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Beyond the Transaction: Every Transaction Has a Story

Witnessing Innovation for Zero Hunger in Ethiopia

Along with a MasterCard delegation, I recently had the amazing opportunity to spend a week in Ethiopia with our partner, the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The trip was a chance to see firsthand how our contributions help WFP sustainably support people in need.

In total we saw five different initiatives in two different regions. At all operations we were able to talk to some of the people WFP serves and learn how these initiatives improve their lives.

Keleite, 14 years old, is a student at one of the schools we visited. As part of the school feeding programme, she receives one free meal a day. We were overwhelmed when Keleite read a poem to us, written by her. The title was “Education for Development”. With her lines, Keleite expressed gratitude to her school and everybody who supports Ethiopia and its people to become self-sufficient and make ‘our dream of development become true’.

Tirhas and Kidan

Another programme we visited was the R4-Weather Index Insurance Project in Abraha Atsbaha, where we met Abeba G. The village is located in one of the driest regions in Ethiopia. By participating in the R4 project Abeba can insure her harvest against limited rainfalls. The innovative approach is that farmers, who don’t have enough cash at their hands to pay the premium, can cover their insurance by working on small-scale community projects. These involve digging waterholes or building dams for capturing rainfall to improve irrigation systems.

Abeba G. is a single mother of six children. She is a farmer and depends fully on her incomes from agriculture. Since she is part of the insurance programme her standard of living has improved. She could finally build a solid roof and send all of her six children to school. This progress was due to a combination of increased production outcomes and receiving pay-outs from the insurance company. Abeba spoke about her increased confidence since joining the project. “The project is like a mother to me. If something bad happens I usually go to my mother. Similar, if something bad happens to my harvest, the insurance company takes care of me”. The increased confidence leads to making higher investments in fertilizers and improved seeds which in turn increases production outcomes. Subsequently, more harvest generates a higher income.


The insurance programme is only feasible thanks to availability of technology. As it would be too costly to manually check against numerous individual claims in case of limited rainfall, this is done by satellite measurements. If the measurements fall below a predefined threshold, farmers receive a pay-out according to the chosen premium and type of crops. Without technology, scaling up the project from 200 farmers in 2009 to 26,000 farmers in 2014 wouldn’t have been possible. A remaining challenge of this approach is to minimize the discrepancy between the pay-out triggered by the index and the actual losses on the ground.

What’s next

We have seen what kind of difference WFP’s assistance makes in people’s lives. WFP’s collaborative initiatives aim at building local capacities and strengthening regional development. We hope that through innovations like the recent launch of the Priceless Causes donation platform, MasterCard and its partners will be able to grow our support for WFP’s mission of zero hunger.