 smallholders households across the three countries.

Government and private sector and other local partners will be targeted with capacity building interventions. 

Medium-term outcomes

Outcome 1:    Improved or stabilised food security status of smallholder farmers vulnerable to climate shocks;

Outcome 2:    Improved access to financial services (credit, savings and insurance) by targeted smallholder farmers;

Outcome 3:    Strengthened government and national capacities to establish, manage, and deliver integrated risk management programs that are gender inclusive.  


Expected results:  

27,640 households have access to action oriented climate services; 

1,000 producers groups established and 15,000 smallholders have access to predictable and functional food commodity markets;

Enhanced national governments’ capacity to develop and manage gender inclusive integrated risks management programs (Zimbabwe); to integrate climate change in national systems (Zambia); to design and implement micro-insurance systems targeting smallholders, as well as to provide climate information (Malawi). 

Results from previous phases:  

Key results and insights from previous phases:

46,000 households have managed to maintain food security and increase resilience capacity through maintaining assets, production, savings and ability to deal with shocks.

80,000 smallholders (50% women) have access to weather index insurance. In case of drought, they are thus able to use pay-outs to buy inputs and return to production. In Zambia, the product piloted through R4 has been integrated into the Farm Input Subsidy Programme, reaching an additional 1 Mio farmers.  Access to climate information as part of a community early warning system helps smallholder farmers to plan their farming activities and take anticipatory risk reduction measures.

Participation in saving groups and access to financial information enable smallholders – in particular women – to access money that they invest in productive activities and/or to cover household expenses. 

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Project partners Contract partner
Private sector
United Nations Organization (UNO)
  • Foreign private sector South/East
  • World Food Programme

Other partners
World Food Programme WFP
Coordination with other projects and actors

Swiss supported initiatives: Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis programme; Urban Food Security and Resilience Building Programme; planned social protection and climate-change projects.

Other donors: FCDO, USAID, Flanders, NORAD, KfW, EU and GCF.

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    8’890’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    7’260’000
Project phases Phase 3 01.07.2021 - 30.06.2025   (Current phase) Phase 2 01.07.2017 - 30.06.2021   (Completed) Phase 1 01.01.2011 - 30.06.2017   (Completed)